Only a few weeks ago, our new graduates enjoyed that delicious sense of pride and accomplishment when Starr King faculty laid scarlet and gold hoods on their shoulders during commencement ceremonies. Already, some are headed for new jobs in congregations, a major step on a chosen path. We decided to talk to three of them—Ron Hersom, Victoria Ingram and Theresa Novak—about their first position as full-fledged ministers.
Ron Hersom never expected the “wow” factor he got as an intern at the 700-member First Unitarian Church of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“I found a loving community at a church that wanted to create a better world,” he said. “I fell in love with that church and the depth of feeling I experienced with these folks.”
The feeling, it turned out, was mutual. Right after graduation, Hersom was offered a position as Acting Assistant Minister, to begin in August. He said yes, appreciating how the church identifies needs amongst members to build community, then creates opportunity, from a covenant potluck for the middle-aged to a group for mixed-race couples and families.
Hersom is also excited about the church’s new iMinistry, due to launch in fall, that will create small branch congregations via the Internet--an idea borrowed from evangelicals but a first for a Unitarian Universalist church. Every Sunday groups far from Albuquerque will be able to download the church’s sermon and create their own service.
Hersom explained it’s a way to reach small communities with a strong interest in Unitarian Universalism but unable to support a minister. (Don’t miss Hersom at the upcoming GA workshop about branch organization.)
“I have a job, but it doesn’t feel like a job,” Hersom said about his future at the Albuquerque church. “It feels like it’s a part of living.”
Victoria Ingram, another ’07 grad, will start her settled ministry after a unanimous vote from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Los Gatos. She, too, was surprised about where grace led her.
When Ingram left last fall for her internship at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego, she still wasn’t sure about her calling. She leaned toward chaplaincy, based on her experiences at Kaiser Hospital, the Masonic Home and other chaplaincy jobs she’d had. Then she settled into the San Diego church and soon understood that’s where she belonged.
Once again, grace arrived unexpectedly.
“Given my background and experience,” Ingram said, “I pictured myself in a much larger congregation as an associate minister when I graduated. Then I realized that what I really wanted was a network of collegial relationships. I didn’t want to minister alone.”
Ingram discovered that San Diego County was home to five Unitarian Universalist churches with a whole group of colleagues, and the light bulb went off. In fact, she could consider a small church, one in proximity to other churches and ministers able to understand and share the same joyous, difficult and fulfilling work.
The San Francisco Bay Area is peppered with Unitarian Universalist churches, all within driving distance of the Los Gatos fellowship, and the UUA’s Pacific Central District sponsors a thriving minister colleague group.
Ingram and her husband Carl visited the Los Gatos fellowship during the ministerial candidating process and decided right away that’s where they wanted to be. After years of study and practice at Starr King School, Ingram describes herself as “ready enough” to lead a congregation.
“It’s one thing to be called to ministry,” Ingram said. “But it’s an entirely different thing to have the knowledge, tools and confidence to carry out my call, and Starr King was absolutely instrumental in preparing me for this work.”
Theresa Novak has stayed on as summer minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis, Md., where she interned this year. In fall, she’ll move to Utah for a new role as consulting minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden, a college town that’s about 25 percent Hispanic, 50 percent Mormon and 23 percent students.
“I’m really excited about the church,” Novak said. “It has a growing congregation of about 100 members and a new building, where they sponsor a GLBT drop-in center for teens. This congregation wants to be a liberal beacon in Utah and take a public leadership role in the community. I’m going to a part of the world where Unitarian Universalism can make a real difference in peoples’ lives.
Click to read Novak’s poem, “Ogden,” about her new home at the base of stunning snowcapped mountains.
Hersom, Ingram and Novak are stepping quickly from a student role to full-fledged liberal religious leadership. But they all expressed confidence about their ability to handle the job, thanks to the training and support they received at Starr King. We send them our joy and blessings.
The board of trustees of the Unitarian Universalist Association has initiated a major change in the way funds supporting theological education will be distributed. See online UU World article.
At its April 20–22 meeting in Boston, the UUA board directed the Panel on Theological Education to “make the funding of ministerial formation, development and excellence the first priority for the use of the Panel’s resources, rather than the current singular focus on support for theological schools.”
In response, the Panel has let us know that over the next three years it anticipates the complete elimination of basic operation support for Starr King School and Meadville-Lombard Theological School, which last year amounted to $250,000 for each institution. The Panel will recommend a 10 percent cut for this coming year, and the UUA board will consider the Panel's recommendations when it meets in Portland in June.
At Starr King, the basic operating support we receive from the UUA is essential. We cannot sustain a loss of this funding without a new income source to take its place. It is up to those of us who love Starr King and value its unique role in our liberal religious movement to boldly contribute to its mission.
