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If fortune favors me, I am about midway along the journey of my ministry, and this awareness, plus a growing preoccupation with my own mortality and the dangers facing our planet, has caused me to reflect on what I want to do and be during the second half of my career. I’ve found the answer over the past couple of years: I want to be more bold in making the religious community into a prophetic force for justice.

Aside from ministry itself, art is my main spiritual practice, and re-incorporating art into my life over the past dozen years has made me a more effective minister. I am quite sure that my path to my goal of turbocharging my social and environmental justice work leads through art. So I was delighted to learn that there is a D.Min. program in Theology and the Arts at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, that it is conducted entirely online, and that United is a progressive seminary with a strong focus on social transformation. The school also gives a lot of attention to public theology, which appeals to me and is likely to be part of the mix.

I investigated via a few video calls with admissions staff, a professor, and a current student; leapt into applying; and have just gotten the word: I’ll be starting my doctoral program with United in September! I’m so excited.

Although the dissertation for the Theology and the Arts degree has to be solidly grounded in scholarship, it can be a work of art (or a body of work), and it is expected to be deliberately geared toward honing one’s professional abilities. That’s the purpose of a D.Min.

My ideas for my dissertation will undoubtedly keep shifting over the next few years as I take courses and learn from my cohort and professors. But if I had to choose my topic today, it would be to map out a practical path to using art to “reenchant” Unitarian Universalist congregational life “without supernaturalism” (to quote a title by a theologian who’s been important to me). Our movement is frequently beset by a tension between head-wisdom and heart-wisdom, with body-wisdom taking a distant third place, and I believe that this knot of tension has often kept our worship flat, and our action for transformation timid.

For me personally, making art can untie the knot and let the power flow, so I’m excited to figure out how to channel what I learn through that process (which is essentially solitary, and often private) into congregational ministry. Is it September yet?


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