What a privilege and joy it is to spend time with this congregation! I am in the 2nd year of what will probably be a 6- or 7-year journey through seminary at Starr King School for the Ministry, a UU seminary in the San Francisco Bay area of California. I’m a part-time, low-residency student; I fly out for intensive courses, and am also working full-time. UCM is my 1st experience as a student minister. In preparation for UU ministry, there are 2 contextual education requirements: internship, typically either full-time for 1 year or 20 hours/week for 2 years; and CPE, or Clinical Pastoral Education, which typically involves full-time for 10 weeks or 20 hours a week for 20 weeks in a hospital or similar setting, essentially working as a chaplain. What I am doing this year here at UCM is neither of these, but something called fieldwork.
I chose to do this because during my music therapy and mental health health counseling studies I worked in the field the whole time I was in school, and I really love that model. When I started seminary, I could easily picture myself as a chaplain since I’ve worked in hospice… but parish ministry? I came to UCM in part to discern whether that might be a calling for me, and whether I might be suited to this work. I have learned so much already from Joan and Liza, Dick and Eliza, the worship associates and the committees I’m working with, and from everyone in the congregation with whom I’ve interacted.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to be here, and I’m deeply impressed with this congregation. I was drawn here to a large extent because in a time when church congregations are generally shrinking, UCM is instead vibrant and growing. This is a place chock-full of extraordinary people. Every week I’m here I meet even more people about whom I think, “Wow! They’re in this community too!” You are fabulous and resourceful, dedicated and realistic. You hold a lot of years of investment in the community and in each other, and watching even just a small part of your journey is a privilege and honor.
This year I’m at UCM for 16 Sundays: 8 from September to December, and 8 between January and June. With 6 Sundays to go, I am a little over halfway. I’ve been visiting Montpelier regularly since I moved to New England in 1995, as I have family here, and I love this town. So even when I’m no longer your student minister, I hope to be able to visit sometimes. I’m looking forward to offering my second sermon at UCM on February 16.
Until then, take good care,