Our supporters’ generous gifts gave us opportunities to bring in outstanding scholars like Dr. Elyse Ambrose, who joined our faculty as Visiting Assistant Professor of Ethical Leadership and Society and Louisville Institute Postdoctoral Fellow for two academic years starting in the summer of 2020.
Dr. Ambrose’s research, community work, and art are intricately interwoven at the intersections of race, sexuality, gender, and spirituality. Their desire for their scholarship to impact and be informed by real lives leads to their synergy of theory and practice. Along with teaching, they work with communities and individuals toward shaping values and practices of gender and sexuality justice. At MLTS, they have been teaching four courses: Healthy Boundaries, Healthy Ministries; Community Organizing and Ethical Leadership; Ethics, Emotions, and the Making(s) of Community; and Introduction to Ethics: Themes and Topics.
“What stands out as uniquely MLTS is a diverse faculty and staff, with two people of color in leadership and a collective body where social justice and collective thriving is not a point to be debated, but a clear aim of the institution,” they told us recently. “I am excited to participate in a learning environment that could influence students to lead with equity, compassion, and justice, and to be able to contribute something of value to students' journeys. I am also honored to work with faculty members whom I have admired for years, and to meet even more who inspire me to be a better scholar and educator.”
“At MLTS, faculty and students are co-creating space for interrogating the foundations of injustice within and outside of UUism to create communities that sustain us as we struggle toward the good, hold us as we reach toward hope, and nourish us as we give it—whatever the ‘it’ may be in a given moment—another try. The world needs consistent, life-affirming beacons, and it is a joy to participate in that work here.”
We asked what their impressions of our students were: “I feel that the students of MLTS take seriously their calling to be a ministering presence and are willing to do the critical and compassionate self-reflection that will make them better-equipped ministers. I find them to be open in exploring and imagining new possibilities, and courageous in their pursuit of applicable knowledge.”
And our students viewed Dr. Ambrose as “an outstanding scholar, a gifted teacher, a prophetic spiritual leader, and a beautiful presence in the world,” as one of our students, Bob Kent, described her. He continued: “I want to be a congregational minister in a new form—something that looks different from the typical UU service and may appeal to folks who are ‘Spiritual but Not Religious.’ I have taken Dr. Ambrose's courses on Ethics and Boundaries. Both courses helped me to better understand what it means to be a minister. But more importantly, Dr. Ambrose as a person helped me to know what a spiritual leader is. Their presence, the spiritual practices that they led for us, their manner in class—all were heart-opening for me.”
Another student, Heike Eghardt, shared her experience of Dr. Ambrose’s class. “My aspiration is toward parish ministry, and I have been interested in faith-based community organizing for quite a while, like Rev. William Barber’s Poor People’s Campaign, for example, that is such a powerful way of putting your faith and your leadership skills into action. That is something I’m hoping to do down the road, and Dr. Ambrose’s Community Organizing and Ethical Leadership class was spot on.
“Dr. Ambrose is one of those rare combinations of being an outstanding scholar and a very gifted instructor at the same time. The depth and width of the materials we covered, which were carefully selected and well-curated, were exceptional. The structure of the course gave us an opportunity to practice what we were learning in theory. Dr. Ambrose put us in imaginative praxis groups that met periodically, in which we not only wrote theoretical papers but also got our imagination and creative juices flowing to figure out how we could put all those into action, envision different kinds of leadership styles, different kinds of communities—it was such a rich experience.”
We send our students into the world with practical skills and an understanding of what it means to be a leader. They learn this in our classes like Dr. Ambrose’s that we offer. They will become the new weavers of the tapestry of ministry. Whether their vocational paths take them to parish ministry, chaplaincy, or other types of ministries, our students will be leading the way to a more just society.
Social justice is woven into every aspect of the work we do at Meadville Lombard. We regard nurturing learners from diverse faith traditions for their ministerial formation as an act of mobilizing ethical leadership to build a more just world for all. We are so grateful for all of our supporters who make our work possible.
Elyse Ambrose, Ph.D. is an educator, sexual ethicist, and creative. As Founder of phoeniXspark, LLC, they work with communities and individuals to shape values and practices of gender and sexuality justice.Read More