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!

The Paths You Choose Are Up to You!


By Doug McCusker, Class of 2014

I am in the last year of my Masters of Divinity studies at Meadville Lombard Theological School. When I started I had no idea of all the exciting avenues and paths that my thirst for knowledge would take me. I have always been a history buff so after my first church history class, I immediately latched on to the rich history resources in Meadville’s archives. Not only was I able to dig deep in Judeo-Christian history, but I have found a real connection with Unitarian Universalist history. This year, I joined the UU History and Heritage Society and delivered my first paper at the annual conference. I’ve also intertwined many stories from our tradition’s rich history into sermons and religious education classes.


I also have been able to explore my Latino/Hispanic heritage through several classes and internship experiences focused on multi-cultural engagement in our increasingly pluralistic society. The faculty helped me create a tailored immersion experience in which I took the concepts from the classroom and church setting out into the community. I led a mission trip of youth to El Salvador where we helped build an elementary school that was bombed during their civil war. It was an amazing experience that has deepened not only my own identity exploration but also my ministerial formation.


Meadville Lombard Theological School offered me an academic and experiential foundation in which to grow into my ministerial self. The rest has been up to me, and I have tried to take full ownership of this wonderful opportunity that comes once in a life-time. I’ve had classes in the mountains of California, at other seminaries and of course at the Meadville Lombard campus in downtown Chicago. But just as importantly, I’ve been able to apply my faith and ministerial calling at a homeless shelter, prison, hospital and teaching congregation; all while I was in seminary.  The journey has been amazing!


A Message From Denny Davidoff:

Denny_CropHere in the Development and Communications office at Meadville Lombard, one of our holiday season rituals is called The EOYA. This unpronounceable acronym stands for End Of Year Appeal and on our work calendar it’s a very big deal. It is, in short, the campaign we mount by mail and e-mail and blog and Twitter to ask all of our donor friends to celebrate the new year (and to reap income tax benefits) by contributing whatever they can afford to keep our operating budget thriving and our student financial aid coffers plentiful.

Raising money for Meadville Lombard is hard work and it is also joyous work. I believe in our mission, admire our faculty, revel in our diverse and wizard smart student body. My deep commitment to Unitarian Universalism congregations and allied institutions is fulfilled as I witness the education and formation of new ministers and new theologically-savvy lay leaders who graduate year after year ready to guide, to preach, to lead, to rally and invigorate — to do what it takes to keep our faith relevant and effective out in a suffering and unjust world.

Please pay attention. Look for a newsletter message from me and a letter from President Lee Barker. Make room in you heart and in your checkbook for a generous contribution to keep Meadville Lombard growing stronger. I love saying our school is “Unapologetically Progressive” and I further testify that our school is worthy of your support.

Make an online gift today.

Blessings for the holidays and for your New Year. Come visit us in 2014!

Scholarships Available – Apply Now!

This week of Thanksgiving gives us an opportunity to thank our generous donors who make it possible for our students to attend Meadville Lombard in order to serve the world and Unitarian Universalism. If you or someone you know is considering a future in ministry, please be sure to share this link with them—and soon.  The deadline for early admission is March 1, 2014.


We give great thanks to the following individuals for offering these opportunities:

  • BradburdsThe Arnold and Julia Bradburd Scholarship for Ministerial Excellence:  The Bradburds established this full tuition scholarship to be awarded to a student showing potential for excellence in ministry. All completed admission applications are reviewed by the faculty and finalists will be presented to the President for selection in early March. Read more about how this award changed the life of Jason Cook, selected as the Bradburd Scholar in 2011.



  • The Nancy and Richard Bechtolt Scholarship: Nancy Bechtolt established this full tuition scholarship specifically to award a student pursuing parish ministry. All completed admission applications are reviewed by the faculty and finalists will be presented to the President for selection in early March.





  • wertheimThe Marion and Joe Wertheim Community Scholars:   The Wertheims established this scholarship program for three (3) students who will be selected to receive this award which pays tuition for the 3-unit Community Studies signature course. This is the equivalent of 1/3 off your first year of tuition. All completed admission applications are reviewed by the faculty and finalists will be presented to the President for selection in early March.


Additional Financial Assistance Available

We are grateful to the Bradburds, Mrs. Bechtolt and the Wertheims for their continued dedication to and support of our students and of excellence in Unitarian Universalist ministry. They, along with many other friends of the school, also help us to provide additional scholarship assistance to our students who apply by the March 1 deadline. Visit our website to read more about other financial assistance available.
If you have any questions about these scholarships or other financial aid awards, contact Tina Porter. If you have questions about the application process, please feel free to contact Justine Urbikas.

Still Time to Register for Spring Classes

Today is the last day of registration for classes at Meadville Lombard. Haven’t registered yet? We invite you to register today. Explore the Hebrew Bible with Professor Adam Stokes by signing up today!

