Who Am I?
Ministry is my third career, and I bring to it everything I’ve learned and been in my decades of growing: Careers as a writer, editor, and teacher of writing and as a dog trainer and small-business owner feed my capacities as a minister. So do 25 years as a Unitarian Universalist lay leader in a new church, which has grown from 20 to 130 members.
Although I am seeking my first settled or renewable contract ministry, I have already served four churches—as sabbatical minister to Peterborough (NH) UU Church and as an intern minister for a collaborative of three Maine congregations: the UU Church of Ellsworth, the UU Congregation of Castine, and the UU Church of Belfast (also my home church).
Here are some beliefs that ground my work:
God is Love. I don’t know if there’s a supreme entity called God, but I do believe—because of my “direct experience of that transcending mystery,” as our first UU source words it—that there is a web of energy through which Love flows to each of us. What I imagine about this web is that we’re each a part of it and can, through our intention and actions, influence it, and I try to be a conduit for Love.
Each of us is growing. I agree with our Unitarian forebear William Ellery Channing that we all have the capacity to grow as moral and ethical beings, potential that is not limited by “God’s will” nor by one’s age. I believe that each of us has grown and wants to continue growing and part of my ministry is to encourage growth among children and adults alike.
Each of us is imperfect. I know I am, and not pretending to be faultless enables me to hear criticism more openly. Knowing that others, too, are imperfect allows me to accept them as they are, feel compassion for missteps and bungles, and gently call them into their better selves.
Sometimes we are harmfully imperfect. A church needs a behavioral covenant, a disruptive behavior policy, and sometimes restorative justice circles to help guide it through conflicts, large and small. The question is always how to restore right relations.
Right relations means countering oppressions. Those who have privilege also have responsibility to advocate for those whom our systems harm, and compassion calls us to hold this understanding at all times.
How Did I Get Here?
After a late night of probing religious assumptions with my first college roommate, I sent our questions about Protestant Christianity to the Lutheran minister who had led my youth group in northwestern Minnesota. His reply was that he had no answers for us, only faith.
At 18, I was not prepared to fly anywhere on faith. I had quit Episcopal catechism three times after arguing with priests about doctrines that made no sense to me and then held my mother’s and grandmother’s church in contempt for confirming me anyway. When my atheist father began prescribing when and where I would attend services, it was too much. I left and remained unchurched for 20 years.
During those decades, however, I was always seeking—something deeper, more centering, more authentic… I didn’t have a name for what pulled me.
At 23, I married, knowing little of what gives a marriage health but, in hindsight, lacking a rudder and thus needing some form of anchor. While my parents had provided a comfortable home for their five children, they were not able to send us into the world with a foundation of trust in love. My relationships with my extraordinarily loving parents-in-law and years of therapy, beginning with marriage counseling, supported my growth and a long healing process.
My seeking went to a new level when I left a job as editor of Colby College’s alumni magazine and vowed that I would try only to do work I could do from my heart. As I tried to find my vocation, largely alternating between training dogs and variations on writing and editing, the endeavors I found most satisfying involved listening to people’s stories and helping or motivating them to grow. I believe my call to ministry began to form in those unchurched decades of questioning what was my path.
In 1993 I spent a life-changing week at Findhorn, an international spiritual community located in northeast Scotland, and flew home knowing that I needed to find a local spiritual community. That same year I encountered Unitarian Universalism, and then a group in the nearest town founded the UU Church of Belfast (ME). I tiptoed in late in 1994 and, a year later, began supporting its ministry and growth.
During the first several years that church friends suggested I become a minister, I laughed. Yes, I could craft a worship service, but ministry is about so much more than preaching. Later I realized that the whole of parish ministry interested me but thought I was too old. After I said that out loud, I received an unequivocal call through a dream, a call that was generously affirmed throughout my work at Starr King School for the Ministry. Some of my friends have retired as I’ve prepared for a new profession, and I am grateful to be on this path rather than theirs.
Throughout my life, I have benefited from privilege: I am a white, middle-class, college-educated, cisgender female who has been happy to partner with men. Although I could not have named any concept related to “dominant culture,” I was only halfway through elementary school when I was jarred by realizing that I enjoyed advantages that much of the world lacked. Why am I so lucky? I wondered. What will I be asked to do with this? While “why” has become all too clear—if unrelated to my childhood paradigm of a snowy-bearded Father in the sky who favors some people over others—how I need to stand with those who are oppressed is a question to live daily.
