The Unitarian Universalist Association's General Assembly in Spokane, WA in June 2019 was a small but eventful one. The Meadville Lombard community was an active participant in many aspects of the conference.
On Wednesday, June 19, Meadville Lombard alums gathered at a beautiful local event venue and celebrated reunion. Retiring President Lee Barker, DMin ’78, DD ’01, and in-coming President Elías Ortega gave remarks of gratitude and vision for the future of the school. Rev. Connie Simon, MDiv ’18, led the meeting on behalf of the Association President Rev. Lynnda White, MDiv ’13, who couldn’t attend. The 2019 Distinguished Alumni/ae Award was given to Julica Hermann de la Fuente, MALS ’17, for her outstanding ministry of anti-racism.
Our colorful booth was an oasis for our current students, alums, and prospective students. Members of congregations stopped by and learned about the Fahs Collaborative’s innovative curricula and programs including Beloved Conversations and Creating Theology Together, and found out that they could also use the resources in our library and archives for their research and learning.
Meadville Lombard faculty, staff, alums and students led a number of workshops and worship services throughout GA. Here are some highlights:
Rev. Leslie Takahashi, MDiv ’04, was the distinguished essayist of the Berry Street Lecture, North America’s oldest lecture series. Her insightful, powerful truth-telling essay, Truth, Trauma, and Transformation: Embracing the Cracks AND the Gold, asked,
“How do we equip our ministers to be trauma-informed? … How do we honor intelligences which come from the dignified and difficult work of survival rather than exclusively from book learning and intellect? How do we credential that in leadership? How might we renew ourselves not through spiritual bypass, rather by designing rituals to release guilt and shame, to name and honor pain, to bring us into the embodiment that recognizes that we carry trauma within our physical being, not just within our minds and our emotions?"
You can watch the video here.
One of our current students, Mariela Perez-Simons, led the Welcoming Celebration Worship to officially open the assembly.
Dr. Mike Hogue presented from his book, American Immanence: Democracy for an Uncertain World, exploring how our UU values could help us create a more resilient democracy by building upon our collective spiritual gifts, and Rev. Dr. Pamela Lightsey responded from her point of view as a Black queer theologian. Rev. Dr. Lee Barker joined them in the panel discussion after the presentation.
Rev. Dr. Colin Bossen, MDiv ’06, was the Minns Spring 2019 Series lecturer. His third lecture, White Supremacy in the Age of Trump: Liberal Religion v. Populism, was delivered at GA, with response by the UUA President Rev. Dr. Susan Frederick-Gray, DD ’19. You can watch the video here.
This year, 23 out of 71 ministers receiving preliminary fellowship were Meadville Lombard alums.
Rev. Leslie Takahashi, MDiv '04, and President-Elect Dr. Elías Ortega, along with three other members of the Commission on Institutional Change, reported on the commission's work in a frame of building common vocabulary and sharing perspectives on institutional and cultural barriers to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Rev. Takahashi and Dr. Ortega further shared their insights, together with Rev. Dr. Sofia Betancourt, in a workshop entitled Centering Liberation through UU Theologies.
The Fahs Collaborative Director, Dr. Mark Hicks and Assistant Director Joy Berry led this workshop, in which one of the Beloved conversations Retreat Leaders Rhonda Brown and an alum Rev. Connie Simon, MDiv ’18, shared their first-hand examples of how a congregation-wide approach to learning can kick start vibrant, mission-based, shared faith that moves the congregation toward faith-informed, inclusive and just action.
Rev. Dr. Mark Morrson-Reed, DMin ’79, DD ’07, received the UUA’s Award for Distinguished Service to the Cause of UUism.
“Collaboration takes time, and it takes patience, and lack of it, and more time. In the process I cried a lot, and occasionally I raged, and I tried to be a truth-teller. I also enjoyed figuring out what actually happened before, and what needed to happen at that moment, and how to leverage the system to make it more inclusive and just. For me it was also a form of creative expression, and in hindsight I can see that over time I am the many with whom I worked—WE made a difference. We were the “trim tabs.” It just required showing up—again, and again, and again, staying in the conversation and engaging respectfully, openheartedly, lovingly, with people of good intent, to shape a future none of us alone could imagine or create.”
Early Friday morning, our faithful supporters and new supporters gathered for a fundraising breakfast. President Lee Barker articulated the growing needs for contextual theological education that sends forth spiritually grounded justice-makers in these traumatic times, that has been also hard for theological schools. He urged the participants to build a solid starting ground for the in-coming President Elías Ortega by pledging their support of the school’s mission. We were showered with abundant love and support and received more pledges then we had aimed for. Our deepest gratitude goes to all of our supporters.
If you could not attend the breakfast but would like to know more about Partners in Ministry, please contact our Development Office.
We look forward to seeing you in Providence, Rhoad Island, next year!