Online ordinations are a fast-growing business, a way for ordinary people to play priest-for-a-day at their friends’ and family’s weddings. But these ordinations are also a 21st-century way of reaching into the metaphysical world.
Mandi Brown said she was 9 when she started hearing voices, voices of her deceased grandparents. But it wasn’t until Brown was about 18 that she said she understood her paranormal abilities.
Now 29 and living in West Greenwich, R.I., Brown tries to channel her abilities into helping others, starting as an energy healer. In 2010, she turned to the Internet.
“Online ordination actually opened a lot of doors as far as doing any type of spiritual work, including energy healing,” Brown said.
Brown is ordained through Universal Life Church in Modesto, Calif., and Universal Life Church Monastery in Seattle, both nondenominational (but separate) Internet churches. Universal Life Church has ordained over 20 million people alone and is seeing a 10 percent to 15 percent increase a year. Both allow a variety of ordination titles, ranging from cardinal to pastor to wizard, freethinker and more.
Brown was ordained as a high priestess but considers herself a spiritual reverend. She has performed weddings, a funeral, spiritual counseling, house blessings, cleansings, banishings and crossings. She is also trained in exorcism rites.
Jake Wible, the “innovatory control manager” at Universal Life Church Monastery, said his group is a nonprofit church and acts as an ordaining service.
He said people typically use their ordination to perform weddings, baptisms and funerals, but they are not limited to these three options.
“Most of the people that are ordained actually do either have their own ministry or are part of a ministry or already do some sort of ceremony; they just want the title so they can actually have something to show to somebody,” Wible said. “That’s where we come in.”
Although ULC doesn’t list practices prohibited with the quickie ordinations, Wible said the church does not recommend performing exorcisms.
Other online ordination sites have credentialed ceremonies and other rites that are prohibited. “You are prohibited from performing ceremonies that involve exorcism, circumcision and animal sacrifice,” says Spiritual Humanism’s website.
United National Church, on the other hand, allows those it ordains to perform exorcisms but prohibits them from performing same-sex marriages.
While Brown has a wide range of services, she has been unable to make it a full-time job. She charges between $20 and $75 for her services, including spiritual guidance for $50, hex/curse removal for $40 and exorcisms for $75. Services are also available through email, Skype or Chat.
Brown said more clients now are asking for paranormal work, something she credits to Hollywood’s fascination with the darker side of life.
Not everyone sees online ordinations as a viable option. Kevin Emmons, 48, president of the Maine Pagan Clergy Association, remains more than a little skeptical about online ordinations and rituals.
“I wonder what kind of relationship can be established online,” Emmons said, noting that for better or worse “ordination” has the connotation of traditional seminary training, degree program or apprenticeship.
The Maine Pagan Clergy Association only ordains a few people, he said, and they must prove they have had training, such as from Cherry Hill Seminary. All ordinations in his group require the person to show up for a public ritual.
Emmons is a Druid and self-identifies as a Druid priest. He said it’s important to know what you can assist with and to be trained in those areas. “I know my limitations,” Emmons said.