August 18, 2016

I Am Starr King: Interview with Becky Leyser

Becky LeyserBecky Leyser

Graduate of SKSM (2016)

Former Staff Member


Why did you decide to study at Starr King?

I decided to study at Starr King because of the way this place educates and the way it brings forth the fullness of who we are. William Ellery Channing, in his sermon “Likeness to God” insisted that our primary goal in life should be to work towards emulating the Divine.  He said that religion should help us with that goal.  And so this place asks us to live into that. It asks us to try on the gifts we have been given.  We can fall down and mess up, but we need to stay at the table and continue to work on being the best person that we can be. It’s not a place that says “You’re an empty vessel and we’re going to pour education into you.” It’s a place where not only are you learning, but you are also in the process of becoming a teacher to the institution. Both the institution and the individual are constantly learning and becoming better versions of themselves. Where else can you get that? There’s no place else like this.

Tell us a little about your work outside of Starr King.

As of this year I have been doing an internship. If I want to do spiritual direction with ministers I need experience in a parish setting. So I lucked into working at the UU church in Livermore which is the church I started going to when I arrived in California in the mid 1990’s. The church is still very sweet and is ministered to by a Harvard grad by the name of Rev. Dr. Lucas Hergert.  He has taught me about what it means to be in the church and work with a congregation when it wants to go in a certain direction and you may want it to go in another, but as the minister of the church, it’s theirs not yours. How do you be with that? Where are the places that you push a little bit and where are the places that you say “Here’s the seed, now what are you going to do?” as you step back and let the church decide what it wants to do. That’s what my education has been about. Playing with those concepts of what it means to be a minister in a congregation. It’s been fun to try to understand it.

What is your most memorable or meaningful experience at Starr King?

There are so many… I mean, there are goofy ones. (As a staff member) I was in my office when a student came in to ask a question and then Bob Kimball, a previous Dean of Faculty, came in and the two of them started talking and all of a sudden they busted into song at the top of their lungs. I was convinced Rebecca was going to come in and yell at me. So there are goofy things.

Thinking about how blessed I have been to work with Rebecca and Ibrahim brings me to tears. They taught me so much and were so important to my formation as a minister and to my formation as a human being. They’re just so important. And then getting to do things like meet Huston Smith because he was the president’s speaker at General Assembly and I got to go and have dinner with him and Rebecca.

Singing with Ysaye Barnwell of Sweet Honey in the Rock. She did a workshop for the school and I was told to document it so I was walking around taking pictures. She told me to put the camera down and that I could stay if I sang, but to put the camera down. So I sang (laughs) and if you wanted to try something like sing bass, you could go and try it. So I went and sang bass with Bob Fulgham and then he came and sang soprano with us.  It was a lot of fun.

What do you plan to do with your Starr King education moving forward?

I graduated last May with an M.Div. and I am very excited about that. I want to be a spiritual director. I want to be ordained. I’m going to do a residency at St. Francis Hospital in San Francisco and work as a chaplain for a year. I think that will be an immense amount of fun, to continue my education and figure out who I am and how to rise to be my best self.


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