The Universal Life Church ordained me on March 27th, 2000. I didn't start actually performing ceremonies/rituals for anyone other than family and friends until 2002, as I felt I needed more time to become proficient at it.
Looking back, I think being a member of the clergy has always been my calling. I remember, as a small child going to Catholic school, wanting to be a priest when I grew up. I could never get a straight answer from any of the adults as to why I couldn't... Just that girls could be nuns, but only boys could be priests. Never any explanation... That was just the way it was. Later, during my "atheist phase", During one of those career placement tests, Clergy kept coming up as the thing I was best suited for. What a laugh I got out of that! (I guess the joke was on me.)
Over the years, I explored many different organized religions, atheism and a couple of cults. What I finally discovered is that there is no one "right" path, but that everyone has a specific path that is right for them. What's more, a person's path can contain spirituality, wisdom and philosophy from any number of different sources, and that it is no less valid as a belief system than a specific religion. Since then, I have encountered numerous people who have spirituality, but do not subscribe to any set religion, many of whom have mentored me in my spiritual path.
It is my firm belief that any and ALL religions, belief systems, spiritual, and philosophical paths can simultaneously be correct, and that none are intrinsically wrong or right, by themselves. They simply are.
I believe in the concept that GOD (Defined however a person wishes to define God(s)/Goddess(es)/Higher Power/Creative Forces/Cosmos/etc) is everything and everything is GOD, and that the Multiverse is vast enough to encompass all, without conflict. I believe that the seeming disparities between differing paths and beliefs are human made, due to our own limited understanding, but that the Divine surpasses all such differences, rendering them insignificant in the bigger picture.
In fact, the ONLY religious or belief concepts I reject are those based in hatred, bigotry, or intolerance of others, or the idea that any culture, beliefs, gender, identity, creed, consensual expressions of love or joy, skin colour, physicality, or anything else that is not actually causing objective harm to anyone is inherently inferior, superior, wrong, "sinful", or "bad".
If a person believes something is a sin, or wrong to do, they they should not do that thing, so as to follow their own belief, but should not presume to dictate what is wrong or sin for others.
Those things are a personal matter between each person and their own Higher Power(s).
In searching for actual clergy members who were not affiliated with a particular sect or religion, however, I came up conspicuously empty handed. I found plenty who were more tolerant of different beliefs, but in the end, it seemed that all of them wanted to conduct things according to a set tradition. It had been suggested to me by friends and family members that I become that clergy member that I couldn't find; that I start my own church. I laughed it off, thinking that I couldn't do it, even though that inner voice that we all have had been telling me the same thing for some time by that point. I still didn't listen to that voice even when I started having recurring dreams about being some sort of "spiritual leader". It wasn't until things kept on coming up in my medicine card reading and one of my mentors suggested I may want to do this that I really took a serious look at the option. I am very grateful for being led to this, as this work is fulfilling in a way that no other has ever been.
I have counseled others for as long as I can remember. I have always been one of those people who strangers would walk up to and pour their heart out to. Although I sometimes questioned the reasons for this, I always accepted that this was simply what was meant to be for me and followed my heart in passing on the words or actions given to me. Now that I have fully embraced the path set for me and resolved to follow it wherever it takes me, rather than resisting on the basis of, "I can't do that" or, "But I want to do... " I have been given opportunities far beyond anything I could have imagined. Becoming ordained and building an outreach ministry has enabled me to obtain access to far more resources for those in need as my clients than what could be done as friends or acquaintances. The feeling of being able to help another person discover or define his or her path is indescribable, as is the intense emotion in being a part of someone's most intimate life moments, such as birth, marriage/commitment, death and entry into the next world or life. These are momentous occasions and each time I have the privilege of sharing one of these with another, I am reminded that these are rewards for following the direction of my Higher Power and am filled anew with gratitude.