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!

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.