In light of this impending action by the UUA board, we need your help more than ever. Click for a list of actions you can take to ensure Starr King remains a model of Unitarian Universalist theological education.
Because of this proposed funding cut, Starr King trustees are engaging UUA trustees in conversations about the impact of the recommendations. We remain hopeful that UUA trustees will see how important it is to sustain the only two schools in the country that educate people for our ministry in a Unitarian Universalist context.
I do not believe our Association of Congregations can possibly be better off if it decides to abandon its investment in our Unitarian Universalist theological schools. If you have an opportunity to speak to a UUA board member, please encourage this person to recognize that support for our Unitarian Universalist schools is critical to the future of the movement.
At Starr King we are just beginning an 18-month intensive strategic planning study to help us re-vision how to more effectively serve Unitarian Universalist ministerial students in residential and non-residential programs. We’ll continue that process, focusing on meeting the needs of our 85 degree students and the more than 100 students at non-Unitarian Universalist schools we serve with our online courses. We will also move forward with our plans to serve our movement's communities, which are hungry for practical, theologically grounded lay leadership training.
Over the past few years, as the Rev. Kelly Flood, the school's Vice President for Advancement, and I have traveled the continent, meeting with many of you in homes and congregations, you have said yes to our annual funds, yes to generous gifts for new programs and professorships, yes to significant planned gifts for endowed scholarships. With your help, we not only met our $7 million Centennial Campaign, we exceeded it by $1.2 million. Your caring is evident and deeply appreciated.
Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker
Curious about Starr King’s new online Seminary for the Laity and how it can help boost your skills and effectiveness as a Unitarian Universalist lay leader? Be sure to stop by 2:45-4 p.m., Thursday, June 21 at SKSM’s suite at the Doubletree Hotel in Portland, where you’ll find Dr. Helen Bishop, the program’s director. (See below for a full list of Starr King GA events.)
Take a few minutes to talk, and Bishop will tell you how the program's approach is “cutting edge” in both content and process.
“We’ll routinely use audio in such forms as podcasts and live chats,” she said. “We’ll also offer reader packets that are downloadable from the Web. And, this program will have the flexibility to respond quickly to the current concerns of Unitarian Universalist leaders, focusing on what’s happening right now in congregations, such as the diversity issue and our movement’s response that UUA President Bill Sinkford recently raised.”
Best of all, Bishop said, participants won’t have to take vacation time or leave homes, families and jobs to learn. They can progress through the Seminary for the Laity certificate program on their own time and schedule.
When the program launches this September, it will include two 7-week online courses—“Working with Transition and Change" and "Unitarian Universalist History for Lay Leaders I: Chronologies”—as well as one 14-week course, “Systems Thinking for Unitarian Universalist Laity.”
“We knew from Starr King's mixed online and residential lay leadership program a couple of years ago that people wanted a complete online program,” Bishop said. “They told us they really appreciated the courses but found it difficult to take time away from their daily lives to meet together at a different location. At Starr King, we’re tremendously excited about being able to offer our lay leaders and future leaders a program that’s not only useful and grounded in Unitarian Universalist values, but also meets their needs.”
For more information about the Seminary for the Laity non-graduate program, including course dates, tuition and the application process, visit our website, where you can also find descriptions of Starr King master's degree programs and graduate-level online courses.
Be sure and ask the Doubletree Hotel concierge for the room number of the SKSM suite.
It's almost here! Don't miss our list of Starr King events.
“Islam and Gender: The Slippery Slope of Multi-faith Dialogues”
Dr. Amina Wadud, a pro-faith, pro-feminist, world renowned interpreter of the Qur'an will discuss a distinction between constructive interfaith dialogue and "other-bashing" concerning the sensitive subject of Islam and gender. 10:45 a.m.–12 p.m., Friday, June 22, Portland Ballroom 254, Oregon Convention Center
Graduates’ Association Reception
For all SKSM graduates, honorary degree recipients, trustees, faculty, students and staff. 4:30–7 p.m., Friday, June 22, Multnomah Room, Doubletree Hotel, 1000 NE Multnomah (near the convention center). For more information, please contact the Rev. Kelly Flood, SKSM Vice President for Advancement.
President’s Circle Conversations
Conversations hosted by the Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker for President’s Circle members and other key contributors about the vision for Starr King School over the next decade now emerging from the board of trustees’ strategic planning process. 10:45 a.m.–12 p.m., Saturday, June 23 or 11 a.m.–12:15 p.m., Sunday, June 24, SKSM Suite #104, Doubletree Hotel, 1000 NE Multnomah. For more information, please contact the Rev. Kelly Flood, SKSM Vice President for Advancement.
