Hamlin is a fourth-year M.Div. student drawn to issues of worker justice, class and spirituality. Her home congregation is the Unitarian Universalist Church of Buffalo, New York, where she has been a member since 1988.
I was raised Roman Catholic as a middle child of seven in Buffalo, New York. I received 12 years of education from Franciscans who encouraged me to question everything about theology and the church. I felt a call to the "priesthood" or ministry as a very young girl, but this vocation remained submerged, mainly because women cannot become priests in the Catholic Church.
Coming from a working class background, college right after high school was not possible for me. So I was drawn into activism as part of the Catholic Left Movement -
a community that was egalitarian and spiritually-based. I lived as a Catholic worker and anti-Vietnam War activist, putting my faith into action.
I then spent 25 years as a nurse and women's health practitioner, working with the uninsured and the disenfranchised within our health care system. Once my children were grown, I was drawn back to examine my vocation. I found my personal spirituality in Spiritualism and my religious community in a Unitarian Universalist congregation.
When my friends told me I was courageous to come to Starr King at age 52, I responded that my soul needed it. And it's true. There was nothing else I felt called to do. But it takes a kind of courage to be here, one that goes along with becoming the kind of religious leader who moves (acts) from a faith stance for justice's sake.
Through my involvement in Seminarians for Worker Justice and the Graduate Theological Union community, I've been able to use my background in health care organizations, activism commitment and class concerns. We Seminarians have actively created a ministry valuable to the local community. And the classes I've taken have been building blocks in a house I can't see yet but has a strong foundation.
It's a rich experience to be here at Starr King with other students, uncovering and developing a personal theology that will make my ministry powerful and strong. Learning and growing from the gifts of these students deepens and enriches my own ministry. These experiences will establish my ministry within the strong community that's part of the Unitarian and Universalist liberal religious heritage found at Starr King.
The gifts and challenges within an authentic ministry are part of what makes a call to religious leadership rich and multifaceted. Although I found it hard to leave my family and community behind, I discovered support in the Starr King community and beauty in the San Francisco Bay Area. I was soon surrounded and carried through my challenges and fears toward my best growing edges.
Betty Jeanne Rueters-Ward