Intern Ministers Gather to Listen, Learn, Refresh

snapshot_bannersnapshot-2010-02-15Intern Ministers, Supervisors, and Faculty at Parish Internship Gathering

Being a minister requires a healthy self-awareness and spiritual understanding. But it also requires a host of practical skills – from managing employees to raising money to leading congregants in social action.

To learn these ministerial skills, Starr King students who plan to serve congregations after graduation have a chance to serve one while they are still in school. And each year, the school invites these interns and their ministerial supervisors for a two-day meeting in Berkeley – the Parish Internship Gathering – to share triumphs, struggles and best practices.

At this year’s gathering in January, Charlie Dieterich was among the interns. Dieterich is serving part-time at each of three UU congregations in New Orleans – First UU Church of New Orleans; North Shore Unitarian Universalist Society; and Community Church Unitarian Universalist. All are still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. One church has no minister, one has no building, and one has no money for a church secretary, Dieterich says. “They’ve got survival-only budgets.”

Yet, Dieterich is learning that even churches that have financial restraints don’t have to put their values on hold. New Orleans UUs are helping provide meals to shut-ins, leading anti-death penalty and pro-worker events, and offering home hospitality to volunteers who come to rebuild Gulf Coast communities. “The biggest (struggle) in New Orleans is a feeling of abandonment,” Dieterich says. “It is hard to dream big when you have seen your reality washed away.”

Ricky Klein, another SKSM intern, is dealing with more subtle issues at the 400-member First Unitarian Church of Des Moines, IA. “I’ve learned during my internship that no expectations will match what you actually learn in a church with all of its complexities and challenges,” he says. Klein says he’s learned most about the nuts and bolts of church governance – how lay and professional church leaders can work together in the most effective way.

Klein says he’s particularly impressed with the Iowa church’s outreach programs, in which members of oppressed communities and the congregation come together in dialogue. Klein says: “The greatest challenge to counter-oppression work is that (some people want) to see greater diversity without doing the deeper soul work to understand why and what that would mean.”

SKSM student Elizabeth Marsh, who also attended the Berkeley gathering, is serving as intern minister at UU Church of Rockville, MD. Her most significant learning, she says, is about how to embrace and express ministerial authority. “As I transition from coursework to praxis, I’m getting a better sense of what it feels like to embody the power of ministerial leadership.”

SKSM actively supports students during their internship. Rev. Kurt Kuhwald, the core faculty member who oversees the internship program, keeps in close touch with both interns and ministerial supervisors. The annual gathering in Berkeley, he says, allows discussion of best practices while it “deepens collegiality and gives the interns another experience of gathering with ministers who will be their life-long colleagues.”

SKSM President Rebecca Parker also sees great value in the annual intern meeting. By gathering, she says, “the interns’ insight and awareness of what they are learning in the parish deepen and clarify. Students and their supervisors leave with a better understanding of how ministry is counter-oppressive work and the multiple ways counter-oppressive ministry can be done.”

Are you ready to take the next step on your path to ministry? Apply to Starr King today! Two rolling admissions deadlines remain for Fall 2010: March 1 and May 1. See How To Apply on

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