Ministerial Record of:

First name: Frieda      M.I.: L     Last name: Gillespie

Mailing address:
46 Crestwood Dr.

City: Framingham
State/Prov: MA     Code: 01701

E-mail address:
Website address: id= congregation, password= minister

Phone (home): 508 207-7566
Phone (office): 508 207-7566

Present position: Interim Minister, Second Unitarian Church of Omaha, NE     Since (mm/dd/yy): 8/18/2014

Date of preliminary UU fellowship (mm/dd/yy): 6/13/2006
Ordination (ordaining body, place, date): Horizon UU Church, Carrollton, TX, 6/18/06

Why are you seeking a ministry now?
I am finishing up as Interim Minister at First Parish Church in Berlin, MA and looking for an Interim Ministry position for next year.

Describe the new ministry you hope for:
A position as an interim parish minister within an active congregation. I enjoy all aspects of ministry including preaching, ceremonies, teaching, pastoral counseling and care, team-building and community building/visioning. I would enjoy serving a congregation where I could get to know many of the parishioners and stay closely connected to the life of the people in the church and the community. I expect to work in partnership with the Governing Board and Transition Team.

Education and certification: Add a School or Degree
Degree College/University/Seminary Area of Concentration Date (mm/yy)
M. Divinity  BRITE DIVINITY SCHOOL  Pastoral Ministry  May 2006 
BA Biology, BA Chemistry  CALIF. STATE U OF NORTHRIDGE  Biology, Chemistry  June 1979 

Awards, honors, and published writings:

Personal and family situation:
I live in Framingham, MA with my wife, Jennifer Long. Presently we have grown children who live with us, Julia (18) who will be going off to college in the fall, Timothy (23) who is graduated and working in stem cell research, and Ben (26) who is in transition and currently working two jobs. I have a 26 year old daughter, Tealeesha, who lives in an adult group home in Waltham, MA. I adopted Tealeesha as a single parent from the foster care system in Texas when she was 9 years old.

My stepson, Ben was diagnosed with autism when he was three years old. Jennifer was told that he would likely never speak and was probably mentally retarded. They couldn’t have been more mistaken. He has autism but after years of speech, language and behavior therapy he has become a quite social young man and is certainly intelligent, though definitely concrete in his thinking. He has a particular passion for roads and maps. He also enjoys playing piano and singing.
Tealeesha has some severe disabilities. She lived with me for 6 years and then was placed in a residential school because of behavior problems. She responded well to the structure there and at 22, graduated to an adult group home in Waltham. She is in a day program, that engages her in paid work, volunteer work, recreation and exercise.

Jennifer and I also do some occasional respite care for young children of refugees through Ascentria.

My extended family is all in southern California and Alabama. Jennifer has a very large extended family in New England. Jennifer works designing management training for large companies with Harvard Business Publishing.

We have a dog and three cats. We are all enjoying good health.

Background and development:
From your late teens forward, describe your higher education, the three or four most important events in your life experience, the context in which you felt called to ministry, and your professional development, continuing education, and work history; include every ministry (include dates by month/year) and what you bring from it and your other work to a new ministry:

The most important influence of my childhood was my mother, Louise Gillespie, who was a spiritual seeker. Although we went to the UU church, she introduced my brother, Stan, and me to many religious, metaphysical, psychological ideas and teachers. This influence gave me a strong focus toward spiritual growth starting in my teens and continuing throughout my life.

Another significant event in my late teens was living in England for a year after graduating from high school to attend the Krishnamurti School with my brother Stan. Krishnamurti was a spiritual seeker who emphasized the need to reject outside authority. I was deeply affected by his statement that it is possible to live without fear. The school was attended by young people and staff from all over the world. I came away with new awareness that I had a lot in common with people from very different cultures and felt I’d become a “world citizen.”

When I returned from England I went to UC Santa Cruz to study Biology. I had always had a love of nature. I wanted an education in life and how to be in the world but was disappointed by the large classes and struggled with the social life. Partly this was because I was a year younger than the other freshmen and partly because I had led a rather sheltered life. After a year and a half, I retreated back home to consider what to do. Shortly after, I attended a public meeting of a group based on the ideas of Gurdjieff, a 20th century mystic and Spinoza, a 17th century philosopher. The purpose of the group was not intellectual study but to help each other to make deep changes in ourselves. This is something that I wanted. I was just 19, very idealistic, and longing to belong somewhere. I joined the group and stayed for 20 years. For most of that time, I lived with members of the group in an intentional community. All of us worked outside the community in various professions. Although I learned a great deal from this experience and it helped me professionally too, the group was too in-grown and became cult-like in its isolation.

