1994 Starr King Graduate
As I mature and my hair turns greyer, my recall of numbers also turns a bit grey, like San Francisco fog. What I do recall accurately are the many wonderful memories of my days at Starr King and how permission to explore education experientially has deeply influenced my journey in professional ministry.
To be able to teach religious education classes in local churches, to supply pulpits while still a student, to perform marriages, to befriend an elderly neighbor, to experiment with different worship services during internship, to serve on the Starr King board of trustees as a student representative for three years, to take a gospel workshop at the Evergreen Baptist Church in Oakland and write the experience as credit for exploring my own racism, to be able to discuss any problem with any faculty member, to take a class with Rebecca Parker (SKSM president), to escape for a women's overnight to an old Coast Guard station south of San Francisco that served as a hostel -- all of these experiences and more have influenced my ministry. I continue to have great respect and affection for the faculty at Starr King, the board members I served with, and my fellow classmates.
When I arrived at my first congregation in Cheyenne, Wyo., I knew in my heart the call to parish ministry was very strong. I loved the congregation. I loved church. I loved the children. I loved the music, the rituals, the liturgy. I loved the creative process and commitment to writing sermons each week. I enjoyed pastoral visits and community meetings. I enjoyed meetings with other ministers. And then I experienced two huge personal losses within several years of each other: my son was in a horrific, small airplane crash, and my life partner up and left. Somehow, I equated my parish ministry with those events.
It was time for theological reflection, a skill taught at Starr King. Was I called to parish ministry? What relationships in my life were important? What was my relationship with God? How did I define God? What was my call in ministry, if not parish ministry?
I am emerging from this reflection time with these beliefs: ministers need a place of retreat, a private and serene place where they can escape the fishbowl, where they can seek a colleague for pastoral care or private time for reflection.
Thus I have turned my home into a Unitarian Universalist bed and breakfast, with special emphasis on reaching out to ministerial colleagues. The Minister's Inn is an historic Victorian, built in 1880. It has three bedrooms with private bathrooms: The Minister's Haven, The Wedding Room and The Scholar's Room. There is a library with a fireplace for quiet reading in the winter and beautiful gardens for meditation or croquet in the summer and fall. The Inn is located in a small town along the Blackstone River in central Massachusetts and offers ample opportunities for recreational activities and exploring historic Unitarian Universalist sites. Besides serving popover breakfasts and afternoon tea, my hope is that the Inn will serve as one answer to the question: Who ministers to the ministers?"
I am emerging from my theological reflection with another belief: that the relationship with my town is also important. My dog, a handsome, 2 year-old, yellow lab by the name of Thompson, and I trained to become a registered Pet Partner Team* with the Delta Society. We can now minister to our community in several different ways. We visit patients at the VNA Hospice in Worcester, Mass., and at the Lydia Taft Nursing Home in Uxbridge. We also began a pilot reading program at the Uxbridge Public Library that enables children to improve literacy skills by reading to Thompson. My ministry with my four-legged buddy is called, "Time With Thompson, visit or read to me awhile, and I will wag my tail and smile."
The Minister's Inn, 12 Pleasant Street, Uxbridge, Mass., (508) 278-6097, firstname.lastname@example.org
Rob Eller Isaacs
Mary Ann Maggiore