I am a Rhode Islander, born in Pawtucket and growing up in Riverside. When in college at Brown University, I noticed how small my life felt when all the schools I ever attended were on one small topographical map in a professor's office. Still, life was large with a multi-generational and emotionally present working-class family of Swedish and Irish extraction, with a rich religious life in the ecumenical movement and statewide youth work as a young leader of the United Church of Christ. Attending college--first in my family--gave expansive opportunities for international travel and a rich life of the mind.
After receiving my A.B. in Music from Brown University, I moved to Boston to study singing with Clara Shear and acting with Maxine Klein. As a core group member of Little Flags Theater in Roxbury, I was responsible for the management of much of our touring across the United States and to Europe. I was selected for the FEDAPT Massachusetts Arts Management Program for administrators of non-profit theaters, and was a consultant on Board development for the Massachusetts Council on the Arts & Humanities and chaired a peer-review committee concerning arts in education programs funded by the Council.
At Little Flags, I coached singers and small ensembles, attended to the "look" of our presentations and was a featured performer in a number of original musical plays. I also headed our work in arts education, especially with middle and high school students. At the retirement of the Artistic Director, I became Producing Director and moved our company to a small theater space in Central Square, Cambridge, and encouraged the creation of new companies with activist identities, including peace poets, homeless artists, and an animal rights theater group. I worked with the first group of women who became the Raging Grannies of Boston, and helped a small film company travel to the Soviet Union with US teenagers who worked with Russian and Armenian teens to create a short film, the first graffiti mural in the former Soviet Union, and a documentary seen on PBS.
During those years I worked as a vocal musician in Unitarian Universalist, Episcopal and United Church of Christ churches and a Reform synagogue. I was a music theater artist-in-residence in under-served communities throughout Massachusetts. And I received my Actors Equity card while working at Wheelock Family Theatre, a company of professional and amateur performers who did traditional shows with non-traditional casting,
When the relationship I thought would last the rest of my life ended in a surprising break-up, I used the opportunity to go to seminary as a means of testing whether my intuition about a call to ministry might be true. At Andover Newton Theological School, I pursued the Master of Divinity while being the administrative staff for the Meetinghouse Center for Theology and the Arts. During my studies, I met the requirements for ordination in both the Unitarian Universalist and United Church of Christ traditions. I became Minister and Leader of the Community Church of Boston, was ordained in the United Church of Christ, and then fellowshipped by the UUA Ministerial Fellowship Committee.
After eight years of service at Community Church of Boston, I sought an experience of Unitarian Universalism that was outside of New England. Wanting to find a place where my working-class heritage might be understood and honored, I accepted the call to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Flint, Michigan, birthplace of the United Auto Workers, and home town of Buick and General Motors. I came to agree with my colleague Rev. Bruce Marshall that being Unitarian Universalist in a place like Flint has special meaning, and I treasure the relationships I built among other religious liberals and with community organizations in "Vehicle City." I became a keynote speaker for the Michigan UU Social Justice Network (MUUSJN) and later served on their Board. With Gordon Whitman, a national staff person for the PICO National Network, I helped found Flint Area Congregations Together (FACT) and the beginnings of the statewide Michigan Faith in Action.
While in Flint, I began regularly to visit Chicago and to build relationships with Meadville Lombard Theological School, where I would later become a Teaching Pastor and Adjunct Professor of Ministerial Formation.
Since 2009, I have served as Lead Minister of the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore, the historic congregation where Rev. William Ellery Channing of Boston preached "Unitarian Christianity," which became the second most widely-circulated philosophical document in the United States before 1840, and which was for many the proclamation of Unitarianism as not just "the Boston religion," but a faith for a democratic nation. Baltimore is a challenging city, and the people of First Unitarian (Universalist & Unitarian) meet the challenges they face with optimism and energy. In Baltimore we have engaged in the rebuilding of a community organization BRIDGE Maryland to focus its work on regional challenges and regional solutions. We have developed a strong mentorship program with students at the William Paca School, a public school in an impoverished neighborhood in East Baltimore, where First U adults lead book groups, give students a chance at visiting local colleges, and provide further enrichment opportunities. In the same neighborhood, First U members have created a community garden with mothers and children emerging from homelessness and drug addiction, along with further enrichment programs that include mindfulness, meditation and yoga.
In January of 2016, I began exploring next steps for my own education by auditing a seminar at Union Theological Seminary in New York City with Dr. Cornel West. Every Tuesday I took the train from Penn Station Baltimore to Penn Station New York, and then found my way to the subway and Morningside Heights. As we considered the problem of evil in the "western" tradition, I was engaged and encouraged. It was clear that I was not ready to leave parish ministry, but I wanted to determine next steps for formal study.
In January 2017, I began a low-residence Doctor of Ministry program at Claremont School of Theology in southern California. This doctorate is housed in the Center for Engaged Compassion and is focused on Spiritual Renewal, Contemplative Practice and Strategic Leadership. My interest is in examining the ways liberal communities of faith are renewed by their collective engagement of the world and by attention to the inner spiritual core of each individual.