Divinity School and UUA

Divinity School

Alison, William and Inez Miller at HDS graduation, June 2003
Alison, William and Inez Miller at HDS graduation, June 2003

I entered Harvard Divinity School in the fall of 2000. I was thrilled to be in a school with so many Unitarian Universalist students and so many students from other faith traditions. It reflected the world in which I would be ministering, working alongside UUs and interfaith partners on collaborative projects.

A class on “Muslim-Christian Dialogue” has been tremendously helpful in this work. In the community I serve today, we are actively working to create better relationships between the Muslim community and other faiths. I am a better ally in part because of what I learned in this class.

Another class that I continue to draw upon as a pastor, “Medicine and Religion,” was filled with divinity students and medical students exploring the intersection between our professions and healing. As someone who had previously decided between these two careers and with personal experience with cancer, it was powerful to reflect on the healing power of our faith in the lives of individuals suffering from pain, illness, and trauma.

Outside of classes, the UU students organized worship, social gatherings, and learning opportunities together through Harvard UU Ministry for Students (HUUMS), which I served as Outreach Coordinator and then Chair.

Unitarian Universalist Association

Mind the Gap CampaignWhile attending seminary, I was invited to join the UUA’s Development Office to run the Youth and Young Adult Ministry Sunday Campaign, commonly known as “Mind the Gap.” I am passionate about youth, campus and young adult ministries. These ministries help us retain lifelong UUs, engage new Unitarian Universalists, challenge us to remain relevant, and allow us to become the multigenerational faith we are called to be. This was the largest fundraising effort for youth, campus and young adult ministry to date.

I loved the opportunity I was given to reach out to UUs across the country to ask them to support ministries with young people. I have always understood fundraising to be one important path to fulfillment of mission. I also relished the chance to connect congregations of all sizes with resources and UUA staff who could assist them in developing their own programs. It was important to me that a portion of the money we raised went back to congregations to hire paid staff to start up new or develop existing ministries. Over $1 million dollars was raised through Youth and Young Adult Sunday and over a third of our congregations reaffirmed their commitment to youth and young adults. This campaign was a part of the UUA’s $32 million Capital Campaign. I am so grateful for all that I learned from mentors in the Development Department about national campaigns, major gifts and the importance of participation at all giving levels.

Continental Young Adult Leadership

Phoebe Hanshew, Joseph Santos-Lyons, Sarah Chipps, Justin Schroeder, Alison Miller, Kt Stefanski, Justice Waidner C*UUYAN Steering Committee Meeting, 2001
Phoebe Hanshew, Joseph Santos-Lyons, Sarah Chipps,
Justin Schroeder, Alison Miller, Kt Stefanski, Justice Waidner
C*UUYAN Steering Committee Meeting, 2001

The young adult movement was growing in numbers within and outside of congregations, and growing in impact on Unitarian Universalism, including a deeper commitment to innovative worship and to anti-racism, anti-oppression, and multiculturalism. A new continental conference called ConCentric was launched – a business, leadership development and networking conference for young adult religious professionals and lay leaders. I was co-chair of the first ConCentric and then business manager.

Through my leadership at General Assembly, I was elected to serve as the GA Young Adult Caucus Moderator, a position on the Continental UU Young Adult Network (C*UUYAN) Steering Committee. We created a long range planning process with the Young Adult and Campus Ministry Office. I served as one of the facilitators of the process, which culminated with a vision of becoming “Radically Inclusive, Justice Centered, and Spiritually Alive” along with a strategic plan of action that we implemented together. Many of the young adults who were active at this time remain strong leaders in our faith.