Jeanelyse Doran

Doran is a third-year M.Div. student who is passionate about liberating authenticity and full expression. Her home congregation is the Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church in Walnut Creek, Calif. New to Unitarian Universalism, she explains how the faith found her. Listen to her "Guided Meditation" podcast.

I woke up one morning and knew it was time for me to join a spiritual community, one that had to be liberal and embracing. I looked in the phone book. The Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist congregation offered a morning worship time I could get to, so I went. The Rev. Dave Sammons was preaching on "misfits," which struck a chord with me. Then I read the Unitarian Universalist principles and thought: Here is the articulation of everything that I believe. It was during a Flower Communion service that I realized this was essentially my tribe. I was ready to invest myself in the Unitarian Universalist faith.

Several years later, I was sitting in church and someone from the choir mentioned Starr King School. My whole body began to vibrate. I cried through the rest of the service, knowing this was the path I was meant to embark on, the path of Unitarian Universalist ministry. That same year, I heard Lee Lawrence, Unitarian Universalist activist, describe her life-changing experience at Leadership School. So the following summer, I had a similar experience in which I was "loved into being." I began to learn about the deep roots of my new faith. During that Leadership School week I made a commitment to enter seminary and met my husband Bob.

In 2001, I was studying early childhood education and needed to conduct a research project on the effects of violence on children. I knew that the Mt. Diablo Peace Center, an affiliate of my congregation, had a program called "Raising Peaceful Children." The church soon asked me to lead it and a program on race awareness. Following the tragic events of Sept. 11, I took on the position of Peace Center director, receiving support from the Rev. Sammons and the Mt. Diablo congregation to use my connection with the interfaith community and commitment to social justice to help the center strengthen its community outreach.

This work became a practice ground to find and use my voice. Growing up with a Marine father who served in Vietnam, I lived in the tension between the military and the peace movement. The Vietnam War took my voice away when I was in middle school, and, during the first Gulf War, I found my voice again. Now, during the Iraq War, I want to offer people ways to integrate the anger they feel with peaceful expression. I feel like I'm walking an ongoing tightrope of tension

I'm committed to leading through integrity and allowing Peace Center work to be a reflection of Unitarian Universalist principles and a model of a truly peaceful organization.

My experiences at Starr King have offered me the chance to deepen the taproots of my faith. Courses at the school allowed me to better understand the teachings of Jesus and the deeper heritage of Unitarian Universalism. They also brought me a stronger resonance with myself.

It has been a dance with dissonance and a miraculous surrender into the current of my own life. My decision to come to seminary at age 50 did not make practical sense at all. But the ways in which I have been guided and supported physically, emotionally and financially have been nothing short of miraculous. I've decided I'm going to give myself this remarkable gift and surrender to the calling of my heart.

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