Graduate of SKSM
Executive Board of Grad Association
Why did you decide to become a religious leader?
Our family started attending a small but growing UU fellowship when my wife and I decided that our children needed religious education for unbiased, non-dogmatic exploration of personal ethics and world religions. Within a couple of months after we started attending worship and church activities, we were absolutely convinced we had found the right community for us all! Shortly after our (early and easy) decision to become members, my wife was asked to teach in the children’s program and the Minister invited me to serve as an advisor on her Ministerial Relations Team. Very soon thereafter, I was appointed to fill a vacant seat on the Board, too! The kind of commitment which was then required of me in lay leadership seemed to be a perfect match for my personality and skills. I found the involvement and tasks inherently rewarding, and the more that we did, the more that we felt rewarded.
When I was elected to be the president of that board after only a couple of years I was encouraged to participate in the regional lay leadership school which was very inspiring- I felt a deep sense of shared commitment to making a difference in the world. I began to entertain the thought that seminary might be in my future but I didn’t feel confident in my skillset for leading worship, for counseling folks in distress, for being a spiritual resource for people in need.
But, once I heard about Starr King as a school for Religious Leadership it occurred to me that I could possibly serve as a “religious leader” without necessarily having all the skills and confidence needed to be an ordained Minister. It opened a new horizon for me to know that Starr King was around. So after several more years, when I finally made the decision to apply, it was with a lot of humility and anxiety that I might not be able to be qualified to become an ordained person.
It was only in my second semester at Starr King when I was encouraged to take an internship in a small church that I was affirmed that I could gain the skills and confidence that I could “be enough”, that I could learn and grow enough to have what it takes to be a “real” Minister, to accept that responsibility. A major element of that learning and growth came from the extended self-examination that was facilitated by interaction with the other students, staff and faculty of the School at that time. My particular student experience was during a period of great transition in the School, from 1994-1997, in the middle of Dr. Parker’s tenure as our President.
What is your role in the Starr King Graduate Association and how has that experience been for you?
My service to SKSM as an elected Student Board member 20 years ago was a very powerful experience as I was privileged to be part of the appointment process of Dr. Ibrahim Farajaje. That was a sense of profound connection to the generations of students who followed and benefited from his influence on all of us and in the school as a whole. When I was asked to serve on the Executive Board of the Graduate Association I think it was a recognition that I had shown continuing commitment both to Starr King and the UUA. When our acting President Dan Kane’s death left a vacancy in the Grad Association Board position, I was available to take on that ad hoc role to provide a representation on behalf of former students. I take it as a real honor and with a sense of responsibility for the overall health and future of the School going forward.
What is your most meaningful or memorable experience at Starr King?
There are a couple of immediate memories:
The first week at Starr King is probably my strongest memory- the ritual of the new students being entrusted with the symbolic sand dollars and keys to the school was profound in itself. My wife Nina and I also collaborated with a couple of other students to plan and lead the opening worship service for that weekend’s Community Feast Night. It was a great beginning, setting the tone for our 3 years.
Just a few years ago, I was reminded of our deep connections with Patti Lawrence, who was integral to our time at Starr King and who really exemplified our sense of heart connection to the School. I was able to come back from the East Coast to participate in her retirement event just to tell her how much she had meant to us. As we sang her favorite song, “When Our Heart is in a Holy Place”, I could feel the spiritual presence of all the students, Rebecca, and the other staff and faculty who had been around when I was here. It was very profound for me.
Is there anything you’d like to share about the work you do outside of Starr King?
I have been privileged to be one of the leaders of the progressive clergy, not only in the UU Ministers Association chapters, but also in the progressive interfaith coalitions in each of the areas where I have served. That’s been very rewarding. And in our collegial relationships, we have held each other accountable for staying engaged not only with the heritage of Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi and our own liberal religious identity, but also staying in relationship and holding each other as we face the repressive and oppressive structures and environments all around us.
As we stand together on the side of love, against unjust economics, against war, against oppression of minorities, against the prejudice faced by people who are different than the majority. It’s a really profound responsibility, and very rewarding.
What is Starr King’s role in Unitarian Universalism and the world and why is it important for a place like Starr King to exist?
From my perspective, the special role that Starr King has for Unitarian Universalism is not only to understand and appreciate and hold our progressive Unitarian and Universalist heritage in our trust, but also to challenge us to move forward in addressing not only the current social issues of our time but the broader perspective of looking forward into future generations. That is the ongoing function of the institution, to always be aware of our strengths and our shortcomings, to always be looking forward, to always be pushing ourselves not only to anticipate the needs of our society and our world, but to guide the future of Unitarian Universalism and multi-faith theological engagement in the dynamic environment of the 21st century and beyond.
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