During those years I completed college and worked doing physics research, scheduling for large construction, computer technical support, management and consulting. Many of the professional skills I developed I’ve found applicable to ministry as well. I’ve gained a strong sense of professionalism and objectivity as well as developing managerial and administrative skills. My consulting work also helped me to develop strong problem-solving and critical thinking skills, which I use daily in ministry.

I reached a point where I needed to leave the spiritual group in order to expand my own life. I moved to Dallas, TX at the invitation of a boyfriend who started a new job there. When the relationship ended a year later, I returned to my childhood religion: Unitarian Universalism. I was glad and surprised to find a kind of core part of myself that had always held onto the values I learned as child there. I had only to hear the doxology and I was transported back to my childhood. Listening to the fine preaching at Horizon UU Church, I realized that UU ministry might be the avenue to integrate all of my abilities, experiences and desires for learning. I was encouraged and mentored by my minister, Rev. Dennis Hamilton and sponsored by Horizon. As soon as I could, I entered seminary and was ordained in June of 2006.

During that time, I also decided to become a mother and adopted my daughter who was 9 at the time. Learning to be her mother has taught me more about myself than any of my earlier studies. I also learned a great deal about special needs children, programs available (or not available) to help families, and about the struggles of families to raise them.

A more recent challenge for me was undergoing chemotherapy, radiation, and a stem cell transplant to treat Non-Hodgkins lymphoma. I am healthy now and have been cancer-free for over five years. However, the experience of major cancer treatment gives me particular empathy for those who struggle with illness.

The ministries I have held are:

2004-2005 Intern Minister at First Parish in Framingham, MA
2005 Summer Minister at First Parish in Framingham, MA
2005-2006 Led spirituality group at a low-income elder housing complex.
Sept 2006- Aug 2007, Interim Minister at UU Congregation in Greenville, NC
Sept 2007- July 2008 Interim Minister at the UU Metro Atlanta North Congregation in Roswell, GA
Aug 2008 – July 2014 Settled Minister at Northshore UU Church in Danvers, MA
Aug 2014 to present Interim Minister at Second Unitarian Church of Omaha, NE
Aug 2016- Aug 2018 Interim Minister at First Parish Church in Berlin, MA

The gifts I bring to ministry include:

• Great appreciation for the people I serve; an eagerness to walk with them through the ups and downs of their lives.
• A strong ability to see the positive in seemingly difficult or impossible events and issues.
• Being able to stay with emotional pain to work through it rather than avoiding or suppressing it.
• A love for preaching, teaching and pastoral counseling.
• A willingness to foster collaboration and conflict resolution.
• A willingness to foster growth in others rather than a dependency on me.
• An appreciation for diversity of people, ideas, perspectives
• A willingness to assume a “learner’s attitude” – to welcome the gifts and talents of others and to be open to changing based on new knowledge and information
• A sense of humor and ability to laugh at myself
• An ever-increasing flexibility and willingness to embrace change.

Denominational and community activities:
Describe with dates active membership in and significant volunteer service to local congregations, the UUA and its districts, and civic, political, social service, and interfaith organizations and programs:

RE Teacher – 3rd & 4th, 7th & 8th, Sr. High Youth Advisor (1998-2001)
Taught adult RE classes (2002, 2004-2013)
Created Intergenerational Women’s group to mentor girls (2000-2001)
Led Hiking Group at Horizon UU Church (1998-2002)
Member of Planning Committee for SWUUC Women’s Conference in Dallas (2002)
Led occasional Vesper’s services at Horizon UU Church (1998)
Co-chair of Social Action Committee at Horizon UU Church (2001-2002)
Member of Search Committee for second minister at Horizon UU Church (2001-2002)
RE Assistant (2003)
Member of the MBD UUMA Chapter Executive Team – served as secretary (2008-2013)
Chaplain to the Candidates meeting the Ministerial Fellowship Committee in Boston for (2010 – 2013)
Member of the Danvers Clergy Council (2008-present)
Served on a Search Committee for a MBD leadership position (2011)
Active member of the MBD Chapter UUMA (2008-present)

Non-professional interests:
I enjoy hiking, camping, nature studies, poetry, music, art, theater, contra dancing, yoga and yoga dance, quilting, reading, and spending time with friends and family.

Ministerial development:
What are your current developmental needs, and how might a congregation assist you in addressing them?

The things that I struggle with include discerning when to be open about myself without overstepping professional boundaries and being realistic about how well I’m meeting the congregation’s needs. The way a congregation could help with these things is by giving frequent, direct, and honest feedback to me.

