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 lymphoma. I am healthy now and have been cancer-free for several years. However, the experience of major cancer treatment gives me particular empathy for those who struggle with illness.
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 – Present: Settled Minister at Northshore UU Church in Danvers, MA
- 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.