A Meeting of Minds and Hearts On the first Sunday in February, five Starr King students lifted their voices in The Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples in San Francisco and preached sermonettes about the call to ministry, while a fifth student sent saxophone notes soaring into the rafters.
“The six students from Starr King led the congregation in a profoundly moving worship experience,” said the Rev. Dr. Dorsey Blake, SKSM Acting Dean of the Faculty and Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples minister. “The congregation was invited to participate in remarkable journeys of ministry. There was a soul connection with each student who shared the context of personal call, options or lack of options, sacrifices, dramatic challenges and consequences of responding positively to the call. The music lovingly held us. Something rang true, eliciting introspection and guiding those gathered to revisit their own calls, either recognized or unrecognized, heeded or unheeded.”
The Starr King visiting students said they also felt the depth and grace of their experience.
“Being invited to communion outside our own fellowship was powerful. I could feel Dr. Howard Thurman’s legacy,” said Jeanelyse Doran Adams, referring to the noted African-American theologian who founded the interfaith and inter-racial church in the 1940s. “We all felt warmly welcomed.”
Adams and others described the potluck after the service where the group was invited to talk more about their personal journeys and congregants shared their own stories, one woman saying the group inspired her to go ahead and apply to seminary.
“We were invited to come back,” said Shelley Page.
The Rev. Dr. Blake noted that the students and their hosts came together in recognition and respect, enriching the shared experience.
“When the seminarians were re-introduced later during the social hour in Thurman Hall,” said Blake, “there was sustained applause. A deep connection had been made with both head and heart. The boundaries that separated these two vital institutions — Starr King and the Church for the Fellowship for All Peoples — were permeable indeed.”
Jacqueline Duhart found the timing of the seminarians’ visit especially fitting.
“It was like a right of passage being there during Black History Month and on Women’s Sunday,” said Duhart, “a tradition in black churches, which honors the women of the congregation on the first Sunday of the month. Most of us are in our third year and have been together as a covenant group since the beginning of seminary in a spirit that binds our hearts. This service got to the core of what binds us.”
SKSM Interns Gather in Berkeley In January, 13 Starr King interns and their supervising ministers returned to Berkeley from around the country to discuss the rigors of congregational service, how their experiences affect ministerial discernment and the benefits of mutual support during the school’s annual three-day intern gathering.
“We also talked about how supervisors could do a better job of guiding interns, how interns could learn more in their settings, and about what the school can do to support both groups,” said the Rev. Dr. Dave Sammons, Starr King Acting President who helped host the event.
Sammons made a point of noting the importance of the church community in the formation of new ministers.
“I want to thank all the ministers and lay folks who’ve helped our students out there in the real world in an internship setting and in many other ways. Our students need this kind of help to integrate what they learn in school with the demands of ministry in all the kinds of places where they’ll eventually serve.”
Sally Hamlin, a fourth-year student who accompanied the Rev. Jean Rankin, her supervising minister, to the gathering, came away from Starr King with a new appreciation for the school and the other interns who share her experiences.
“What does it feel like to walk into a place that knows your soul,” said Hamlin, who’s serving the First Parish in Concord, Mass. “Can a place hold you in this way? I believe it can. That’s what it meant to come to SKSM for this retreat. This group of emerging ministers meeting with those already formed, yet still growing, captured my heart and left me with much to ponder. Sharing, challenging, inviting, learning. It was all there, and more.”
A Message from the Acting President Sometimes we talk about “permeable walls” here at Starr King, meaning bringing the outside world in to see what we’re going – and taking ourselves outside our walls as a part of our educational process. In the article above you read about the Rev. Dr. Dorsey Blake taking some of our students into the very real world of San Francisco, Calif.
For my part, I’ll be going to Chicago to join with Lee Barker, president of Meadville-Lombard Theological School, and several others to talk with the UUMA’s CENTER Committee about how our two schools might better serve not only our own grads, but other ministers – an example of the kind of cooperation in which we’re eager to engage. We’re also working hard on another kind of extension beyond our walls: offering a chance for reflection among students doing internships and the supervisors with whom they’re working. Last month over 25 such folks gathered here at the school to talk about the work they’re doing with each other in this important preparation for the ministry.