Describe a mistake you have made in the past, and how you have addressed it:
As Interim Minister I advised the congregation to replace the Administrator, who was also a Board member, with someone who didn’t have that conflict of interest. I then was involved in the search process for the new Administrator. Even though I tried to help the Administrator/Board member prepare for this eventuality, when she was replaced by a new Administrator, she was very angry and her anger was directed at me.
If I were to do this over, I would stay out of the selection process so that the Administrator/Board member might have had an easier time getting pastoral help from me as she experienced the loss of this job.

Ministerial roles and functions:
How would you wish to function with lay leadership? Comment on your leadership style:

I like to work in a collaborative way with lay leadership. While I would expect the lay leadership to make decisions about the running of the church, I hope to contribute to their decision making and would be active in supporting the goals of the leadership. My leadership style varies with the situation and with the communication styles of the people involved. Where there is a need to make a change, I can be directive, although I do communicate with and endeavor to consider the concerns of all involved. With an established congregation I tend to take the longer view more often than not, expecting changes to evolve over time. Although I enjoy creative problem solving, I don’t feel like I have to be THE ONE who comes up with the solution. It seems to me that the more responsible and thoughtful ideas there are to work with, the better the solution will be, and I enjoy that kind of team effort and collaboration. Some of the most enjoyable interactions with lay leadership involve brainstorming and collaborating around a particularly complex or challenging situation.
One strength I bring is the ability to ask questions that often help to bring out what people are not saying or are having difficulty articulating, and this can be the key to going forward. Given that many UUs are natural introverts; this particular skill has served me well in church work.

How would you wish to function with (paid) church staff?
I am quite comfortable in the role of supervising the staff. I offer mentoring and support to allow staff to contribute effectively and creatively, and do not hesitate to give clear direction when needed.
I have found that regular staff meetings are extremely helpful in keeping morale high, and in maintaining joint focus on goals and addressing any issues or challenges that arise. It is helpful for the staff to have a strong identity and connection as a team.

How would you wish to function as part of a ministry team?
I enjoy working with teams where all are actively involved. I enjoy a collaborative approach to planning, creating, and problem solving. I have found that some typical church committee structures can be cumbersome and draining to volunteers’ energy and time. In our culture today, especially among young families, having smaller more contained tasks to accomplish is really helpful to getting and keeping volunteers. This is also true in a wider sense with social action and other projects. I believe there are opportunities to be creative in our approach to shared ministry, and to experiment with different approaches to engage and involve a broader segment of our population.

How would you wish to function in the communities beyond the local congregation?
I enjoy participating in the local interfaith group, as I have in other ministry settings. I have also been active in the denomination collegial meetings and conferences. At times I have represented the congregation in community affairs and I have enjoyed attending events at their request where I have been asked to lead a service, participate in our community service work, or say a few words during an event. I would enjoy the chance to support or seek opportunities to make connections between UU’s and other people in the community.

What has been your experience in leading organizational change in multicultural settings?
Leading change effectively requires an awareness of the fact that people participating in the change may have a completely different perspective than my own and different from each other. Effective change results from careful listening and good communication. It isn’t always possible to know how the various people involved will respond or what they will need, but by staying present and alert to what is being said, a leader can offer an empathetic ear and clarity as concerns and objections arise. I have experienced this in different ways during each of my church experiences. Each church I have served is located in a part of the country vastly different than the one I grew up in. And the differences in culture played a part in how change was understood and accepted. Each church has a culture of its own based on its history and the founding members’ personalities. A leader has to be alert to whether changes trigger fears based on what happened in the past or because of present day concerns. I find that significant change takes time and many conversations, sermons, and explanations to really come into effect. And I have learned the most about myself and the congregation during times of significant transition and change.

Ministerial skills and current special interests:

Special Skills
4 = those functions in which you are gifted and expert
3 = those in which you are accomplished
2 = those in which you are competent
1 = those in which you have little experience
Special Interests
4 = those functions on which you are urgently moved to focus
3 = those to which you wish to give energy
2 = those to which you will give adequate attention
1 = those which you would prefer to ignore

Skl: 3 Int:3 Administration Skl: 4 Int:4 Personal counseling
Skl: 4 Int: 4 Adult religious education Skl: 4 Int: 4 Preaching
Skl: 3 Int: 4 Children’s religious education Skl: 3 Int: 2 Scholarship
Skl: 3 Int: 2 Committee work Skl: 3 Int: 3 Social action
Skl: 3 Int: 4 Community building Skl: 3 Int: 3 Spiritual guidance
Skl: 4 Int: 4 Staff relations Skl: 4 Int: 4 Denominational activites
Skl: 4 Int: 4 Facilitation Skl: 4 Int: 4 Worship
Skl: 3 Int: 3 Fund-raising Skl: 3 Int: 3 Youth work
Skl: 4 Int: 3 Home visitation Skl: 3 Int: 4 Inclusiveness
Skl: 4 Int: 3 Hospital calling Skl: 3 Int: 3 Anti-Racism
Skl: 3 Int: 4 Leadership development Skl: 4 Int: 4 Small Group Ministry
Skl: 3 Int: 3 Membership growth Skl: 3 Int: 3 Special Needs Issues
Skl: 3 Int: 4 Music and liturgical arts

