Humanist Prayers

Seminary changes you. Or at least it has changed me. I describe it as becoming simultaneously more yourself and someone different. My personal theology has not changed greatly, I’m still a Humanist. I do not believe in a supernatural deity. I believe we human beings are the ones needed to change things for the better and those responsible for when they in fact get worse.

I more strongly identify with Unitarian Universalism than when I began this journey, which makes sense and is a positive outcome since I am studying to be a UU minister. I have expanded my religious humanist thoughts to religious naturalism but that feels like a small shift in the grand scheme of things.

Then I started praying. This past summer, I completed a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) in a hospital. I was basically an Intern Chaplain for ten of the most intense weeks of my life. My very first day, I walked into a hospital room to talk to a patient and was asked to pray. The patient was Catholic, I have never been that (but do have many Catholics in my life). She and her daughter were scared of what was about to happen. Scared of the unknown, the possibility of death, the possibility of being separated.

So, I prayed. I don’t remember the words I used but having rarely prayed in my life I held their hands and then didn’t know how to start… and then I said “Dear God.”

After that, I spoke about hope. Hope for the success of the upcoming procedure. Hope for the skill of the medical staff. Recognition of all the lives touched by the life I was praying for. Recognition that so many people not there were impacted by the lives in that hospital room.

I spoke about love, and I spoke about the power of their Catholic faith. I didn’t make promises. And then I ended in a Catholic way “in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Not my way but theirs. This prayer was for them not me. Something given by me to them to show that I, a stranger with the title of Chaplain cared about them and recognized their faith as important and powerful in their lives.

I believe prayer calls our attention to what matters in our lives. In this moment what mattered was holding on to hope for the success of this procedure. The delaying of mortality for a day, or week, or month, or longer. What mattered was that I recognized the people whose hands I held we human beings and connected by love and relationship to people that cared deeply for them.

Having now prayed for individuals, congregations, and yes even by myself. I think that the commonality of prayer is that we each need to be reminded and have our attention called to hope, love, and connection to something beyond the individual.

Some call this God, I consider this to be the best of Humanity. I can pray for that.

Originally written as a blog reflection Spring 2017

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Will my child have a mother?

Growing up, I knew who my mother was. She was the center of my world, a single parent who never made me wonder why I didn’t have more than one around regularly. She mommed me enough for two or more parents. In fact, to this day I not only wish her a happy mother’s day, I wish her a happy father’s day as well. She covered all the parenting I could have ever wanted and then some.

As my husband Justin and I consider parenthood in the coming years, I have begun to wonder. Even with two of us, will my child have a mother? What is a mother? I think my mom is more than the person who gave birth to me. She is the one who raised me, guided me, protected me, and prepared me to be an adult in the world.

Though, the more I reflect on having a child, the scarier it is to me. Part of my heart already belongs to Justin, with all the risks and wonders that comes with that. To impart more pieces to a child seems to be the most incredible gamble of all. More than that, to have responsibility for raising someone into an adult human being that will make decisions about so many things in their lives based on what I have said or more likely, what I have done in spite of what I’ve said. The idea seems ridiculous to me, and yet, I want to place that bet and see the person we could create.

But, will my child have a mother? Currently we are envisioning the two of us being all the parents involved. I’m not sure I know how to be a mother, nor do I have much idea about how to be a father. My mother was both, and neither. She was a person to be counted on, someone who I trusted and who I believed had my best interests at heart. Except for a few years around the age of 16, in those years I was convinced she was going out of her way to ruin everything and make my world a living hell… but other than those couple of years, I’ve always believed she is on my side and doing all she can for me. Was she my mother? Yes, but I believe she would have been my mother had she adopted me or if she came out to me as male-identified. She would still by my mum.

So it seems to me that motherhood is a relationship, a verb as much as it is a noun. Being a mother is also an identity that is, in part, bestowed by the children in our lives. When they look for the person in the room they call mom. When they come running after a bad dream. When they sing in the school play and look out into the audience. Their actions and their naming you “mom” is what seals the deal.

So, will my child have a mother? I’m not really sure. But I do know my child will have someone they can look for in times of fear as well as joy. I will do all I can to help them find their way through life and they will know unconditional love of not one but two parents. Part of the answer to my question depends on how my child sees both of their parents. Will we be dads? Moms? Rents? Some other name I cannot even imagine? That is an answer I cannot wait to find out.

Delivered as a pre-sermon reflection during the Mother’s Day service at First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis on Sunday, May 8, 2016.


A Time of Transition

brooklynAs I write this, I am preparing for my spring intensives at Meadville Lombard in Chicago. At the end of this two week period, I will have completed year one of three of my seminary coursework. In that time, my life (and Justin’s) has changed dramatically.

I will be leaving my position at The Humanist Institute at the end of May. I will also be leaving my position at First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis at the same time. Finally, I will be completing my internship with the MN Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Alliance. Over the summer I will be in a Chaplaincy Internship (called Clinical Pastoral Education) at the University of Minnesota Medical Center.

All of this is in preparation for beginning the next chapter. In August, I will be starting a two-year Ministerial Internship at First Unitarian of Brooklyn and a Learning Fellowship with the Church of the Larger Fellowship. Both of these will see me through to the end of my seminary program.

Justin’s life is also changing, he will be leaving almost a decade with BI Worldwide and completing his MFA in Writing. As we move to New York, he will begin the process of a career change as well. His goal is to pursue writing as close to full-time as possible.

We are both excited about this jump to pursue our passions and explore an exciting new city. We hope to see many people over this last summer (for now) in the Twin Cities!