A Message from Denny Davidoff on… General Assembly 2015

After months of careful preparation and heightened expectation, Meadville Lombard’s ambitious schedule of workshops and events at the 2015 General Assembly in Portland, OR are over but, as the song says “The memory lingers on”.
President Lee Barker summed it up from his perspective in a memo to the Board of Trustees: “ML’s educational offerings at General Assembly were extremely well done and popular. Whether sponsored by the school or the Fahs Collaborative, the faculty showed off the school as a quality institution of higher learning and formation.”
But Meadville Lombard presence in Portland is way, way, way too much to write about in a summer message so here are four photos with brief reflections:

Bill Sinkford at GA Our distinguished Board of Trustees Chair, former UUA President, and much loved and admired personal friend, Bill Sinkford, made the “ask” at our packed Partners in Ministry luncheon. We had initially hoped to feed lunch and information about our school to 150 GA delegates – potential new friends and donors – but the turnout turned out to be 248! Part of the hour long program was the premiere of a new video featuring the public ministry of our alumnus and faculty member, Rev. Dr. Mark Morrison-Reed. Take a look at Building Bridges which runs 8 minutes, 17 seconds. I am pleased to report that 53 of our guests signed up as new donors.Jacqueline Brett

Many of our current students and recent alums were on hand to assist staff members at our bustling booth in the Exhibit Hall. People of all ages and from many places came by to ask about our curriculum, pick up our brochures, visit with faculty members, find out more about our growth campaign, Pointing the Way, and exchange greetings and fond memories.

claudia espinelDirector of International Formation, Claudia Espinel never lost her great smile as she navigated a tight schedule among members of the UUA international community, our prospective students and donors, and staff colleagues.

I was proud to navigate my own General Assembly activities wearing my Meadville Lombard Staff identification for all to see. Our success story continues to reach more eyes and ears thanks to active students and alums and the ever growing reach of social media. I am more than ever convinced that we can effectively broaden our donor base parallel with our expanding student body.


Please stay tuned to our communications and, of course, we welcome your generosity whenever the spirit moves.

donate now



Denny Signature



Denny Taft Davidoff, DHL ’07

Senior Associate for Development and Alumni/ae Affairs


A Charge for Graduation by Dr. Mark Hicks and Rev. Leslie Takahashi

Rev. Leslie Takahashi and Dr. Mark Hicks

Rev. Leslie Takahashi and Dr. Mark Hicks

As you step into this next embodiment of your ministry, we have a few wishes for you.

We hope that these gifts will help you to step boldly into new places and spaces.

First we want you to know you have company as you walk.

For you can ground yourself in the abiding truths of the faith we all serve, feel the witness of those who have walked before us.

Ohand shift your point of view

Because some of the abiding truths may need new wisdoms in the world emerged.

So we invite you to embrace the wild dance of complexity,

To know that every exchange is a multicultural one, that multiple perspectives inhabit every truth,

And reframe that too!

To recognize the elegance of simplicity in a time when all is multifaceted and to remember your call to spread the mission of our faith.

And always, and ever, to reframe that as well

Cover it with gratitude. Spice it with curiosity. Inhabit it with a radical trust in the goodness of one another.

Be flexible. Know your resilience Be open to change while holding onto the timeless truths. Bring your whole heart to this ministry upon-the-shifting sands. Be shape shifters  Be lovers of all that is life-renewing. Be unifiers who speak in many languages.   Be true to yourself and to our faith.

Class of 2015, its time to believe again. It is time to be bold. Offer your beauty to the world and offer the world the lens that says that all are saved, and that all are united and touched by the spark of the divine.

Sow the seeds of joy.

[Together]  And water with love

A Message by Bill Neely to Alums

Dear Alumni/ae,

I’m writing to invite you to save the date of our annual Meadville Lombard Alumni/ae Dinner during this year’s General Assembly in Portland, Oregon! We’ll gather from 5:30 – 7: 15 p.m. on Wednesday, June 24. We hope this timing is convenient for everyone as our dinner begins after the Berry Street Address concludes and we’ll finish our desserts in plenty of time for the General Assembly Opening Celebration at 8 p.m. Our location is very close to our General Assembly activities:

There will be more information to come as we get closer to General Assembly, but for now we hope you’ll plan on a lovely meal with wonderful company as we learn about the inspiring and innovative ministerial formation occurring at our school!


Bill Neely, M.Div, ‘06
Interim President, Meadville Lombard Alumni/ae Association

Ministry in a Post-denominational Age

33% of people in 2013 describe themselves as “spiritual, but not religious.”  A large number of these people share our UU values but aren’t coming into our doors.

So what can we do about it?  Lee asked us to think of ourselves as “first responders” and to reflect on a few questions:

  • What core theological principles would you be sure to bring as you seek to respond to the diverse needs of religious and non-religious seekers alike?
  • What are the specific instances when you have experienced community beyond face-to-face interactions? How might those experiences help you think imaginatively about using technology to build new forms of community?
  • List five of your greatest passions.  List five of your best talents.  What is the relationship between them?  As a first responder, what are the possibilities?
  • Given your reflections on theology, community, and your passions and talents, discuss your own religious communities and talk about the possibilities for ministering as a “first responder”

Those of you following along at home what do you think?


