Growing in Spirit to Help Heal the World
My hope is that my new ministry will be a manifestation of the theme of my ordination, “Growing in Spirit to Help Heal the World”. It will be grounded in a strong belief that Unitarian Universalists have something wonderful to offer the world – an extraordinary way to be together and a vision for a better world. Our extraordinary Unitarian Universalist culture is flexible enough to adapt to the unique characteristics of each congregation. We will grow in spirit as the needs and wants of the congregation present themselves. We will help heal our world in ways that leverage the strengths of the congregation. My own Unitarian Universalist experience comes out of the Fellowship tradition in which there is a tight bond between the minister and lay leadership. The congregation is a collective and together we minister to each other.
If I were to give myself a theological label, I would say I am a Religious Humanist with a strong Christian background, a deep appreciation for Earth-based spirituality, and a lover of metaphor. This means I believe humans have the ultimate agency in this world and are accountable for both the good and evil in it. I do not believe in a literal interpretation of the supernatural, but rather see mystical elements as metaphor. I believe metaphor and ritual are essential components of human nature because they help us process the ultimate questions and discover our orientation to our universe in more accessible ways. Therefore, I believe religion is a human construct and that the particulars of a theological orientation exist because they support the spiritual development and orientation of those who hold specific beliefs. By having an appreciation for and an understanding of the diversity of theological orientations, I gain an insight into the diversity of human nature. This enables me to be in relation with others without insisting that we have the same beliefs.
I am a Unitarian Universalist minister, not a Christian and Earth-based Religious Humanist minister. I am called to support the faith journeys of my congregants by using the metaphors they find meaningful. Here is a past sermon which further describes my thoughts on this topic: Congregations As Faith Outfitters. Outside of Unitarian Universalism, I seek to be in relation with those of other faiths by understanding the metaphors they hold dear and their perspective on the ultimate that they represent.
My Call to Ministry
My call to ministry has been life-long and the path has been marked by several key milestones: childhood/adolescence, parenthood, lay ministry, and early retirement. As a child I admired my ministers in their priestly roles and the certainty they provided through leading worship. I emulated them by inviting my family into my bedroom for church services as young as 9 or 10 and then as a teenager by leading worship services at my Lutheran high school. I was drawn to the comfort of ritual grounded in unwavering fundamentalist Christian theology.
As a young adult, I replaced fundamentalist Christianity with liberal Christianity. At this point I was drawn to my ministers’ message of grace and their pastoral presence. An intense call to ministry occurred in my early 30s when my infant daughter became seriously ill, resulting in life long brain damage and developmental issues. Through the experiences of her illness, raising her, and being in community with other families struggling with differently abled children, I became drawn to the role of a pastoral minister. At this point, I also became Unitarian Universalist because I was drawn to its empathic and radically inclusive voice.
My call to professional ministry began over 10 years ago with a yearlong training to become a lay minister serving my home congregation. By my late 40s, my lay ministry was calling me more than my secular career. When the Great Recession hit, my company offered voluntary severance for early retirement. At that time I was too young to pursue it, but the thought of it drove me to more seriously consider my options for the rest of my life – including professional ministry. By now that call was loud and clear and Meadville Lombard Theological School was launching a new modified residency program I could accomplish part time. I graduated with a Master of Divinity degree in May 2015 and was ordained by my home congregation in November 2016.
Degrees and Professional History
|Bachelor of Arts – Economics and German – St. Olaf College||1984|
|Master of Business Administration – Marketing – University of Minnesota||1994|
|Master of Divinity – Meadville Lombard Theological School||2015|
Consulting Minister (July 2014 – present) – Stevens Point Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
I am learning a more nuanced approach to ministry in a leadership position. Because I am the first minister to work with this congregation so closely and because it is currently going through a very significant metamorphosis from an older more established membership to a much younger and new-to-Unitarian-Universalism membership, my change management skills have been called on frequently. I am learning how to use them in a non-profit environment.
Ministerial Intern (July 2013- June 2015) – First Universalist Unitarian Church, Wausau, WI
As an intern, I developed a more complete understanding of all aspects of congregational life. Because this congregation experienced a change in ministers in the middle of my internship, I was able to experience the pros and cons of such an important transition. The two teaching pastors had very different ministerial styles which opened me up to consider more possibilities for myself.
Student Chaplain (Jan – May 2013) – I completed one unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at VMP, a continuous care facility for the elderly in Milwaukee. My supervisor, three other students and I met for weekly education classes (8 hours). My clinical experience with residents occurred each weekend (22 hours). I focused on the assisted living, ventilator, and dementia units and helped lead worship services each Sunday. My CPE experience deepened my pastoral skills considerably. Leading worship in a Methodist context reconnected me with my Christian roots and I became much more comfortable ministering to non-Unitarian Universalists.