It’s something close to my heart. During my long stint in the parish ministry I supervised almost 30 interns preparing for the parish and community ministry, not only from Starr King and Meadville-Lombard, but from other schools as well. In fact, I’m supervising an intern right now, an M.Div. from Harvard who’s working with a fellowship in Northern California. She’s a person who will be a great addition to our ministry once she gets through this additional part of her preparation. I like working with interns. They’ve not only kept me on my toes and taught me a lot over the years, but they give me a feeling that through the work I do with them I’m adding to a ministry that will go on long after I’m gone. I’m proud of the people with whom I’ve worked and of the contributions they’re making to our movement. Rev. Dr. Dave Sammons
First Annual Preaching Award Thanks to a generous gift from Bruce Stowell and Heather Hyde, Starr King is sponsoring the first annual Unitarian Universalist Current Issues Sermon Award.
The challenge for SKSM students is to respond with vision and passion, whether agreeing or disagreeing, to Davidson Loehr’s essay, “Why ‘Unitarian Universalism’ is Dying,” originally published in the Spring 2005 issue of the Journal of Liberal Religion.
Any SKSM student is eligible, and the submission deadline is Feb. 28. Unitarian Universalist scholars, ministers and laypeople will serve as judges, and Associate Professor Alma Crawford is overseeing the competition. The $5,000 award recipient will likely deliver the winning sermon at the Pacific Central District Assembly in May.
We’ll announce the award recipient in the March e-Journal.
Blessing the World A set of collected essays written by the Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker, President of Starr King School, and edited by the Rev. Rob Hardies, ’00 SKSM graduate and senior minister of All Souls Church, Unitarian in Washington, D.C., speaks to the transformative possibilities often found in life’s brokenness and despair.
The collection, “Blessing the World: What Can Save Us Now,” was published by Skinner House Books.
“There are times in our lives when it feels like things are falling apart,” Hardies said. “When loss strips our days of joy. When death robs us of someone we love, or violence shatters our sense of security. This is a book for those times.” To order copies, click. You can also read an excerpt entitled, “Love First,” from the summer 2006 issue of the UU World, or listen to a podcast of Dr. Parker delivering “Soul Music,” a sermon found in the book.
Former Balazs Scholar Launches Web Radio A new English-language radio show about Transylvanian Unitarianism launched from Transylvania on Feb. 16. Created by the Rev. Zsolt Solymosi, a Starr King 2004-2005 Balazs Scholar, the program is available on the Internet and will often broadcast live, allowing listeners to offer real-time, virtual feedback.
“The dream that my stay in Berkeley helped to develop has become a reality,” said Solymosi, who teaches at the Unitarian high school in Kolozsvar, Transylvania, and has produced a local radio show for the past several years. “The Unitarian Web Radio is ready to broadcast.”
Solymosi will co-host with Ben Legg, an English teacher at the Protestant Theological Institute in Kolozsvar. You can catch their first broadcast at 3 p.m. (PST), Wednesday, Feb. 21.
“The show,” said Legg, “will discuss all aspects of life in Transylvania, with a focus on Unitarianism. And it will often be live. We want to make this interactive, so please give us your thoughts while you listen.”
To access the radio station, visit www.unitarianradio.ro. But first download a free “Winamp” program onto your computer — www.winamp.com. Once you’ve loaded the Winamp player, click on the “Live” icon at the radio website.
Click to contact Solymosi. Community Consciousness Raising: Sustainability and Animal Rights We have enslaved the rest of the animal creation, and have treated our distant cousins in fur and feathers so badly that beyond doubt, if they were able to formulate a religion, they would depict the devil in human form. – William Ralph Inge, “Outspoken Essays,” 1922.
The SKSM ECO Steering Committee invites you to reflect on the relationship between sustainable environments and animal rights.
Each year marks the breeding, exploitation and slaughter of 10 billion land animals in the United States alone. The number rises to 25 billion if we include fish.
How can our work to bring about justice cross over into our care for other beings? What intersecting privileges and oppressions can be found in the way that humans and animals have been treated through incarceration (farms, cages), reproductive tampering (breeding, cloning, spaying, neutering, inseminating), marketing and domestication (farmed animals and pets), exploitative entertainment (zoos, circuses, aquatic parks), genocide (extinction), diaspora (habitat destruction), and consumption (food, clothes, testing)?
How is the abuse of large numbers of immigrants employed at slaughterhouses connected to what happens to the animals there? How might our respect for the interdependent web of all existence call us to a more just world for all?
We invite you to consider what actions the school, your congregation, or you as an individual might take to address these concerns.