Degree & Certificate Program Conversations
2:45-4 p.m., Thursday, June 21
For those interested in graduate-level online courses and our new Seminary for the Laity.
1-2:30 p.m., Friday, June 22
For those interested in our Master of Divinity degree.
4:30-6 p.m., Saturday, June 23 (right after the faculty workshop featuring Rev. Dr. Gabriella Lettini)
For those interested in our Masters of Arts in Religious Leadership for Social Change (MASC) degree.
Location: Starr King Suite #104 at the Doubletree Hotel, 1000 NE Multnomah St., Portland, Ore.
Public Ministries Workshop
“When Justice-Making Gets Religion: Presenting Our Principles in the Public Square”
When we work for justice as liberal religious people, do our religious convictions ground our advocacy or are we like the “ACLU-with-a-chalice”? Panel members: Rev. Dr. Gabriella Lettini, SKSM Director of Studies in Public Ministry and Associate Professor of Theological Ethics; Rev. Preston Moore, co-minister, Williamsburg Unitarian Universalist Church, Williamsburg, Va.; Sunshine Jeremiah Wolfe, SKSM third-year student; Pat Haff, Community Outreach Coordinator, Unity Church-Unitarian, St. Paul, Minn., 2:45–4 p.m., Saturday, June 23, Oregon Convention Center, B116
The Rev. Sarah Lammert, a 1993 graduate of Starr King School, hosted a lovely dinner in her home this spring to introduce leaders of the Unitarian Universalist congregation in Ridgewood, New Jersey, to President Rebecca Parker and the good work of the school. Kris Henrickson, a long-time Unitarian Universalist, attended that event and said what she heard regarding the school’s commitment to counter-oppressive education inspired her to make a generous gift in honor of her father, Merle Henrickson.
Merle Henrickson, during his postgraduate studies at Union Theological Seminary, studied with Paul Tillich and Rienhold Niebuhr. His interest in the roots of radicalism in Biblical and early Christian history established a set of values and visions he lived by, whether as an active layperson in the Episcopal Church or as director of Building and Planning for the Board of Education in Detroit. Merle dedicated his life to the vision of a city where there would be racial equality, non-repressive schools capable of responding to community needs, adequate housing and diverse neighborhoods with plentiful parklands.
When the 1943 Detroit race riots erupted he joined the NAACP and stayed a member for the rest of his life. A passionate student of biblical history, world religions and archaeology, he was deeply disturbed when Desert Storm missiles destroyed irreplaceable cultural treasures.
His daughter Kris remembers that her father instilled in his five children the idea of the inherent worth and dignity of every human being. He also taught them the principle of tithing. It is from this honored tradition that Kris has pledged $2,000 a year in a charitable gift fund that will support Starr King School for years to come. As she puts it, “My father would be proud to be remembered in a gift to a progressive theological seminary that promotes interfaith dialogue on religious values in today’s world.”
Merle Henrickson died in 1994 at the age of 80. His legacy of justice, mercy and caring will live on at Starr King School.
If you would like to make a planned gift to honor the legacy of someone you love and admire, please contact me. If you would like to make a donation please click
here to visit Starr King's new online giving page.
Rev. Kelly Flood
For those who are privileged with the leisure of free time this summer, the ECO Steering Committee invites you to reflect upon how you will spend your vacation.
Will you rest at home, in places that are made comfortable for you by wealth and sameness? Have you chosen a spot that is exotic, playing off of old images of racialized space? Will you be communing with nature, romanticizing rural life as a form of escape?
Will you travel to your destination in vehicles propelled by fossil fuels, and the violence that comes with finding those fuels? Do you travel as a humanitarian, bringing help? Do you travel as a consumer, shopping and dining? Do you travel as a tourist, to be indulged and entertained?
How will you treat the people and environments that you encounter, and how will you remember those sites and people that tourism is designed not to encounter? How will you be accountable to the people—both there and back home—whose jobs, finances or family obligations do not allow them the luxury of this time away?
Join the Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker at camp this fall to learn about the wise ways of the Unitarian Universalist movement’s forebearers.
Dr. Parker will present a workshop, “Re-discovering Paradise: Celebrating the Wisdom of the Early Christians and the Universalists.” Oct. 19-21 at the Unitarian Universalist Rowe Camp and Conference Center in Rowe, Mass.
Explore forgotten strands of joyous Christianity that regarded the earth as paradise rather than heaven, and learn how to defend our contemporary Eden against environmental blight, damaging economic systems and war.
Click for more information or to register online.
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