I am a parish minister currently serving the Eliot Church of Natick MA. Eliot Church is a Community Church affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ. Any statements made and postions held in "Unity," however, are solely mine(of course, they may be used with appropriate atribution). Therefore if you disagree, please do not blame the church!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


I am halfway through reading the proposal to merge Starr King School for the Ministry and Meadville/Lombard Theological School. I am actually quite optimistic. As you are probably aware, the plan is for the two schools to combine many administrative functions at a “central campus” (Meadville/Lombard) and have two other centers. One of these would be Starr King and the other would be in Boston. The Boston campus, however, is planned for continuing education while the other two will grant degrees.

Maybe it is because I am an alum of M/L, but I like the idea of the central campus being in the middle of the country. Also, it looks like there will be actual cost savings. I am a little concerned about the more active role planned for the UUA. I liked attending an independent seminary and, I suspect, the same could be said for SKSM graduates. However, I also understand that the financial realities may require a closer relationship with the association.

So, I have two questions so far. First, will this relationship create too narrow a focus? It seems to me that there has been a healthy conversation going on for decades about whether or not Unitarian Universalism is, itself, a religion. I tend to think that it is not. I tend to see the UUA as a coalition of theologically diverse religious liberals (and liberal congregations) who have come together, in part, because they do disagree and that--through the discussion this disagreement causes--find that their continued relationship possesses great potential for spiritual growth. Will an institution that attempts to teach “Unitarian Universalism” allow for this kind tradition? I don’t know.

The other question has to do with the name. In the document the new seminary is called “Unitarian Universalist Theological School”. All I can say is “please, no“. The authors of the proposal also make it clear that there is some room for negotiation here. So let us give this some thought people!

The problem I see with “UUTS” is that it is rather bland. “Yep, that is what we are, why not come here?” Particularly when this new endeavor starts out, it might make sense to insert a wee bit of romance into the proceedings. Would people by the Escalade if it was called “The Gigantic Car That No One Needs And Is Killing Us But Makes Us Feel Rugged”? Would I be more inclined to shop at the Food Lion if it was merely called “Grocery Store”? I don’t think so. I want a name that tells me something and that is fun to say. I am a graduate of Meadville/Lombard. There is history there. Quite a bit, actually.

We could name it after a famous minister or layperson. There are plenty of Eliots and Ballous to choose from. How about “Ballou/Channing“ for example? Olympia Brown( “Yeah, I went to Brown...Olympia Brown, that is!”)? Name it after William Howard Taft! There may be other options as well.

I know that there is someone out there thinking “Chalice Seminary” right now. Stop it. No, no, no....

I think the name should also leave us open to other options later. What if there are liberal Christians of other traditions who might wish to attend? They do have money, ya know. Meadville was originally a partnership between the Unitarians and the Christian Connection. Yes, that was a long time ago, but why limit ourselves now?

Anyway, that is all for now, but I would like to see a discussion about this, somewhere. What we call this new school is, in part, what will help to define the movement in the future...