I’m writing to you all with an update on my internship activities and my seminary work over this winter. I am excited to share insights gleaned from my class work and to explore my formation process with the congregation. I am, as ever, grateful for the support of everyone here as I grow into ministry, and I thank the congregation for your sponsorship of me as a candidate.
January was a very busy month for me. I completed my second unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (chaplain intern at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downer’s Grove) and that same day drove downtown to meet in person for my winter classes. I took two classes, Preaching As If You Mean It, and Religious Education in a Changing World, and learned a great deal of practical and theoretical information from both courses. The preaching course was taught by Bill Schulz, and we were asked to each write and preach two sermons in front of our class. The sermons were video recorded for our later review, and afterwards Bill and our classmates gave us feedback on our preaching style and content. I received great feedback in class and really appreciate having the sermons on video to review. The second class, Religious Education, was taught by Mark Hicks, and focused on Unitarian Universalist faith formation over a lifetime, not just during youth and adolescence. We learned about the various types of resources available through the UUA (Tapestry of Faith, OWL and COA, and others), and additional formats for faith formation (like Spirit Play). We focused on collaborative learning models and ways to engage people at all ages in our congregations, including seeing the work in action in a field trip to observe Unity Temple’s religious education classes. Since my return, I have been involved in the Coming of Age program here at Tree of Life and have been enjoying putting my learning into practice!
I co-led a Vespers service at Meadville during our January term with two other seminarians that was pagan oriented. Our service focused on the pagan holiday of Imbolc and the significance of the goddess figure Brigid. This holiday is also known as Candlemas in Christian traditions, and in our service we recognized both versions of the holiday, including Brigid’s dual nature as a goddess in pagan traditions and a saint in the Christian tradition. My fellow worship leaders and I formed a new student organization on campus that officially began with our vespers service: Meadville Pagans and Allies, which supports pagan-identified students, faculty and staff and their allies within the Meadville community through various means, including pastoral support during intensives, worship services, and other modalities.
My next round of intensives is in April for spring semester, for which I am busy studying now. I look forward to writing another update after the spring term ends.
Thanks again for all of your kind support, and I’ll see you at church!
Peace be with you,
Misha’s Half of the Newsletter Article
After spending all of January commuting to and from downtown Chicago, I can tell you that I am very excited to welcome spring! I have been happy to get back into the groove of life here at ToL, after having been mostly absent from worship and office time for a month. It seemed very long.
My learning time at Meadville Lombard was wonderful, deep, and at times exhausting. And I loved every minute of it. Well, almost.
The first class I attended was taught by our Meadville President, Rev. Dr. Lee Barker, and it was called, “Ministry in a Post-Denominational Age’. It addressed many questions with which Unitarian Universalism, among other faiths and denominations, is struggling. How will we grow? Does church still matter? How can we attract youth? How will we fund our programs? How relevant is our message in a world where other faiths are becoming more liberal? What can we try differently to infuse new energy and commitment? As is the UU way, you won’t be surprised, we came up with far more questions than answers. It was interesting and exciting to brainstorm possibilities and learn from what is being done successfully already in our faith movement, and in the wider religious world.
Then came Unitarian Universalist History and Polity. And a lot of knowing nods and smiles from those of us who had just come from the class I described above. I learned that Unitarians, Universalists, and UUs have wrestled with the same questions for as long as we have existed. And the take-away? We’ve always figured it out. We have survived and thrived. New generations of religious liberals have continued to emerge and grow in faith, and change the world for peace and justice. I am so inspired and honored to be among THIS moment’s UU torch-bearers.
I continue my school work for spring semester, and am focusing on co-leading our awesome Coming of Age group here at ToL, as well as preaching here and in a few other pulpits around the region. I am eager to keep growing and learning with you all. Thank you for letting me!