March 4, 2015

I Am Starr King: Interview with Derrick Mustelier

Derrick Mustelier

1st Year, M.Div. Student

11015474_10102058127483008_8544024673306682770_nWhat inspired you to become a religious leader?

For a long time, I was… I don’t want to say lost, because that sounds cliché. But throughout my undergraduate years, I bounced around between all of these different things that I wanted to do. I had trouble with the idea that I had to pick only one and run with it, which caused a lot of problems for me in school.

About four and a half years ago, I was going through a rough patch in my life, and I walked into a Unitarian Universalist congregation and something clicked. I started getting very involved in lay leadership and my home congregation in Miami really empowered me to do that. One of the things I started to do was join the worship committee and put together worship services every couple of months.

And when I would do one, people would come up to me after service and they would hint, ‘So, when are you going to go to seminary?’ The first couple of times, I thought that was a little crazy. But more and more I thought about it and about how I could never really decide to do one thing. I thought about the fact that, as a minister, I could actually do all of the things that I had wanted to do, all under this one umbrella. And for me, that was one of the major factors that made clear that ministry was my calling.

Why did you decide to study at Starr King?

It had a lot to do with the fact that it is one of the two Unitarian Universalist seminaries. Unitarian Universalism was, for me, clearly the faith that I wanted to serve. Before I became a UU, I was…well, not exactly anti-religion, per se, but certainly deeply skeptical of religion. It wasn’t until after I had experienced religion through Unitarian Universalism and started meeting some really amazing people through the faith, that it was made clear that this was my niche. My tribe, I guess you could say. Because no group of people had ever really appreciated my unique gifts the way Unitarian Universalism did. And so I knew this was where I belonged. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else but serving Unitarian Universalism. So I definitely wanted to go to a UU-specific divinity school.

And I had heard a lot about Starr King from friends of mine I had made through Unitarian Universalism, and about how innovative and self-directed the program is. And how free the program is …not monetarily of course (laugh). Just how open it is and how you can design your own path, which really appealed to me. And also the commitment to social justice and countering oppression — since I did my undergraduate degree in political science and international relations and social justice has been a huge part of my life — it really spoke a lot to me.

What has been your most memorable or meaningful experience at Starr King?

Man, that’s really tough… There have been so many meaningful and memorable experiences that were meaningful and memorable for so many different reasons.

I guess that if I had to narrow it down to one aspect, it would be the people. For me, this has always been what kept me in Unitarian Universalism in general—just how many incredible, amazing, unique, inspiring, passionate, genuine people I have met through this faith. Coming to Starr King, that is true tenfold. The friends I have made and the connections I have made with professors and with my fellow students…I have made some of the most amazing friendships. And even with people who are not in the school, but in other GTU schools, especially the Pacific School of Religion— they have been some of the most amazing people I have ever met in my life. So that is probably the most meaningful experience of Starr King for me—it’s the people.

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

Yeah, the $64,000 question (laugh)… That is something that I am definitely still discerning right now. Like I said, a big part of my call to ministry has been that I can do a lot of different things with it. So I am trying to figure out some creative, unique ways that I can actually do that and incorporate all of the different things I have wanted to do into this one thing, or series of things, or collection of things, or umbrella of things. There are definitely some things I am interested in. I am really passionate about social justice and youth and young adult ministry for example.

There are so many things that I want to do with this education. Part of the reason I am here is that I can do that. And I feel like there is a community here that will be invaluable in guiding me through that discernment toward finding my niche, in coalescing all of the things I want to do into one calling.


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