Leadership, Liturgy, and Learning: Embodied Ritual

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“What is the role of the religious leader in designing a transformational worship service?” asks Rev. Michelle Favreault of students in her weeklong intensive course “Leadership, Liturgy and Learning: Embodied Ritual.” An ordained Unitarian Universalist minister, Professor Favreault earned her M.Div. from Starr King School in 2000 and is completing a doctoral program in liturgical studies and transformational leadership at Pacific School of Religion. A Starr King core faculty member since 2008, Favreault was named Assistant Professor of Liberal Religious Education and Liturgy this year by the school’s board of trustees. She has served in a variety of UU denominational, district and congregational roles. As a seminarian, her passion for studying and teaching ritual arts was kindled at a colloquium titled “Re-imagining Worship” held at Starr King in 1998. “My Starr King education was so informed by that learning experience,” she says, “it helped to bring the history and hopes of my faith into being.”

Rev. Michelle Favreault

Rev. Michelle Favreault

Professor Favreault develops her student’s leadership skills by having them design and facilitate daily worship services. Her intensive course format brings students together for study and embodied immersion between Sunday and Friday. Students are learning about a mix of long-established and newer forms of worship, ranging from interpreting a 19th century Universalist communion liturgy to participating in emerging multi-generational forms such as spirited poetry slams and ecstatic dance ritual. Field trips to community worship events, explains Rev. Favreault, give students the “actual visceral experience of what it’s like to enter into a new community, which translates into skills in creating a welcome that feels genuine.”

Rev. Favreault describes her class as a “typical Starr King nexus” with several students who are UUs, one who is a Sufi leader, some in non-denominational communities, and two who are pagan. Over half of the students live outside the bay area and came to Berkeley for the week of study.

Student Patrice Curtis, a third-year M.Div. candidate, says that as a result of taking the course she intends to give “great attention to excellence in worship” as a key element of her future ministry. Patrice, who serves as intern minister at First Unitarian Church of Portland, values what she learned about creativity and spontaneity in worship services-what she calls “the always present opportunity for imperfect excellence!”

Second-year M.Div. student Jim Lewis reflects that “Michelle provided an intense, experiential, and reflective course; she impressed upon me the importance of intentionality in every aspect of worship.”

Wesley Morrison-Sloat, a first-year M.Div. student from Nebraska, says he learned that as a worship leader he can incorporate a variety of ritual styles, like free-form dance and confession, that “engage a congregation and strengthen our relationships,” even when those styles are unfamiliar to him. “I learned to stop worrying so much,” he says, “and trust in the ritual experience of others.”

See the student’s creative work and more from Prof. Favreault on the course website – “Ritual Arts Labs at Starr King“.

Are you attending UU General Assembly in June? Professor Favreault leads a workshop Six Words, One Image: A Worship Arts Immersion based on her Starr King intensive course, co-led by Rebecca Parker and Patrice Curtis. See flyer here.


Are you, or is someone you know, considering Starr King?

The deadline for Fall 2013 admission is June 1, 2013. Apply now!  The school is also currently accepting applications for Spring 2014 admission.
Questions? Contact Becky Leyser, Admissions Director, at bleyser@sksm.edu or (510) 549-4704.