To follow this path I left my career of close to 30 years as a health and environmental researcher. For all those years I’d worked on great projects, that I felt were socially relevant, trying to understand what environmental exposures would have what health effects on people. In that career, working for one of the best companies in my industry I was trying to understand what the extent of an exposure was. I have a PhD in environmental studies and what in some settings (though not the one I worked in) I might be considered to have some expertise in statistics. Words like pesticides, asbestos, blood borne pathogens, fecal contaminants in water, health outcomes and budgets, big budgets were always in my mind and mouth. I wanted a change but one thing I didn’t foresee was that my definition of who I was at a deep level would have to change. And along with a personal redefinition came the question “who are we” when I use the word we? I’ve reflected on that question and I’m in what ministers call liminal space, a time of transition that makes it hard indeed to have a “we”. But there are support groups, and interest groups, and people undergoing their own transformative change. This is my list of we for me right now:
- My church (thank you Revs Liz and Leon and the whole beloved community of UUCSS)
- The Starr King community (thank you all for welcoming me, particularly Revs. Gabriella and Lindi)
- My cohort group at Starr King (4 of us get together every 2 weeks by video conference and work our formation together, I love you all).
- The Church of the Larger Fellowship Support group for seminarians (thank you Rev. Meg)
- The White Allies support group also run by the Church of the Larger Fellowship (thank you Bob Lavallee)
- The Joseph Priestly District “In-care” program for seminarians (thank you Revs. Megan and Kate)
- The Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association Chesapeake Bay District (thank you people who went before who realized that seminarians in a certain place in their studies need to connect with actual ministers and opened the door to those in Candidate status.)
- The Hard Conversations about Race group (thank you Patti Digh)
- Members of the Continental Gathering of UU Seminarians and the UU Seminarian Salon who knew that we all need each other for this journey and started those groups before I joined
The fact that I’m a distance student and an older student made my need for communities other than Starr King acute. My challenges when I quit working for my old firm and started full time as a student pinched my toes hard. But after 6 months as a full time student, tied to all those groups I see my way to a new definition of we.
In short I’ve swapped one big corporate we for a much more multifaceted sense of identities. My corporate we was stable, very comfortable, prestigious and all encompassing. Yes, before seminary I had church as well, but my corporate identity and church identity were essentially one dimensional identities. The reality of today is much more patchwork, evolving and three or even four dimensional. I’m a quilter too and this is what “we” looks like in formation.