Symposium 2018: “Spiritual Communities without Walls”

For those of you doing parish ministry, this talk is for you too. There is no such thing as community that exists within those walls.” -The Rev. Meg Riley, Honored Teacher

On January 13, 2018 the Starr King community gathered at the First Unitarian Church of Oakland for its 6th annual Symposium. A day of study, dialogue, food, music, and celebration, this year’s theme was “Spiritual Communities without Walls.”

After some catching up over breakfast, the Symposium began with the traditional Unitarian Universalist chalice lighting and words of welcome from Starr King President Rosemary Bray McNatt.

“It’s a fitting weekend for us to have Symposium,” said the Rev. McNatt in reference to the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. “For us to recenter ourselves and remind ourselves about the human struggle for justice and the role that each of us plays in the creation of beloved community… Today we celebrate the threads of learning. We notice yet again the possibilities inherent in our stories that heal harms, transform pains, and extend grace as we dismantle that which keeps us separate.”

Our honored teacher this year was the Rev. Meg Riley. Meg’s wealth of professional service includes founding two organizations (Faith in Public Life and Equal Partners in Faith), serving as the founding director of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Side with Love campaign (formerly “Standing on the Side of Love”), coordinating the UUA’s response to Hurricane Katrina, and serving in various leadership roles with the Interfaith Alliance, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. Meg currently serves as Senior Minister at the Church of the Larger Fellowship, a global spiritual congregation of nearly 4,000 people, including over 700 incarcerated members.

An early highlight of the day was the Rev. Meg Riley’s keynote address, in which she explored the uses of technology for building extended faith-based community in the context of the 21st century media revolution. Drawing upon valuable lessons from her experiences with electronic ministry, our honored teacher identified the following 10 tips for creating spiritual communities without walls:

  1. Mission must always be central
  2. Listen to feedback
  3. Find your people; expect surprises
  4. Create a learning environment
  5. Fail quickly and forgive yourself
  6. Follow the energy
  7. Create strong relationships
  8. Co-create whenever possible
  9. Money is a big thing
  10. Enjoy the ride!

Watch the entire keynote address below:

During the afternoon, community members participated in interactive workshops led by various community leaders. Guest presenters included the Rev. Amelia Monteiro (SKSM alumna), Cat Zavis (Executive Director, The Network of Spiritual Progressives), the Rev. Susan Chorley (Co-Founder and Executive Director, Exhale Pro-Voice), Mara Kassoff (Deputy Director, Exhale Pro-Voice), and the Rev. Jessica Shine (Community Minister, The Chaplaincy Institute). Beautiful music was provided throughout the day by Grace Renaud (piano), Mira Mickiewicz (guitar/voice), Kiya Heartwood (guitar/voice), and Clovice Lewis (cello).

At the end of the day, Starr King School for the Ministry presented Meg Riley with the honorary degree of Sacrae Theologiae Doctor (Doctor of Sacred Theology) for her steadfast commitment to Unitarian Universalist values and efforts to build spiritual community across geographical boundaries. In accepting the award, our honored teacher proclaimed, “I’m accepting this for all the older people who are invisibilized and trivialized and unrecognized after long years of hard work, particularly women and femmes, particularly queers and people of color.”

Enjoy video highlights of Symposium below:

Please join Starr King School for the Ministry in building “Spiritual Communities without Walls” by connecting with us online! “The more something is shared, the greater value it has.”

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For additional photos of Symposium, check out our Facebook photo album.