Fascinating Paths Ahead for New SKSM Grads

snapshot_bannersnapshot-2009-05-15Three of Starr King’s Graduates in 2009: Perry Pike, Chris Long, and Lynn Gardner

A compelling cast of 19 Unitarian Universalist leaders will graduate this month from Starr King School. Among them: a previously ordained Sufi who blends Christian and Sufi worship; a former Oregon businesswoman who found her calling – and her life partner – at Starr King; and a man who survived cancer while in seminary and wants to encourage Unitarian Universalists to confront racism by “journeying into the streets.”

Perry Pike rejects the “artificial distinctions” between religions, and considers himself both Sufi and Christian. He  has created a style of prayer that blends Sufi Zikr — a devotional practice of chanting and movement — with familiar Christian-American tunes. He calls it “Southern Gospel Zikr.” Raised in a conservative Christian community in the South, Perry embraced Sufism as an adult and was ordained in the Sufi Ruhaniat International order. After graduating from Starr King, he plans to pursue a career in chaplaincy and he aims to introduce embodied spiritual practice to communities of people who have a Christian sensibility.

Lynn Gardner, another new SKSM graduate, wants to focus on family ministry — while expanding the definition of family. Lynn’s own family took new shape during her time at seminary. After selling her day-care business to come to Berkeley, she met her partner, fellow Starr King student Wendy Bartel. Lynn and Wendy married when the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriages. Following graduation, the couple intends to co-minister. Lynn believes that faith communities are places “to take a breath and remember who we are and what we’re connected to.”

Chris Long, who also graduates this month, says he’s looking “to enter the world afresh.”  Chris, who was diagnosed and treated for cancer while in seminary, has spent many years in anti-oppression work. “What I’ve gained at Starr King,” he says, “is an understanding of the systems of oppression from a religious perspective.” He adds: “Our words speak of the Promised Land, but what would it mean to journey into the streets, to take our message of compassion and share it more boldly and globally? It will be liberating to us all.”

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