Student Charts New Course in Reproductive-Health Ministry

snapshot-2009-04-15Darcy Baxter is a third-year student at Starr King who is forming her ministry in the spiritually challenging field of reproductive health. This year, she is developing a curriculum for congregations to talk honestly about abortion.

“Women hear a lot of silence about reproductive choices,” Darcy says. Darcy envisions Unitarian Universalist covenant groups where people can share their personal histories and spiritual struggles. “These groups could be a very powerful means for building community within congregations,” she says, “and very healing for their members.”

Darcy honed her interest in reproductive-health ministry while doing her chaplaincy training last year in a research hospital, working in a delivery unit caring for premature infants. Darcy met doctors and nurses working in reproductive health, and saw that “their work compels (them) to tap into their deepest emotional and spiritual resources.”

While training at the hospital, Darcy interviewed health professionals about their religious or spiritual perspectives. What she heard from many doctors is that they are barraged by messages against their work from religious groups. “It would be wonderful for doctors to hear from religions that honor and support the very moral and compassionate work they are doing,” Darcy says.

Likewise, she wants to support women who are making difficult pregnancy-related decisions. “Women who are making these choices often want to hear a religious perspective that is affirming,” Darcy says. “I tell them that I wholeheartedly support them and that I’m secure in my belief they are acting in the service of love and the sacred.”

Darcy feels encouraged by her instructors and fellow students at Starr King to confront these morally complex subjects. “I want to make my ministry about these complicated, controversial issues,” she explains, “and at Starr King we are called to take risks. As my adviser said – I’m taking off your training wheels, go!”.

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