With the semester well underway, typical shipments of school supplies, books, and room dÃ©cor have been flooding the mailroom. This year however, some Castleton students have made amendments to their back to school list and have ordered their ministry degree through an online organization.
The Universal Life Church is a non-denominational organization that provides its members with a certificate that allows them to legally officiate weddings, funerals, baptisms, ceremonial rights, and last rights. Members also have to the power to open their own church – as well as to absolve others of their sins and they hold the legal title of reverend.
“It’s so easy to do, you could just do it on your phone,” said Castleton senior and recently ordained Rev. Konstantin Schonbachler IV.
Some may find Rev. Schonbachler’s title to be misleading and even sac-religious due to his lack of belief in any kind of god or even an afterlife. However, his non-existent beliefs in a higher power have not refrained the reverend from blessing dorm rooms about campus with the most holy water of Dasani.
When questioned on his opinion of The Universal Life Church, Father Henry Furman of St. John the Baptist Church of Castleton, did not oppose the organization but rather chose to view it as an entirely separate entity.
“There is no priesthood apart from Jesus’ priesthood,” he said.
Castleton Sophomore and member of the Roman Catholic Church, Jeff Blanchette, said The Universal Life Church should be viewed in a positive light.
“Now that anyone can become a reverend, it opens a lot of possibilities. People can be married by their best friend, or have their children baptized by their godparents,” Blanchette said. “It can add a level of intimacy to these experiences that may be lacking if one isn’t familiar with their local priest.”
Aside from the entertainment brought on by this mail order ministry, Rev. Schonbachler said he intends to use his title to do just that. He said he would gladly perform a wedding or other ceremony for a friend if they were rejected by their place of worship or otherwise chose to have a non-traditional ceremony.
“You look at any religious organization and they discriminate in some shape or form,” he said.
This is the appeal of The Universal Life Church to Schonbachler, the freedom it gives him. He is able to hold his title, yet use it on his own terms.
“Look at it like an empty building,” he said, “you go in and make it a home.”