The Reverend Sarah Christine StewartThe Reverend Sarah Christine Stewart was called by Starr King Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in the spring of 2003.
Sarah grew up near Detroit, Michigan. She received her undergraduate degree from Sarah Lawrence College in 1997. Her junior year was spent at Wadham College at Oxford University in England. Sarah entered Harvard Divinity School in 1998 and received her Master of Divinity degree in June 2001. She was admitted into Final Fellowship in June 2006.
Sarah's ministerial internship was served at Theodore Parker Church, in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, from October 1999 to June 2001. She focused on congregational life, worship, and religious education. She preached once a month, led children's worship, participated on committees and taught both adult and children's religious education. Sarah completed a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education at St. Elizabeth's Medical Center in Boston in the summer of 2000. Sarah served as interim assistant minister at First Parish Church in Lexington, Massachusetts from July 2002 through July 2003. In this position she was dedicated to building community.
Sarah was ordained at Northwest UU Church, Southfield, Michigan on January 5, 2003. In speaking about this important occasion, Sarah stated: "In our congregational tradition, only a local congregation can perform the act of ordination. It meant so much to me for that community in particular to lay their hands on me and convey their support and trust for my ministry in the wider world. I was mindful that my ministry reflects their support of me as a youth in Unitarian Universalism as much as it does the work I've done since then."
During the ministerial search process, the Rev. Stewart answered a number of questions asked by the Search Committee in the packet sent to prospective candidates. The following are a few of those questions with Sarah's abridged answers.
What is your approach to the religious education of children, youth and adults?
With all age groups, I find it important to make the material fun, engaging and relevant to people's lives. With children and pre-teens, I find it especially important to include physical activity in religious education. I myself was very active in Unitarian Universalist youth groups in high school and college, and I support the philosophy of these programs that gives youth the opportunities to construct and direct their own programs (with responsible adult advising). I would welcome opportunities to work with children and youth in religious education. I hope to continue to teach adults, as this has been a very rewarding aspect of my ministry so far.
What do you see as the role of music and the arts in the life of the congregation?
Music and artistic expression are vital aspects of worship services and religious experience. Both prerecorded and live music, especially singing, add a dimension to worship that I believe cannot be attained through spoken words alone.
What involvement do you desire in the stewardship of a congregation, most particularly its financial affairs?
Congregational stewardship means more to me than just fundraising. Responsible stewardship involves considering how all the resources of the church - human, spiritual, and financial - can contribute to the church's mission. As a minister, I expect to encourage a church to come to a clearer understanding of its mission, and to consider how its many resources can further that mission and support the vibrancy of congregational life. As the minister of a congregation, I expect it will be my role to be exemplary in giving to the church and to support fundraising unapologetically from the pulpit.
Theological orientation: What is your dominant theology, and how do you deal with other Unitarian Universalist theologies with which you may not be in sympathy?
The most important thing to know about my theology is that church is at its center. It is through our participation in an intentional church community, in the act of worship and the many acts of service which sustain a church, that we reflect on the value our lives and the contribution those lives are making to the larger world. I consider myself to be a humanist Christian. I do believe in God, but I believe that everything that humans can know about God is filtered through human culture and creations - in other words, absolute, exclusive knowledge of God is unattainable. My belief in God is a matter of faith, not of proof. I am a Christian because I grew up in the Christian tradition and I still feel at home there. I interpret my religious experience in light of the stories of Jesus' life, and at home my husband and I celebrate the cycles of the year and of our lives with holy words and rituals from the liberal Christian culture.
Yet perhaps most importantly, I am a humanist. I believe that it is this world, and the people and natural wonders within it, who are due our theological attention and whose welfare should be the right end of religious and theological work. Humans created religious communities; we interpret our religious experience and allow it to frame how we act in the world. The problems and ethics of this world, and the suffering and joy of real people demand our attention as people of faith.
My job as a minister is not to convince people of my own theological outlook, but rather to encourage each person in their spiritual growth. My spiritual journey has developed out of my own particular experiences; as a minister, I help others understand their experiences in light of their own spiritual journeys, not my own.
How would you wish to function in the communities beyond the local congregation?
Community involvement has been a vital aspect of my adult life and I expect it will continue as I enter the ministry. I expect to be involved, both as an individual and as a minister representing the church, in community functions, religious gatherings and service projects. The minister does not determine in which community events the congregation will participate, nor is she the only voice representing the congregation in the wider community.