My life has also been rich with relationships. My “practice” husband and I divorced amicably after 23 years and remain friends in the way of people who grew up together. Long-time friends and dear sisters bless my life. A network of beloved colleagues supports and holds me accountable. I cannot omit mention of my dogs, so much more than warm, loving creatures: they have led me to learn about behavioral science, nonverbal communication, the role of anxiety in behavior, and so much more. Finally, I am unspeakably fortunate to be married to a man who lives with uncommon integrity, compassion, and humor.
With this support, today I am doing what I could not do as a young person—flying on faith: Faith that I was called to parish ministry for a reason. Faith that I’ll keep growing into this work for the rest of my life. Faith that there will be a church that needs and wants what I have to give for the next decade.
May it be so, and blessed be.
Bachelor of Arts in journalism, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, 1986
Master of Divinity, Starr King School for the Ministry, Berkeley, CA, 2018
Clinical Pastoral Education (one unit), Maine Medical Center, fall 2017
Sabbatical Minister, Peterborough (NH) UU Church, Sept.-Dec. 2020
Guest Worship Leader in seven Maine churches (Augusta, Bangor, Castine, Ellsworth, Midcoast, Pittsfield, and Rockland) on 16 Sundays (2018- present)
Intern Minister, UU Maine Collaborative Ministry Program (Ellsworth, Castine, and Belfast churches), 2016-17
RE Transitional Teacher, UU Congregation of Castine (ME), 2018-19
Owner and Trainer, Waggle Tails, LLC, Belfast, ME (2005-16)
Associate Editor, Hope magazine, Brooklin, ME (2000-04)
Freelance Writer/ Editor/Instructor (1986-99)
Trainer & Vet Assistant, All Creatures Veterinary Hospital, Rockport, ME (1989-99)
Assistant to the Center Director, University of Maine at Augusta, Thomaston Center, Thomaston, ME (1986-88)
College Editor, Colby College, Waterville, ME (1982-86)
Communications Coordinator, National Rural Primary Care Assn., Waterville, ME (1980-82)
Teaching Assistant (developmental writing and reading), University of Maine at Augusta, Rockland Center, Rockland, ME (1979-80)
Special Projects Editor, Fairbanks North Star Borough, Fairbanks, AK (Summer 1979)
Volunteer UU involvement
Co-minister, Roots & Wings Lay Justice Ministry Training Program, a collaboration by four ministers, based at First Parish, Portland, ME; UU Community Church of Augusta, ME; UU Church of Belfast, ME; and the Maine UU State Advocacy Network (2019-present)
Worship leader, UU Church of Belfast, at least 28 services and worship associate for many more (1996-present)
Member, Maine UU State Advocacy Network (2016-present)
Member, UU Maine Collaborative Ministry Team (2018-present)
Small-group ministry facilitator of two groups (2008-10 and 2018-20)
Our Whole Lives facilitator, k-1 and 4-6 curricula, UU Church of Ellsworth (2019-20)
RE guide, UU Church of Belfast (spring 2016 and fall 2018)
Member, Church Council (board), UU Church of Belfast (2009-14)
Stewardship canvasser, UU Church of Belfast (five annual budget drives ending 2018 and co-chaired one drive)
Behavior covenant development team, UU Church of Belfast (2012)
Member, Worship Committee, UU Church of Belfast (1996-2003 and 2005-10)
Member, Greater Bay Area Ministerium, Belfast, ME (2016-present)
Participant, Greater Peterborough (NH) Interfaith Council (fall 2020)
Waldo County (ME) General Hospital chaplain relief coverage (2018-19)
Therapy dog handler/visitor to schools and long-term-care facility, Belfast, ME (2007-16)
Friends of Belfast Parks, Dog Park Subcommittee: planning, proposal, & fundraising (2006-08)
Board member, Maine Earth Institute, Belfast, ME (2004-06)
Board member, Home Counselors, Inc., Rockland, ME (1987-90)
Georges Valley High School Aspirations Committee, Thomaston, ME (1987-88)
Appleton Elementary School Improvement Committee, Appleton, ME (chair, 1984-85)