Dear Friends, Members and Visitors of the Springfield UU Church,
Let me introduce myself. I love serving as a minister. I am very grateful that I get to do this sacred work of helping us build spiritual community and find meaning in our lives. I’m a Unitarian Universalist minister and also a Sufi minster. I was ordained as UU in September, 2007 in Strafford, Vermont by both the Strafford and Washington congregations. I received my Masters of Divinity degree in 2003 from Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago. I also did about half of my class work at Saint Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, Missouri. I feel very lucky that I got the best of both worlds — a strong UU education and a full immersion in a Christian seminary. While in seminary, I served part-time as Director of Lifespan Religious Education at All Souls, a mid-size UU Church in Kansas City. I did my internship at The Veterans’ Administration (VA) Medical Center in Kansas City. I love doing pastoral care work. It’s an honor to be with folks in times of challenge and transition.
I have a passion for the healing and transforming power of healthy small groups. Ministry is a second career for me and I’m very fortunate that I found my way to this work. I did my doctoral work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on “World View Transformation in Small Groups.” Before seminary, I had worked with small groups in the community and as a researcher for about 15 years and witnessed the power of these groups to help people grow and heal. I became involved early on in the effort to encourage Covenant Groups or Small Group Ministry in UU congregations. Just before I returned to Vermont a little over twelve years ago, I co-founded the UU Small Group Ministry (SGM) Network (www.smallgroupministyr.net), a non-profit dedicated to helping create healthy congregations by promoting Small Group Ministry. I served as coordinator of the SGM Network for four years. I founded and edited the SGM Quarterly. I continue to travel around the country teaching and consulting on SGM from Texas to Wisconsin, from California to Tennessee, and throughout the Northeast spreading the message of the healing power of groups.
Theologically, I am a universalist and a unitarian. As did the universalists before us, I believe that God is Love. I believe in the healing power of Love. As did the unitarians before us, I believe that there is One Source which is beyond my small mind to comprehend. I believe that this One Source is the force that powers the Universe and I also believe that God/TheSource/The One is too big to fit in one religion. I’m a devoted student of the world’s religions and common wisdom. I sincerely draw from many sources for my personal sustenance and my ministry including: Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Taoism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Sufism, Paganism, Native religions and the tradition of the Divine Feminine. I’m very grateful to live in a time in history when these traditions and teachings are available to us. How fortunate we are!
In worship I draw on these sources as well as poetry and contemporary wisdom and insights. I feel that worship is extremely important. I strive to engage folks, usually preaching in an extemporaneous style (that is, without a text). (Indeed, I co-teach workshops on this style of preaching to others ministers www.preachingbyheart.org). I sometimes use dance in worship. I always include a story for all ages. Music is essential for meaningful worship and I enjoy working collaboratively with others particularly musicians to create meaningful worship. I’ve started taking music lessons in recent years to strengthen my skills in this area.
On a personal note, I live in Bristol with my husband Lance. My hobbies include running, dance, yoga, gardening and hiking. Most of my extended family lives in New England, particularly Connecticut where I was born. I was raised Catholic and although I rejected this in my teen years, I have grown to appreciate the essential teachings of this great tradition. Being an aunt to my nieces and nephews is very important to me. I treasure my friends, old and new from here in Vermont and the Midwest as well. My undergraduate degree was in Environmental Studies. Being in nature and spending time outside is rejuvenating for me. I’m convinced that the environmental crisis we’re in the midst of is at heart a spiritual issue. It requires us to pay attention and change our lifestyles. My husband and I try to live simply with a small footprint on the earth’s delicate system. To that end we do our best to eat local, organic food. I’ve been a vegetarian for over 35 years and drive a car that gets 35 miles per gallon. In terms of other interests, I love languages! I speak French, can get by in Spanish and dabble in a few others. I love to read and listen to books on tape. I regularly read the scriptures from the world’s religions.
As part of my social justice work, for about two years, I volunteered as the Interfaith Chaplain at the Vermont State Hospital (VSH) in Waterbury until it was closed by the flooding caused by Hurricane Irene. I offered a Spiritual Wellness Group (a modified Small Group Ministry program). The VSH is where the most severe psychiatric patients in the state were housed. I loved serving there. The group was a wonderful time of reflection and quiet in an otherwise often busy environment. The staff and the patients both enjoyed the group tremendously. I also established a Spiritual Wellness Library there for patients and staff. My hope is to carry the Small Group Ministry model out of our congregations and into the world by developing SGM-type groups in other institutions such as senior homes and prisons.
For seven years I have been serving as summer minister for the Washington UU Church in Washington, Vermont. It’s a blast. It’s like summer camp. We have such fun together. In the past five years, with the support of the Washington congregation, I founded an organization called Peace and Unity Bridge (www.peaceandunitybridge.org) dedicated to cultivating friendship and understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims. I preach and teach workshops on Islamophobia. We received two grants from the Fund for Unitarian Universalist Social Responsibility and have offered more than a dozen programs in the past two years. These programs have been very well received and rated. Muslims who have participated have been very moved and enthusiastic.
I have had the honor and the pleasure of serving the Springfield Unitarian and Universalist Church since August, 2014. I am a half time consulting minister. I have really grown to love this congregation in the course of my time here. I appreciate the warmth, sincerity and friendliness of the members. I’m totally impressed with the talent, dedication and enthusiasm of the lay leaders. I am impressed with how much folks love this church and contribute talent, time and resources to make this such a vibrant, enjoyable community. I enjoy the beauty, simplicity and functionality of this building which has been lovingly built and maintained. I resonate with the rich Universalist history of this congregation. Given my enthusiasm for small groups, I have helped re-start the Small Group Program here and it is wonderful to see it begin to flourish. I am truly privileged to serve here. I look forward to many more meaningful, uplifting worships services, social events, small groups, and activities together. Now You know a bit about me. I look forward to meeting, spending more time with You, and getting to know You. Hope to see You at a worship service, coffee house, souper Sunday, coffee hour, or meeting. What’s your vision of spiritual community? What’s your dream for our collective future? Looking forward to talking with You. See You at church!
Rev. Dr. M’ellen Kennedy