What is your approach to the religious education of children, youth, and adults?
As a lay person I participated a great deal in RE programs and have seen how they can positively impact both children and adults. I believe RE programs may be the biggest reason for growth in congregations. As a minister, I have worked closely with our DRE to actively support RE programs, and champion innovative and unique programs when possible. At NSUU we experimented with multi-generational RE with some success. We’ve had creative Children’s Chapel for all ages. This past year, our DRE led a creative and valuable Coming-of-Age program for the youth which culminated in a worship service for the whole congregation. The DRE and I have collaborated on multigenerational worship as well. One area that I see as often overlooked or neglected is volunteer teacher training and support. This is both because it is hard to do and many times requires one-on-one coaching. I think it is vital, though, for the effectiveness of a program. As a minister, I enjoy teaching adult RE classes, including both UUA curriculum and ones I’ve devised. I also love interaction with the kids and youth both in worship and outside.

What do you see as the role of music and the arts in the life of a congregation?
Although I am not a musician, music is very important to me as a minister. Music is a key element in creating a good worship experience. Music, both for listening and for singing, can do much more than the spoken word to affect people’s hearts. I really miss it when it’s not there, and I do think it can be a tremendous help in drawing in new people. A good music program can be a source of fund-raising, connections with the community, and attracting people to come and stay once they’ve visited. Incorporating visual art, drama and movement into services is something I would love to do more often. It gives people a chance to share in a more soulful and creative way with each other. It can also be a wonderful approach to creating multigenerational worship experiences.

What involvement do you desire in the stewardship of a congregation, most particularly its financial affairs?
I anticipate being involved as an advisor in Board meetings about financial affairs. I would also participate in stewardship services, preaching about money and stewardship, as well as asking for pledges and participating in fundraisers. I am quite open to talking about money, especially in congregations that have difficulty talking about it and would hope in that case to reduce the stigma and guilt associated with money that we all often share. I have canvassed members directly at times, especially long-time members who no longer attend services but continue to provide substantial financial support. I have also played a role in recognizing and appreciating members who provide substantial financial support. At times, working with lay leadership, I have been an active participant in brainstorming creative and new approaches to fundraising. Given the right mind set, this can be an energizing and fun experience.

Theological orientation: What is your dominant theology, and how do you deal with other Unitarian Universalist theologies with which you may not be in sympathy?
My beliefs are a hybrid of religious humanist and naturalistic theist views of the world. I use the word ‘God’ rarely when I am reaching for that connection with the whole – the All of all. The essence of this for me is that we are a part of the whole of nature and not separate from it. We belong. I enjoy reclaiming religious language and teachings and do not have difficulties incorporating them into my meditations, prayers and sermons. I also am sensitive to the painful associations some people have with religious language and can say what I mean without using the word ‘God’ or ‘spirit’ oftentimes as well. I welcome differing views and can offer worship that is meaningful to a broad range of theological views. I am mindful of exclusive gender and oppressive language and am willing to edit texts if needed to make them more inclusive.
My experiences with First Parish in Berlin have been unique for me as they are a federated church UU and UCC. There has been an almost exclusively Christian focus in worship. As a UU minister who is not Christian, I’ve brought a more humanist sensibility to the worship serves while respecting their need to honor Christian traditions, such as reciting the Lord’s Prayer in their services. I use both the Singing the Living Tradition and the New Century Hymnals alternating each week. I use readings that are liberally theist, one from the Bible and one from other sources.

Additional information: Finish introducing yourself in any way you would like to.
I welcome the opportunity to serve a congregation that is actively engaged with each other and the greater community. My experience with my daughter has made me aware of “other-ness” and the joys, fears and problems of radical inclusion. I have relatively recently embarked on a relationship with a woman after having been exclusively heterosexual. We were married in May 2012. This turn of events has made me more aware of how much categories fail to capture the complex realities of human nature and relationship. This confirms for me the need to accept people on their own terms without judgment. I am also a cancer survivor, which has given me some understanding of how cancer affects persons and families. My experiences so far in ministry have re-affirmed for me that this is work that I love deeply. I look forward to hearing from and about you.

Printed packet available upon request.