The Bible is undoubtedly one of the most important books in Western literature.  It is also a source of inspiration and guidance for millions of the people of faith who believe that the Bible is the Word of God.  With that said, the Bible, like many other religious texts, often gets a bad rap.  It has been used by extremists of all kinds to support all types of oppression and bigotry.  One of the things I most enjoy about teaching the Hebrew Bible is showing students that many of the things they think are in the Bible, such as women being blamed for the fall of humanity, are actually not in there.  Rather, these views stem from later interpretations of the biblical text.

Now granted there is some pretty nasty stuff in the Bible which I also address in my class particularly in relation to the question of what we are to do with such material.  My hope is that Unitarian Universalist ministers may be able to view the Bible, not as one big document but a collection of documents some of which continue to have positive spiritual value for their congregations and communities.   In many ways, I find that in teaching at a Unitarian school and coming into contact with students from multiple religious traditions I learn as much from my students as they learn from me.  Ultimately my class on the Hebrew Bible is a dialogue in which I hope to shape my students’ ideas about the Bible as well as having my own views shaped by them.

Learn with Professor Lisa DiFranza

We invite you to register to one of our Spring Courses today! Click here to see a full list of our course offerings.

Learn with Professor Lisa DiFranza in Bringing Text Alive: A Reader’s Theatre Intensive:

Bringing Text Alive is a hands-on adventure into language and listening. Students will be immersed in nuts and bolts performance tools required to bring the written word to life, through imagination, voice, body, intellect and spirit – so that we can comprehend its meaning collectively. Multiple text genres will be explored, – plays, poems, biblical texts, short stories, etc. The performance skills and exercises, which are the anchor of the course, will help students to release restrictive habits, discover the range of their voices, experiment and improvise with the sound and rhythm of text, and examine the physicality and spirituality of speech. Not only will this course support authentic and expressive preaching, it will also examine the nature and value of performance in congregational life – through innovative approaches to text study, and new ways of thinking about collaborative performance in worship. The week culminates with a public reader’s theater performance!

I’m thrilled to teach BRINGING TEXT ALIVE at Meadville Lombard in March. The intensive format is ideal for this sort of immersive, collaborative, hands-on course. For me – it is unceasingly exciting to see what happens when the lives, experiences voices and bodies of students connect with words on a page. When students combine a deep listening to a text with the richness and authenticity of their own voices, even the most well worn texts can emerge with sparkly fresh vitality – into the world.  Also, collaborative creation is a large part of this course – and so the “whole” will inevitably become more than the sum of our parts – this ineffable and unpredictable aspect of the week is the “x factor.” BRINGING TEXT ALIVE is an collective adventure into the unknown!


Take Ethics and Moral Development with Dr. Mike Hogue

ImageWe live in a world that is paradoxically more interconnected and more polarized than it has perhaps ever been. At the very moment when our global moral challenges require us to collaborate across our differences we seem to be especially ill-prepared to do so. This is pretty unsettling and it means that leaders and change agents are faced with a pretty monumental task—getting folks to cooperate when they’d rather not. And when we add religion and ethics to the mix, things get even more complicated, which is why I’m so excited about teaching this course.


The premise of this course is that if we really want to understand religion and morality in a way that empowers us to become more effective progressive religious leaders, then we need to study religious ethics in an entirely different way. Whether or not one believes in a god or many gods or no god at all, it is important to come to terms with the idea that, whatever else it may be, religion is a human phenomenon. Further, insofar as we humans are creatures of nature, then religion is also a natural phenomenon. Understanding this is a critical step toward becoming a religious leader who can connect communities, span boundaries, and cross borders.


With all of this in mind, this course integrates exciting new work in the sciences and philosophy and offers students the opportunity to study religious ethics and moral development in a radically new way. Religious ethics is commonly taught through either a close historical analysis of a particular religious tradition or comparatively across several traditions. Incorporating but expanding these approaches, this course embeds the study of religious ethics in an evolutionary anthropological perspective. In addition, the course enriches socialization models of moral development by examining new insights emerging out of evolutionary psychology and the neurocognitive and neuroaffective sciences. As a result, our collaborative learning in this class will be as invigorating as the challenges of religious leadership in a complex world.

Learn more about the courses ML offers on our website

Take a Class at Meadville Lombard!

NicCableMy name is Nic Cable and I am a student at Chicago Theological Seminary. I am so happy and lucky that I am able to take classes at Meadville Lombard Theological School that assist in my formation in becoming a Unitarian Universalist minister. By not going to a UU seminary, it was really important for me to have some immersion with fellow UU seminarians and courses that will be beneficial to my development. I have taken six classes at Meadville and during each of them, I felt warmly embraced and treated like a part of the family. I recommend it to anyone!

Beyond the great courses that Meadville offers its students, the professors that teach there are brilliant, caring, and deeply committed to liberal religious values that our faith tradition espouses. Studying in a room filled with Unitarian Universalists may sound like the lead-in to a good joke, but it is actually quite transformative that leads to a strong sense of community even in the short time we spend together. Whether you live in Chicago, Alaska, or anywhere in between, I think it would be a fantastic growing opportunity to take classes at Meadville. Maybe I will see you there!