Greetings from windy, chilly Chicago! I write this from my dorm room at the Catholic seminary, which is kind enough to rent space to visiting students from Meadville Lombard. This year, they put most of us Unitarians on the same floor (sequestering us from the nuns?), so it feels a little like being away at summer camp! Except all the other campers are ministers in training, and instead of gathering around a campfire, we gather around the coffee pot.
I’ll be here for the whole month of January, and so far, it’s been wonderful. I feel like I’m at the crossroads of the past and future: surrounded by the up-and-coming ministers of tomorrow, while studying our history and foundations of our faith. I’m at a personal crossroads, too. Because this is my third year of seminary, I’m also now one of the senior students, which I never thought would happen. When I first started seminary, the people a few years ahead of me seemed so wise and experienced, having served in real churches. Now I can hardly remember a time before UUCE.
I’ve spoken glowingly of you all to my fellow intern ministers: about your big-heartedness, your loving and accepting spirit, your optimism for our church’s future, the brave changes you’ve made, and your openness to new members, new ideas, and new ways of doing things. I’ve been so blessed to have UUCE as my teaching church.
And I’ve been blessed to be mentored by not one, but two fantastic developmental ministers, both of whom I’ve adored, at a kind of crossroads in the life of the church: the end of one ministry, and the beginning of another. And nearly every day, I have the opportunity to say “Well, MY Music Director got us a pipe organ,” or “MY Director of Religious Education uses a different model.” I have learned so much from Katy and Brad, their names should be listed on my diploma when I graduate in 2020. I have come to Chicago this year with an embarrassment of riches.
I’ve also come with a scandalous number of books. I’m in four classes this semester: Leadership Studies, Global Religions, UU History and Polity, and Liberal Theology. I checked 77 pounds of books in my baggage when I got on the plane, and somehow still forgot five of them. “HEAVY,” said the orange tag that a gate agent tied around the handle of my suitcase, which seemed apt.
The path to becoming a minister is a long one, and you have to drag suitcases full of books the whole way. But while books can teach you history and theology, they can’t teach you about how to serve a parish. That, I’ve learned from UUCE – from working alongside our incredible and talented staff, from serving alongside our dedicated and caring volunteers, and from worshipping with all of you. I can’t imagine having done my internship anywhere else.
So I send my love and blessings from Chicago, as you have sent me here with yours, and I’m looking forward to being together again in February.
P.S. Keep the snacks table full!