Carrie McEvoy is a current student, expected to graduate in May 2022. She is also a donor to the school. We asked her about her experience at Meadville Lombard, her ministerial aspirations, her recent trip to Jordan, and why she thinks it's important to support the school. 

ML: Now that you’re coming to the end of your time at Meadville Lombard, what are your vision and goals for your ministry?

I think that answer is still in flux and probably will be for the rest of my life. Immediately, I will be doing a chaplain residency at Bridgeport Hospital. I feel that public chaplaincy is really important for grounding my ministry because it gives me the opportunity to learn from people of a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. As a Unitarian Universalist, sometimes our community can be a little insular. So, I really want to be able to be in spaces with people of different faiths, with different life experiences. As a person who holds a lot of identities that are in the majority, it's really important for me to humbly learn from all kinds of experiences and people.

ML: To that end, thinking about your time at MLTS, how do you feel that the school supported you in being able to come to that level of clarity as you're nearing the end of your program? And how do you feel that it supports you as you're heading out into the world now?

When I decided to come to MLTS, I wanted to go to a Unitarian Universalist seminary and there are two. The thing about MLTS that was very attractive to me was that it has the experiential elements along with the actual academics. Putting what I'm learning in my classes currently into active ministry has been a really important part of my ministerial formation. There's a signature course for each of the three academic years and I'm taking four years to complete my degree: my first two years were part-time.  

In my first year, I did take the first signature course, which was called Community Studies at that point. As part of that, I did a 10-hour-a-week internship at a local soup kitchen. That was getting my feet wet with public ministry and learning how much a ministry of presence is important. Combined with that, part of my ministry call has been anti-racism work. So, that opportunity to step into that work and be supported by the containers of the academic courses I was taking, the readings, and so forth.  

All the way through my time at Meadville Lombard, I’ve experienced this very focused effort to create religious leaders that are anti-oppression and anti-racist, who will be the change-makers for the world to come. The school is focused on how we are going to apply what we're learning in our courses towards change-making in the world. For me, that really fits with my vision of what my ministry will be.

ML: As you're speaking about these experiential elements and speaking as well about wanting to get out of a certain cultural bubble and build bridges and interact with people who are different from you, I can't help but think of your recent trip to Jordan, which sounds like it ticks a lot of those boxes! So, tell us a little bit about that trip and why you went on it, what you learned, and how it supported your ministry.

I was able to go on this fantastic trip because I have had the unique experience of being an intern minister alongside another intern minister at Community Church of New York, Meagan Henry (who is also a student at Meadville Lombard). For her Leadership Initiative, she planned this trip to Jordan. Meagan has connections in Jordan. Her daughter lives there and has married a Jordanian. This trip was what she brought together, building off of Community Church’s long history of global activism and work, and also using her own experiences of her time in Jordan. She understood what an opportunity that is, to get a cross-cultural—or an intercultural—experience. We also wanted to think about building connections between nonprofits or NGOs in Jordan and Community Church's work on an ongoing basis.

I'm still processing all that I learned. Certainly, cultural humility was such an important part of that, because I knew I came with my own ideas about what life was like and should be. Part of the work of the trip was understanding on a very personal level how that is not the way the rest of the world is, with differences about the roles of women, refugee work, or even the fact that Jordan is a monarchy. I was also just trying to understand the cultural and historical things that created Jordan as it exists today; this country in the midst of a whole lot of unrest and political instability, what brought about this country which is in the middle of all of this.

As I was doing reflections, there were way more questions than answers! “How is this so different than my experience?” “What does that have to say to me as a budding minister?” “How do I help those to whom I minister and whom I encounter really understand that when you meet someone, there’s an amazing combination of characteristics and experiences that every single person brings to the world?”

ML: Given that you are in training to be a minister and to be a religious professional, I'm curious specifically about the location of Jordan and its religious history and religious connections. On your trip, how were you able to interact with Jordan’s religious culture, and what were your reflections on that?

Jordan is, of course, a Muslim-majority country and in the air are Muslim calls to prayer. That is an essential, or a very present, part of life in Jordan. I have some understanding of what Islam is. It comes out of Judaism and Christianity. It was powerful being in the Holy Land, being at the Jordan River, looking into Israel, and knowing that what we call Israel now and what we call Jordan now were one country less than one hundred years ago. I knew that this was a place where all of these global religions arose and formed one from another.

From the very first dinner we were sharing with Jordanians, they talked about to be a Muslim, you have to believe in Judaism and Christianity because they come out of the same religious tradition. There's that knowledge of the interconnectedness of religious paths there. Beyond that, we were able to go to Petra, which is a city constructed out of sandstone in an enclosed valley. It was built by the Nabateans who were a trading civilization. They had their own what we would call “pagan” gods. The way that their culture had to be not just cosmopolitan but accepting of people of all kinds of backgrounds (because that is the basis for international trading) was built on that idea of cultural humility. I think there was quite a bit of accountability built into that as well—the idea that “while you are here, you are home.” “We will support you as long as you come in the same spirit.” That I think is a big part of Jordanian culture, comes from this fact that they were on several outposts of the Frankincense trading routes. That breeds a lot of cross-pollination of cultures, in terms of architectural styles and all of that, but also just this deep-set hospitality that I felt, that was very palpable in Jordan. It’s amazing.

ML: Coming back to MLTS and your relationship with the school, you're a current student and soon-to-be alum. And you're also a donor to the school! Why have you chosen to support the school financially?

The reason that I support the school is part of my story of why I am at Meadville Lombard, and that is that my late husband William was a student at Meadville Lombard when he passed. The school was very important to him. Financial support of Meadville Lombard was his number one charity of choice. Part of the reason that I donate to the school is that it honors his legacy. It also honors Denny Davidoff's legacy. She was a big proponent of Meadville Lombard. Denny and her husband Jerry did so much to support religious leaders as they grew into ministry, whatever form that ministry might take. I come from that background of “we put our money where our values are.”

Since I have been at MLTS I know that, for a lot of students, seminary is expensive. With this combined academics and experiential model comes certain economic realities. How can one expect to take a full load of classes and do a 20-hour-a-week internship at a congregation, and do all of the extra things that come up around ministerial formation, such as Ministerial Fellowship Committee preparation, career assessments, Clinical Pastoral Education, and so on? CPE is usually three months of super intensive work where you can't really do anything else on top of it. How does one balance all of that with family, with personal life, with economic life? For a lot of students, that's a struggle. I feel very fortunate that that has not been such a struggle for myself. So, I feel it is part of my call to do what I can to support the formation of the religious leadership of my faith.

ML: That speaks to a lot of what you said at the beginning of our conversation about building bridges, breaking down walls, connecting with different people, opening up things, and making them more accessible. I can see how donating to the school really fits together as part of your ministry as well.

Yes, absolutely.

ML: Reflecting on everything you've said so far and everything you've experienced, and thinking about the fact that somebody might be reading this who's trying to make a decision about whether to attend Meadville Lombard, what would you say has been the best part of your time here?

Ministry can be lonely work. It’s very helpful to know people who are on the same path, who can support you, who you can laugh with, who you can share silly minister jokes with, or whatever is helpful! Part of the Meadville model is really trying to create, within the structure of the school, opportunities to deepen collegial connections—because that is really an important part of doing ministry. Meadville Lombard tries to teach us how to be ministers sustainably, and the collegial connections are one of the really joyful parts of that. I've gotten to know some really amazing people. The faculty is amazing. The people who are in the administration are all amazing. The best part of my time here has been the people I met along the road.