The Reverend Dr. Susan Veronica Rak has been a Unitarian Universalist since the early 70's and Unitarian Universalist Minister since 1996, most recently serving as an Interim Minister. In that role her experiences and skills serving UU congregations over the years as DRE, settled minister and consultant have been put to good use. Preaching, creating and conducting worship are a strong component of her ministry. Reverend Dr. Rak earned her Masters of Divinity at Lancaster Theological Seminary in Lancaster PA, and received a Doctor of Ministry from Meadville-Lombard Theological School (2009), Chicago IL. She and her spouse, Dr. Mary Chinery (Dean of the School of Arts & Sciences, Georgian Court University, Lakewood NJ) reside in Asbury Park, NJ.
Titles of programs/sermons and a brief statement of content on each:
- At One (honoring the Jewish holy day Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement,) Forgiveness as a way toward wholeness: let us open ourselves to the wisdom and beauty of these very ancient practices that encourage us to be who we are called to be.
- Calamity, Hope and Courage. We often think of the character Job, from the Hebrew scripture, as synonymous with “patience”. But there’s more to the story than that. So we explore how an ancient tale and a suffering man’s questions can inspire hope.
- Comfort and Joy (a winter holidays/pre-Christmas sermon). Some questions to ponder: Can festivity and frivolity be a spiritual practice, especially in the times we find ourselves? Is it possible for a rational human being to "believe" in the magic of the season and honestly celebrate it?
- The Courage to Be Vulnerable. Let your heart break so you can love more freely. Make mistakes and become stronger. Brené Brown advises that "If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”
- Flowing in the Stream. Equanimity is one of the Four Immeasurables - four great virtues (along with compassion, loving kindness, and sympathetic joy) that the Buddha taught his disciples to cultivate. How rich can our lives might be if we try to adopt these practices!
- Grow Your Soul. Unitarian minister A. Powell Davies (1902 - 1957) is o<en remembered for this one saying: Life is just a chance to grow a soul. But what is "soul" to a 21st century Unitarian Universalist? We look to another of our sages - the poet Walt Whitman - for some suggestions.
- Haven’t Got a Prayer. How and why might we pray? We consider our own Unitarian Universalist response to the ancient religious notion of prayer.
- Hold On - Let Go. The Buddhist celebration of Vesak (which usually occurs in late spring) honors the birth, enlightenment, and death of the Buddha. This sermon explores “non-abachment” - how the Buddha’s teachings help us, Unitarian Universalist and likely non-Buddhists, navigate life.
- Is It Too Late? (designed to recognize November 11th as Armistice Day; 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the end of “the war to end all wars.”). We pause to note Armistice/ or Remembrance Day (known in the US as Veterans’ Day) and are reminded of our commitments to justice and compassion... to be a blessing to the world.
- Living with Death (especially oriented toward the end of October and early November). This time of year often invites us to confront our mortality. This need not be a morbid encounter but one that encourages us to come alive! Inspired by the Mexican Day of the Dead (el Dia de los Muertos), we can create an altar of remembrance in our hearts , honoring those for whom we mourn, celebrating the people we hold dear and love. No matter if their passing was recent or long ago, their spirits are with us still.
- Of Faith and Freedom. What will you risk for your beliefs, your community? In 1579, Dávid Ferenc said "I wrote what I felt and that is what I preached with trusting spirit". Looking to our Transylvanian Unitarian heritage, what inspiration or encouragement can we find?
- The 500 Hats of a Unitarian Universalist Minister (more appropriate for congregations in transition). An exploration of (and perhaps a reality check on) the role of a minister and the expectations of shared ministry. (You might recognize the title as a play on the title of one of Dr. Seuss's most popular books “the 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins". )
- We Make the Path. Sometimes the way before us is clearly laid out, and other times not so much. Whether the road is your spiritual journey or your life's course - or the direction of the congregation - the only way to make your way is to venture out on to the path.
- In addition I am willing to consider preaching on a particular theme, seasonal observance or theological tradition that suits your congregation.
Availability: Fall, Winter and Spring and preferably within 60-65 miles of Asbury Park, NJ, overnight hospitality on Saturday might be required depending on distance.
Fee arrangements: According to UUMA guidelines. Home hospitality will be needed on Saturday night when the location is a long distance from Asbury Park, NJ.
Contact: Email Rev. Dr. Susan Rak at email@example.com