Greetings from Convocation 2015!  It’s way below freezing outside in Chicago, but the fire of our Chalice is lit as we hold our annual gathering.

We are actively engaging our community both here and online on #MLConvo15 and ask everyone to write what is close to their heart and in response to the following:

  • What both excites you and grounds you when you encounter change?
  • What do you fear losing?
  • What do you hope to gain?
  • How can you help move from a culture of critique to one of curiosity?

Let’s keep the conversation going!

Meet Kellie, 1st Year Seminarian


Kellie in a moment of meditation at a January Vespers service

I am a third generation single mother and a first generation college graduate. Both my grandmother and my mother raised their children by working fifty to seventy hours a week as waitresses. Although my mother sincerely told me that I could be the first woman president of the United States, my mother’s life taught me that I didn’t have much of a chance– that dreams were for other people– that fulfilling work was for other people. 


I believed that lesson until two years ago when I completed my undergraduate degree at the age of 41 and started pursuing my call to ministry. It was terrifying to believe that I could pursue my dream and still financially support myself and my young son. To be frank, it is still terrifying, but the Colchester Scholarship helps me have faith that I can do it. I am incredibly grateful!


One of my greatest hopes is to help our denomination remove the invisible walls of racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, sizeism, and ageism, still present both inside and outside our church walls. I want to help build an even more diverse membership than we have today. I believe that needs-based scholarships help us deepen our diversity by creating a wider range of ministers. I hope that I will see the day when all aspiring ministers can attend seminary.


Once again, I am deeply grateful for my scholarship– I am deeply grateful to be able to pursue my call– I am deeply grateful to be able to follow my dream of service, justice, and love– I am deeply grateful to be able to show my son that he can follow his dreams one day too.

Tsubaki Grand Shrine Scholar: Roger Doebke



Interfaith activist and Meadville Lombard Masters of Arts student, Roger Doebke, has been named the 2014 Tsubaki Grand Shrine Scholar.

The Tsubaki Grand Shrine, one of Japan’s oldest shrines founded in 300 C.E., awards one Meadville Lombard student each year with travel to its headquarters in Suzuka, Mie Prefecture, Japan for a full immersion experience. For two weeks, the student lives and works alongside Shrine priests to learn about Shinto practice and Japanese culture.  

 “I’m honored to be named the Tsubaki Grand Shrine Scholar,” said Roger Doebke. “I see the opportunity to be in residence at the Shrine as a way to join my spirituality and my Unitarian Universalist liberal religion into a more cohesive unity; one that will help grow my own contemplative life and to better relate to others.”

Roger Doebke is in his final year of study to complete his Masters of Arts in Religion. In addition to his academic work, Roger serves on the Board of Trustees of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Chautauqua, an organization active in the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, NY.

“Meadville Lombard has a long and cherished relationship with the Tsubaki Grand Shrine,” commented Meadville Lombard President Lee Barker. “I know Roger’s experience will deepen the multifaith relationships that have already been established through his coursework and his work with the Chautauqua Institution.”

Later this summer, Roger Doebke and President Lee Barker will co-teach Multifaith Leadership in the New America, a Meadville Lombard course at the UU House in Chautauqua. Information and registration for this course can be found here.

Almost Limitless Possibilities


Chris Jimmerson with classmates Rachel Christensen and Michelle Pederson as a part of their History of the Christian Traditions class.

By Chris Jimmerson

A sense of almost limitless creative potentiality is a core element of my personal theology. I have found that Meadville Lombard fits very well with that sense of creative potential. Entering into my third year at Meadville, I have watched as the students with whom I entered the school have created their own paths toward ministerial formation – some, like me, have gone through on the three year plan as originally outlined (though none of us has done that in exactly the same way), others have attended part-time and worked with the school to create their own timeline for their formation.

During my time at Meadville, I have, as a part of my assigned classes, attended a hysterical production at a Chicago theatre, twice visited local museums, and turned in my own theatrical performance as a pots-and-pans loving, lecherous villain. During my time at Meadville, I have also participated in and attended some wonderfully creative and inspiring worship, discovered a heretofore-unknown love of photography, and engaged in creative activities involving paint, clay, crayons, paper, journaling, singing and synchronized body movement, though thankfully never all at the same time. These are only a few examples of the wonderfully creative experience I have had at Meadville.

Even more importantly though, I have formed some of the deepest, most meaningful friendships I have ever known. These are people I have come to love deeply and whom I will love deeply the rest of my days. My sense of my calling to the ministry has deepened and grown stronger. My commitment to justice and public ministry has intensified. My own sense of having a spiritual grounding and a sustaining theology came to be largely because of my experiences at Meadville Lombard, and have helped me through some very challenging times both in my personal life and in church service.

I have watched all of this happen with my fellow students also, but in their own way and following their own timeline. None of us will leave Meadville the same as when we first entered it. For me, what we call “formation” has been transformation!