The husband of one of our recent graduates had a graduation ceremony for her. She is holding high her religious Ph.D. diploma from the Seminary.
One of our ordained ministers is performing a wedding in New York and asked if I had any good wedding blessings. Google reveals not only some lovely wording, but some very beautiful wedding / marriage blessing posters suitable for framing. I thought this would be a great gift for the minister to give to the bride and groom along with their marriage license / certificate. You can use the wording in the wedding ceremony and then give them a framed copy of these gorgeous blessings with the same words. There are Irish wedding blessings, Apache aka Indian wedding blessing (also called the Apache Wedding Prayer), Jewish wedding blessings, Celtic, Interfaith, even Dr. Seuss wedding blessings! (The latter is great to use if you have children involved in the wedding).
A perfect gift for a new ordained minister is our Interfaith Minister Manual [offered in the check-out cart online when you become ordained by us]. I also think a white minister stole is a fabulous gift idea. Both can be used when performing a wedding, and the minister looks great, by the way!
One of my favorite blogs is called The Deacon’s Bench, Where [Catholic] Deacon Greg Kandra Ponders the World. Deacon Greg is Catholic but he seems to be sympathetic with women’s ordination causes, and he often posts items useful to non-denominational and interfaith ministers. Like, “What should you give a newly ordained priest or deacon” …
The best gift of all is your love and prayers, but in case you want to supplement that, the most useful gifts (in my experience) are as follows, in order of cost. (By the way, none of the following companies put me up to this!)First, the various “rites books,” which the priest can use for weddings, baptisms or funerals (normally a soon-to-be-ordained priest will already have the Roman Missal, a Lectionary, a breviary and so on, but still might need the rites books.) You can find them almost anywhere, but Catholic Book Publishing is a good start: http://www.catholicbookpublishing.com/list/category/liturgical+EditionsSecond, a Mass kit, which a priest can bring with him to celebrate Mass where there might not be all the necessary supplies, etc.:http://www.catholicsupply.com/churchs/masskit.htmlFinally, if you really want to give something memorable, a stole. The best color, to my mind, is gold and white, since you can use it almost anywhere (baptisms, weddings, etc.) The “gold standard” is made by the Trappists in Spencer, Mass., at the Holy Rood Guild. You can also get them to embroider a little greeting on the back. http://www.holyroodguild.com/xcart2/Canterbury_Stole.htmlAnd the nicest ordination cards are from Printery House:
To officiate a wedding within New York City limits requires the minister / rabbi / clergy-member to register with the New York City Clerk’s Office. Besides the Certificate of Ordination you receive from us, you need two pieces of additional paperwork to become an ordained minister in NYC — to be able register with the Clerk’s Office. We have been helping ministers / clergy get registered with NYC Clerk’s Office for almost two decades. It’s not easy, but it’s not difficult and at least it’s not expensive.
To register with NYC Clerk’s Office, you need three items, all of which we supply:
1. Your Certificate of Ordination as a minister, rabbi or other clergy title, which you get by applying here.
2. a copy of our official Articles of Incorporation (which we scan and email to you)
3. a letter stating you are in good standing with our church / religious organization.
Item 1, your Certificate of Ordination with a raised seal is sent thru the mail and takes about three days to receive.
Item 2 is sent by email attachment, our church’s Articles of Incorporation. It is two pages long.
Item 3 is the Letter of Good Standing, which we scan and email to you or mail with your Certificate of Ordination.
Within the last year alone we have helped around a dozen people we’ve ordained register with the NYC Clerk’s Office. Over the years we’ve helped well over a hundred. Two of them offer marriage services on tourist boats in New York City harbor, one of our ordained chaplains does them “by land, sea or air”. Those boat weddings are very romantic. If you visit our Practitioners Directory (aka our Minister Directory) you will see Captain Arnold, and his website link full of colorful photos of his wedding ministry / wedding chapel activities. That’s him pictured above recently officiating a beautiful Interfaith wedding on a boat.
How does becoming incorporated as a ‘church’ help independent ministers and clergy like us do our work in the community legally? After ordination should I become a non-profit / tax exempt organization?
Ordination as a minister, rabbi, priest, chaplain, reverend, etc. makes you a member of the clergy and allows you to accept money for your services. You don’t have to incorporate — you can be an unincorporated church for as long as you choose. I recommend you incorporate your church or religious organization if you start doing a lot of work with a high volume of people coming to you for spiritual guidance, healing, pastoral counseling. Go ahead and pay LegalZoom, LegalFilings or some other similar firm the $250 to incorporate you as a non-profit. Once incorporated (takes only a week usually) a disgruntled person can’t sue you personally. The first church we founded remained unincorporated for years; you don’t have to incorporate right away. Incorporating makes it easier to open a checking account in your organization’s name, however. Some banks will let you open an account without incorporating. But you DO have to choose a church name for your ministry before you accept that first suggested donation. (You can always change your church name later any time up until you incorporate and then you are stuck with that “corporate name”).
