February 4, 2015

I Am Starr King: An Interview with Shay MacKay

Shay MacKay

3rd Year, M.Div. Student

Member of the Board of Trustees

Shay MacKayWhat inspired you to become a religious leader?

Right after college, I joined an organization called the Jesuit Volunteer Corps… because I didn’t want to go to graduate school (laugh). They sent me to Washington to work in a homeless shelter and from the moment I walked into the shelter, I felt like I was in the right place; like I was in the place that Spirit had led me—for a reason, for a purpose. It was while working with the guests in the shelter that I discovered my call to ministry.

It was an interfaith shelter, so we not only provided daily services, but we also provided some pastoral and spiritual care. So I got a taste of what ministry was like, and I fell in love with the experience and the people. And that sowed the seeds, and so for the twenty years since then I have been quietly letting them germinate. When I found Unitarian Universalism five years ago, it seemed like the right fit, so that sort of propelled me to seminary.

Why did you decide to study at Starr King?

Partially because I was working as an administrator at a UU Fellowship at the time I was researching seminaries. There were a lot of people within the congregation who had very high opinions of Starr King, so I was getting a lot of advice to apply to Starr King. And I have to say that, at the time, the opportunity to study in low-residency was a huge factor, because I was not able to just pick up and leave my life. So it was the combination of reputation and logistics. And then once I started researching Starr King, the whole idea of the educating to counter oppression model really drew me in.

What do you do in your role as the as a Student Trustee on the Starr King Board?

I listen to what the students are saying in meetings, in chapel, in private conversations. I try to get a general tenor of the student body’s opinions, feelings and thoughts on things. And then I take that to the Board.

I am not just a student representative. I am a full member of the Board, so I do have voting privileges and all of that. But I do process all of my Board interactions through that lens of what the students need and want, from my perspective. So I am a representative, an observer, a recorder, and also a full member of the Board, who is hopefully acting with integrity and intention for what is best for the student body and the school as a whole.

What do you hope to do with your Starr King education going forward?

Right now I see myself headed toward parish ministry, and my Starr King education will be essential in preparing me for that. I see myself as a bit of a pioneer or a ‘thinking outside of the box’ sort of minister—trying new things, maybe bringing back things we have lost, rediscovering parts of ourselves we have forgotten as UUs, and working more toward integrating all of our diversities and multiple interests and influences. And I see Starr King as being integral in preparing me, in offering me the resources, and in laying the foundation to do that; and also in giving me the courage to take risks and do the things that I want to do.


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