Duhart is a third-year student who says she is "passionately committed to being an exemplar in the world of how to live a life that brings about spiritual change and to being an enthusiastic advocate for this change." Her home congregation is the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Anchorage, Alaska.
I have been a Unitarian Universalist for about 10 years. On my faith journey I have had the pleasure of sojourning with Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, the Science of Mind and now Unitarian Universalists.
I was the only person in my birth family involved regularly in a faith community. As a young child, I dreamed of being a "PREACHER," like the one in my childhood Baptist church. As I have gained wisdom and come to understand more of who I am, I have a clear sense I have been called to be a spiritual leader.
I attended Catholic school until I was about six years old, and on the weekends I went to church with my grandmother, a Southern Baptist. This experience did not leave me confused about God or Jesus but laid the foundation for me to think and embrace things "HOLY" with open-mindedness and love.
Throughout my teenage years, I regularly attended Protestant churches on military bases where my father was employed. What I remember most about those years was how eagerly I awaited each arrival of material for the Norman Vincent Peale correspondence course on the Bible. I thought completing each course was Holy work. Oh, to be young.
I attended a Baptist college where first-year students were required to attend chapel every week. I married a man who was AME - African Methodist Episcopal, had a beautiful son, divorced, came out as a lesbian, found my way to a Presbyterian Light congregation, moved to Alaska, joined a New Age church, and stumbled upon a women's spirituality circle and my current Unitarian Universalist fellowship.
Throughout my life, I have had a very clear sense of being a spiritual person led by a divine creative energy. This became especially apparent to me during my 21 years in the military. While serving in the Desert Storm/ Desert Shield Gulf War, I had the honor and privilege of sitting at the bedside of soldiers who spoke about their children for the last time before dying. As a mother, I was brought to tears on many occasions thinking, "Only by the grace of some divine force have I been spared this kind of anguish." I was brought face to face with the enormity of sitting before death and serving with compassion and hope. There were daily opportunities to minister to those who had lost so much. Through my work as a clinical social worker in the Armed Forces, I learned to be present, to listen, to hear, to always be open to spirit and to know that my work was being shaped by more than myself.
I came to Starr King on the heels of a family crisis. I was recovering from breast cancer and had just retired from the military. My family and I were just beginning to let go of loss - in my case, my breast and a career that I truly loved.
Now why on earth would I want to come to seminary? The answer was there was no better time then right then to step out on faith and manifest my heart's dream.
Starr King has given me a wonderful opportunity to read about and voice into sacred space my lived experience with spirit. On a daily basis, seminary gives me the opportunity to be in a sacred space with others who sincerely struggle to understand the power of religion and spirituality. It offers an environment where other peoples' lives have been moved as mine has been. Seminary gives me hope. Daily I am reminded that there are people who see their life's mission as transforming the world, extending hope for justice for all "TODAY."
Betty Jeanne Rueters-Ward