Student Minister (September 2011- May 2012) – I was a part time minister to the Stevens Point Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. My responsibilities included preaching twice a month, leading adult religion classes, pastoral care, and chaplaincy at a weekend district youth conference. Through this experience I gained confidence in the pulpit, singing solo in front of a congregation, and I honed my skill and planning Sunday morning services.
University Ministry Advisor (September 2010- June 2011) – I was the ministry resource for a student led Unitarian Universalist organization at Lawrence University (Appleton, WI). This was part of an outreach program with the Fox Valley UU Fellowship where I served as a student minister. I provided advice to student leaders, meditation support, and pastoral care. From this I bring a comfort with ministering to young adults.
Domestic Abuse Shelter Mentor (October 2009- May 2010) – As part of my Community Studies Sequence I volunteered at Harbor House Domestic Abuse Shelter (Appleton, WI) as a positive adult male role model and mentor for the children in the shelter. I especially focused on boys ages 10 and older. From this experience my pastoral ministry was broadened to include those in crisis, particularly youth, and those with no religious background. I learned that being a privileged white male can get in the way of effectively ministering to marginalized and oppressed individuals. I had to learn skills to compensate.
Lay Ministry Program – Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Appleton, Wisconsin
- Lay Minister (September 2008 – May 2010) Worship leading, compassionate listener, sermons, pulpit fill for 6 lay led Fellowships in the area
- Lay Minister Trainee (September 2007 – May 2008) Full year training on compassionate listening, topic knowledge and role playing
- Program Developer (September 1997 – May 1998) Worked with subject matter experts to customize existing lay ministry programs for our congregation
It is from this experience that I began to learn the skills of compassionate listener, worship leader, and trainer.
Coming of Age Program – Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Appleton, Wisconsin
- Mentor (September 2008 – May 2009) Mentored two 16 year old males with high functioning autism
- Program Developer (September 2008 – May 2009) Helped develop the program activities
- Mentor (September 2000 – May 2001) Mentored one 13 year old male
Through this experience, I developed a deep sense of comfort around teenagers. Because I was able to give them my honest and authentic self, they seemed to be naturally drawn to me and I to them. I learned how to honor that and minister to high school youth.
Corporate Experience: From my career in the business world, I have developed strong leadership and change management skills. My team leader experiences and personnel training will be valuable in parish ministry. My sales and marketing backgrounds help me think about congregational life in a more systemic and visionary way.
KIMBERLY CLARK CORPORATION, Neenah, Wisconsin 1994 – Present
Change Management Leader – 2014 to present
- Thought leader on ways to reduce supply chain complexity.
- Develop process changes and lead the organization to implement them.
Sales Planning Team Leader – 2007 to 2014
- Managed a staff of 30 including two junior team leaders.
- Team was responsible for all the technology and process support for demand forecasting and sales planning activities.
- Personally responsible for recruiting and developing talent to move up in the organization.
Trade Marketing Director – 1999 to 2007
- Part of team that managed over a billion dollars spent with retail customers.
Associate Marketing Manager – 1994 to 1999
- Developed and executed marketing programs for several consumer brands
- Led business analysis projects for key customers
GODIVA CHOCOLATIER, Minneapolis, Minnesota 1991 – 1994
Key Account Manager
- Responsible for sales to the company’s largest customer
- Managed a full-time employee and several seasonal employees
REVLON, Minneapolis, Minnesota 1988 – 1991
Key Account Manager
- Responsible for headquarters sales calls and managing a retail staff at the store level
DAYTON HUDSON DEPARTMENT STORES, Minneapolis, Minnesota 1985 – 1988
- Responsible for managing sales, inventories, and promotions for various departments with increasing responsibility.
Personal and Family Life
On New Year’s Eve 2016, my spouse and I will celebrate the 30th anniversary of our wedding. I know this reads like an overused cliché, but I can honestly say after all that time that I’m still married to my best friend and I love her very much. My life partner is employed part time as a physical therapy assistant and spends time outside of work on fitness and volunteering as a mentor and in a number of capacities with our home congregation. We have two grown children, a 24 year old daughter who lives nearby and attends a technical college part time, and a 22 year old son who is spending a year in Denver working with at-risk middle school students while he tries to figure out what path his post-university life should take next.
I come from a rural mid-western working class traditionally structured family background. I present myself as a white cisgender middle age upper middle class male. I acknowledge and am eternally grateful for the privileges this image has provided me in my life. It is out of this gratitude that I try to use my privilege to support the oppressed and marginalized in collaboration with the congregation I serve.
I am openly bi-sexual and have had relationships with the opposite and same sexes in my lifetime. I believe my sexuality has oriented my thinking more towards a “both/and” instead of an “either/or” perspective. This orientation has led me to seek out diversity and a somewhat non-conformist path in life.