Last week I went to the UUA Washington Office for the last time as Director of Advocacy and Witness. I write those words, but I still don’t believe them. We still have GA to live through, and I have endless to-do lists that are yet undone, but still. My last time to the UUA Washington Office.
I grew up Unitarian Universalist. Not a single adult ever told me—including my own parents—that it mattered to them whether or not I remained a Unitarian Universalist in my adulthood. This fact has fueled my lifetime passion for religious education, youth ministry, and young adult mentoring.
When I became Director of the Washington Office in 1994, the office was housed in two small rooms in the Methodist Building on Capitol Hill. Immediately, wonderful young adults began to ask if they could volunteer in the office. Unwilling to say no because of lack of room, we moved to larger (and cheaper) space over in Dupont Circle. Thus began the blessing of my life: young Unitarian Universalists, called by their passion for faith and justice, served as short-term staff in learning positions. Here’s a list of the amazing people who have passed through our offices, and what they’re doing now.
1996, Alyce Gowdy-Wright, now a community organizer, poverty issues, in Florida
1997, Rob Keithan (then in college!), now completing Wesley seminary and preparing for his ministry
1998 Richard Nugent, now Director of Church-Staff Finance at the UUA (Not your usual mode, cooling his heals for a year after seminary)
1999 Rob Keithan came on as an actual staffperson! At the ripe old age of 23)
2001 Kent Doss, now minister in Laguna Beach California
2002 Lissa Gundlach, finishing seminary at Union Theological School
2002 Emily Dulcan, organizer in California, journalist
2002 Grant Smith, community organizer, drug policy reform
2002 Robin Hoecker, graduate school for multi-media journalism, U Chicago
2003 Kierstin Homblette, Union Theological Seminary
2003 Megan Joiner, completed Union Theological Seminary
2003 Amelia Rose, community organizer
2005 Meredith Schonfeld-Hicks, organizer now beginning public health grad school
2005 Elizabeth Bukey, beginning seminary at Union Theological Seminary
2006 Adam Gerhardstein, finishing term as campaign Manager, Standing on the Side of Love, beginning law school, St. Thomas (and marrying Meredith)
2007 Lisa Swanson, law school, Northeasatern
2007 Alex Winnett, beer conosseiur, Washington DC
2007 Grace Garner, community activist
2009, Orelia Busch, finishing internship this summer
2009, Rowan Van Ness, Continuing internship till 2011.
Here are metrics on all of that:
3 on to journalism school
7 ministers or seminarians
2 in law school
5 community organizers
1 in public health school
16 are committed Unitarian Universalists
It is that last # I am most delighted by. Every single one of these young people offers the world tremendously gifts. As a group, I offer them my thanks and promise to them, as they have promised to each other, to continue to look for ways in which young people may learn, thrive, and give.
I can not adequately express how much this program changed my life. It restored my confidence, healed old wounds, gave me skills I will forever draw upon, and introduced me to the woman I love and will be my life long partner. As hard as I’ve worked to give back to the UUA, I honestly believe I will never match what the UUA gave to me. I have the deepest gratitude for Meg Riley, Rob Keithan, Bill Sinkford and everyone else who created and supported this program throughout its magnificent tenure. Congratulations on a very worthwhile endeavor.