Pacific Southwest District Pilot Program
In Care for Local Seminarians and Distance Learners
This program offers support to Unitarian Universalist students at Claremont School of Theology as well as anyone in the ministerial formation process who lives in the district, including distance learners who attend Starr King and Meadville Lombard low residency programs. The program facilitates collegial connection between students and ministers who mentor them. It encourages mentors to be honest with students about their current fit for ministry and where their formational focus should be.
2011 An Idea Took Root
- The district Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association (UUMA) chapter designated Rev. Tera Little, who was on UUA District staff, as the liaison to Claremont School of Theology. She serves in that role today as the primary organizer.
- The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) offered the program a small grant which was used to take students to lunch to get acquainted.
Others Joined The Effort
As the program continued to develop, Rev. Rick Hoyt, a Claremont School of Theology graduate, became a co-coordinator of the program. Rev. Ann Schranz, who serves the congregation located nearest Claremont, joined the team. She is a graduate of Starr King.
Diverse Learners Welcomed
The in care program was opened to all seminarians in the district including those who are distance learners at Starr King and Meadville Lombard. It was important to ensure that students at non-Unitarian Universalist schools still felt supported.
Annual Retreats Added
Because students are dispersed geographically, monthly gatherings are not a possibility. Annual retreats are the primary way in which people meet in person. They are held at the Pacific Southwest District’s retreat center. The lodging is free of charge. Students and in care coordinators bring community meals.
The first retreat was organized by Rev. Little and included a ministerial panel. Students from Arizona drove eight hours each way to attend the retreat.
- Rev. Hoyt attended the summit on in care programs to learn more about other systems.
- A Facebook group was started to facilitate better communication with and between students.
Mentor Program Began
- Rev. Little offered an overview of the in care program and mentor training at the Fall UUMA chapter retreat, using the vocational advisor training from the Mountain Desert District program.
- Mentors and students were matched. Thirty two students received mentors.
Congregations And Lay leaders Became Involved
Students were invited to be guest speakers at churches, and their mentors were invited to attend and offer feedback. The minister of the congregation arranged for three thoughtful lay leaders to offer feedback to the student, too. The seminarian received an honorarium and offered a small percentage of that to the in care program.
Deeper Connections with UUMA and District
- Students attended one hour of the Winter UUMA chapter retreat to check in with their mentors and have dinner with all ministers present.
- A workshop was held at the district Annual Meeting about how congregations can support ministerial formation.
- Also at the Annual Meeting, Pacific Southwest District (PSWD) UUMA Executive Team members had breakfast with seminarians.
Community Minister Involvement Discussed
The emerging issue is how to recruit community ministers to mentor students who have chosen that path. There is hope that collaboration with the Pacific Central District will aid in this process.