From our FAQ page:
When can I set up my own Church?
Once you’re an Ordained Minister by a legally recognized Church such as our non-profit organization, the Esoteric Interfaith Church, Inc., you can establish your very own church. You don’t have to call it Esoteric Interfaith Church, you can name it whatever you choose. We can issue you a Founding Charter if you like, otherwise you can draw up one yourself, or do Articles of Incorporation (which are considered a Founding Document). Un-incorporated churches are churches who do not become incorporated in their state. They are just as legal as incorporated churches and usually have a founding document (Charter) as opposed to Articles of Incorporation.
What about Tax Exempt status, how do I get that?
Most people get an attorney or CPA to help them fill out the 501c3 tax exempt application (c3 is the type of exemption you’ll get, it’s part of publication 501). Once approved you’ll be tax exempt whenever you buy anything. If it’s supplies for your church, for your healing practice, etc. you don’t have to pay sales tax on it. Even cars, vans and computers — all equipment needed in your work — are tax exempt. Several people have used StartChurch.com successfully for the entire process.
Can I draw up the legal papers for 501c3 myself?
Yes, certainly. Some groups do the paperwork themselves, but most get professional help because the IRS application process is so involved.
What about doing the incorporation papers myself?
Incorporating which always happens on the State level, is easier to accomplish than getting IRS 501(c)3 status. The IRS application is long and somewhat confusing, but incorporating is quick and easy especially is you use LegalFilings or LegalZoom. If you do the incorporation paperwork yourself, we recommend using StartChurch.com’s resources. Get their packet for your state.
What are the two steps to getting non-profit status for my healing center/church that I plan to create after becoming ordained by you? How do I start my own Church?
You can start your own church instantly, but to get IRS 501c3 or non-profit tax exempt status in your State, you MUST first incorporate.
Step 1: First you must incorporate which means doing paperwork either by yourself or using a template such as from StartChurch.com based on your state. Order their packet for a corporate seal, use their template to write up your Articles of Incorporation, then file them at your State’s Secretary of State Ofc. or Office of Taxation and Assessment. (See startchurch.com for more info or see below for other firms who do all this for a fee of less than $400)
Step 2: Once you get your state Corporate Charter in the mail (all incorporated entities are sent a Charter) you take it to any accountant or lawyer who is familiar with non-profits. S/he can shepherd you through the IRS forms for getting non-profit, 501(c)3 status. Or do it yourself by using the advice and manuals found at startchurch.com
Online firms offer incorporating service now for as little as $250, such as LegalFilings.com and LegalZoom. Lawyers who specialize in corporations are good at writing articles of incorporation and bylaws and can smooth things over easily at the Secretary of State’s office when the charter application is filed. You pay your State a fee of around $25 to $100 for the charter/filing. Some of our ordained ministers have done it themselves, but many use the help of an attorney or CPA. Most states only require you to draw up the Articles of Incorporation, write your Bylaws, and fill out a short application and they’ll give you a state issued charter. This turns your church or organization into a “legal entity.” Startchurch.com’s products once again will answer all these questions. They are strict fundamentalist Christians, and the hundreds of Bible verses they insert into their work may make you cross-eyed, but they know their legal stuff. You can stop after incorporating your organization, or proceed to file IRS forms for non-profit / tax exempt (501c3) status. More about IRS 501c3 is coming in a future post.
Can I still accept money for my minister / clergy religious services without getting tax exempt status?
Yes, definitely! Due to the separation of Church and State doctrine in the United States, any ordained minister can accept money for their services, counseling, readings, weddings, ceremonies, etc. If you don’t want to go thru all the hassle of filling out forms and paying the expense to get your 501c3 tax exempt status, (average attorney’s fees for this are $850 and the process can take months) you can remain an Ordained Minister at the head of an unincorporated church or pastoral / healing counseling ministry. You accept suggested donations for your services. They used to call them “love offerings,” but now most people use more accurate wording such as: “healing, reading or counseling session for a suggested donation of $20….” etc. You simply say “suggested donation”—and then set whatever amounts you deem appropriate.
The Esoteric Interfaith Church, Inc. and its earlier branch the unincorporated Metaphysical Interfaith Church have been ordaining ministers since 1987. But two years later the church also established a seminary to further train our ministers and alternative clergy and has been granting religious degrees ever since.
