October 2, 2015

I Am Starr King: Interview with Terra Collier-Young

Terra Collier-Young

Vice President of the Student Body

2nd Year M. Div. Student


What inspired you to become a religious leader? 

My time as a lay leader at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Santa Cruz County has been one of the most informative teaching and learning experiences of my adult life. I began as the Hospitality Committee, and I say that sort of jokingly because at that time I was the only person doing hospitality. After that I volunteered on the Membership Committee. And then my greatest and most enjoyable volunteer time was to be on the Sunday Services Committee, which is now called the Worship Team; I was on the team for six years, three years as the chairperson for the group. I really came to love worship, creating worship, imagining meaningful worship, finding the people, the components, the songs, the meditation, the visuals, and just really bring this whole big amazing mosaic of potential parts into a whole that is meaningful worship on Sunday mornings. That was my primary call to ministry in this way. People at the Fellowship just loved what I was doing and many people said, “Have you thought of being a minister?” Well, I hadn’t, but that certainly got me started thinking about it.

Why did you decide to study at Starr King? 

Unitarian Universalism is the religion that came to me. And so I came to it. I have felt at home and a part of this religious practice from the first day I stepped foot into the Fellowship. So Starr King is the only Masters of Divinity program that I applied to because I knew that I wanted to be a student at Starr King, I want to have the Starr King experience. At the time when I applied, and years before in looking to apply, I have appreciated Rebecca Parker. I have seen her at General Assembly and at our District Assembly and I was just really impressed. At General Assembly we have the Starr King lecture, I’ve appreciated that, and so there are many things of that regard that led me to this seminary. But just the fact that it is a Unitarian Universalist seminary here in California was a key component for me.

You recently were elected vice president of the student body. Why did you decide to serve the school in that way?

I laugh because when I was in high school it would never ever have occurred to me to be in the student council. I’m definitely a late bloomer as far as my commitment to being a student that gets a degree. So, this year my husband Scott and I are moving to student housing through PSR. We have a one bedroom apartment right on Le Conte. My husband has been amazing support for me to do this move and to be able to take classes on campus and to have more of a campus life experience through my M. Div. studies. So I thought, “while I’m on campus, how about if I carve out some time and participate in the student council?”

It was also a draw because I want to support bringing Starr King back into equanimity after the, the word I use is “brouhaha,” but I’m certain it’s more serious than that. I feel that I have a lot to offer in regards to bringing people together and, as the vice president that would be my primary task; to get feedback from the students and arrange events, to bring people together. I look forward to doing that. In my life here at home in Soquel I’m social, I host parties, and plan events, including Membership Dinners at the UUF. So I feel like I can bring that naturally occurring thing that I like to do to Starr King and make it be part of what I have to offer the whole student body, as well as the staff and the faculty. I really look forward to serving. I think it will be really good experience for me as well.

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

Last semester I intentionally studied the Hebrew Bible, otherwise known by Christian circles as the Old Testament, and Judaism. As a person who knows very little about the Bible in its entirety — I just know stories that I’ve been told as a child and that I hear from family — it felt really crucial to me to have a fundamental knowledge of that scripture so that I can have informed conversations. And so last semester I took a class through the Dominican School of Theology and Philosophy called Basic Bible Studies and Spirituality. It highlighted the trajectory of the story, essentially a composite of stories, that create the Hebrew Bible. And then as a compliment to that class, I took Intro to Judaism through the GTU, which then taught me about the current application of these stories in Judaism and their continuation. What stories are told again and again. What stories kind of were ignored or left behind or are just not as germane. So, what really was a big “ah ha” was to have a pretty substantial guide into that period of history, those stories that were told, and acknowledging the significance of them and how they play out still in our modern life here in 2015. I believe that the Bible, as the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible both, have a strong influence whether people are practicing Jews or Christians. And I think that having a good foundational understanding of the stories that form, that create the Bible is really important.

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

I love that question. I have been asking myself that question for six months. As much as the call to ministry was essentially, at the beginning, to be parish ministry… As I mentioned earlier I was on worship team for six years and I absolutely love that. I love being in the pulpit. And people tell me they love me in the pulpit and that’s really affirming. But I don’t know that I have a personality for the business aspect of being a parish minister. I was the Board President for a year and I had been a Board Trustee, and the truth is that the business part of a congregation is just… I don’t feel very good at it. I don’t know that my skillset is well matched for that. So I am on the fence about parish ministry.

But last semester I taught a class at my congregation called Building Your Theology; I taught it as a special reading course, and I loved it. I felt in my element being a teacher, taking a curriculum that was written in 2000, and adding to it, modifying it, and making it more germane to our time. Making it more engaging for the people that were my students. And I felt like I was really in my element in teaching. Also, as the final project for my bachelor’s degree at California Institute of Integral Studies I created and led a workshop that is called Re-Visioning, and that felt really good, too. I like the idea of being available to go to congregations and do worship and share my passion in the pulpit.  And, I love the idea of creating workshops, hosting symposiums; I love the Symposium that we do at Starr King. I think it is fantastic that it is a combination of things that come together. It’s rich and touching and it’s very progressive. And that feels like something I’d like to do. So I don’t know if that falls in the realm of community ministry, but at GA I went to the UU Society of Community Ministry booth and spoke with many of the people there and felt like there was a lot for me in the realm of community ministry. So I joined as a student member. That’s where I’m leaning right now but I may change my mind. This is what discernment is all about.

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