Today one of our degree candidates — who will also become an ordained minister at no extra cost — asked about the Ph.D. versus the Doctor of Divinity degree. She has studied the Barbara Brennan healing system and is already working in the field as a spiritual healer. Of course she wants ordination as a minister in order to protect herself legally and be able to set and accept suggested donations for her pastoral counseling and spiritual healing practice. But she also wants a religious doctorate degree to reassure those in her circle and give her parishioners / members added peace of mind. The word “Doctor” in front of a spiritual healing minister’s name isn’t about prestige but about reassurance and confidence in the one who is serving humanity. She asked:
QUESTION: My intention is to teach workshops at bookstores, healing centers and workshop centers as well as having my own “clients” in my spiritual ministry. I also wish to reach Hospice Centers and Rehab Centers that are connected to the Hospitals. Do you still think the Ph.D. in Metaphysics is more beneficial than the Doctor of Divinity degree? Which religious degree is more ‘beneficial, accepted and known’ in mainstream hospitals and healing centers?
ANSWER: Both degrees allow you to attach Dr. to the front of your name, but the PhD in Metaphysics also allows you to attach PhD to the end of your name. The PhD is known all over the world and is the most widely recognized and highest ranking doctorate degree compared to the Doctor of Divinity. Some mainstream hospitals and healing centers might not understand what “Metaphysics” is, but they also won’t necessarily know what a doctorate in “Divinity” is. If you were in the U.K., I’d tell you to go with the Doctor of Divinity because that degree is the highest pinnacle of education for the U.K. and Europe. But the Doctor of Divinity doesn’t mean healing to them, rather academic achievement. In your case, I keep leaning toward the PhD in Metaphysics for you because it is for religious philosophers, but also has to do with spiritual healing. The PhD in Metaphysics is the most common degree of choice for spiritual healers and actually allows the holder to call themselves a “metaphysician” and a “doctor”. Many like the term meta-physician meaning “beyond a physician”, or a different kind of healing, not “mere” physical healing. Some do hypnotherapy, Reiki, EFT and even NLP.
Of course our metaphysicians do not practice medicine without a license, we are only talking about spiritual healing here. Even so, the words have power and are applied to all healers, all practitioners of body, mind and spirit healing modalities. We have conferred the PhD in Metaphysics on dozens of graduates over the years.
Perhaps the most common reason people come to us online for ordination is because they have been asked to perform a marriage. A relative or close friend, even co-workers nowadays ask someone special in their lives to officiate their wedding. Now with the June wedding season approaching we are ordaining more ministers than usual. Some want to start their own pastoral counseling practice, others want to set up a wedding chapel, but most have been asked to perform a marriage. It used to be the bride and groom couldn’t pick a family member or best friend to officiate their big day. Couples had to find a member of the institutionalized clergy who was willing to marry them. Those were frustrating times, but they are over. Now in all 50 states any person asked to officiate a wedding can become an ordained minister or rabbi. Our non-denominational interfaith seminary ordains people for this reason all the time, about two per week. And ordination is quick and easy — only 3 steps. 1. Fill out the online application here. 2. Write a one or two page spiritual history (email format is fine) telling the story of religion and spirituality (they are different) in your life from childhood to present. 3. Pay the one-time tuition of $150. There are no annual renewal fees of any kind, ordination is good for your lifetime. (Once you submit the application you will be directed to a PayPal tuition page). All the requirements and minister / rabbi title choices on our Ordination Requirements Page. For legal FAQ’s see here. Some counties and cities require extra paperwork before you can officiate a marriage in their jurisdiction but we help you will all of that. Our ministers and clergy are officiating weddings all the time in all 50 states. We help ministers with the paperwork so they can perform marriages even inside picky New York City and the very jump-thru-hoops state of Virginia. Ohio, Wisconsin, Nevada and Hawaii just to name a few require extra paperwork and it’s no problem. We have even done it on the fly for someone about to officiate a wedding the very next day. One time we even had to scan and email the Certificate of Ordination to the new minister in California because the wedding was the next morning and FedEx wouldn’t make it! After the ordination we will even help you fill out the marriage license. The bride and groom will get the license and bring it to you on the wedding day. You simply fill out the minister portion on the license where it asks who you are ordained by, your minister title, etc. We help you with all that. Recently we helped a minister fill out the marriage license by using cellphone pictures and text messages! Used to be “in the old days” the minister would call us, then it went to faxing questions, followed by emails and now we can even help you out by texting! If you have any questions feel free to ask below or send us an email at seminary at northernway.org
We were just discussing ordination online at the Seminary’s Facebook page this week. Many of our ordained ministers, pastors, rabbis and priests are gearing up for the busy spring wedding season. Yes, June is still the busiest wedding month but March is hopping this year, also. We have ministers officiating weddings in California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Florida and Michigan this month. Another minister ordained by the church / seminary performed a wedding in North Carolina and has several more schedule. That was his 16th wedding so far since ordination with us.
If you have been asked by relatives or friends to perform their wedding, we can ordain you within 24 hours if you complete these three easy steps.