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Our "New" Ministerial Student

By Rev. Carol Bodeau

Dear friends,

Many of you know Westsider Helen Rivers, (they/them, formerly Helen Rose). Helen has been part of the Westside community for many years, and as you may also know, Helen entered Starr King School for the Ministry this last year, to earn a Masters of Divinity degree, on the way to becoming a UU minister.

As part of the seminary process, Helen is required to have a hosting congregation, which will be a support system through the path to ministry. Last church year, the Board of Westside voted to serve as Helen’s hosting congregation, and I want to take a moment to explain what that means.

First, it does NOT mean that Helen is an ‘intern’ minister at Westside. We are not a teaching or training congregation. Helen will be looking for another congregation where they will serve as an Intern Minister in the coming year or two, but that role cannot be played by the ‘home’ congregation of Westside.

What it does mean to be the home or hosting congregation is this: we hold Helen in care as a member of our community who is going through a unique and powerful training process. It also means that we have a new, more formal relationship with them. We are called to provide opportunities for exploration on the path to ministry, such as occasional opportunities to lead worship or classes. It means that we recognize that Helen is not fully a minister, but also not fully a layperson anymore. For example, where in the past we did not pay Helen for giving sermons, as a regular member of Westside, now we will pay for any sermons they deliver, in recognition of this new, formal relationship. Also, Helen will not be providing pastoral care to members of the congregation, but will refer any pastoral needs they hear about to me.

Most importantly, it means that the members of Westside are called to honor this unique, new relationship. Things are changing at Westside, in so many ways, and this is one of the great new changes we have been gifted with this year. Let’s make sure to hold Helen gently and with great honor, as they go through the challenging and transformative process of entering formal ministry. We need to be careful not to expect too much, or too little. We need to educate ourselves about what it means to be a UU minister, and what the journey to ministry might include. And we need to listen carefully, pay close attention, to the messages Helen gives us about how we can support this process. You can learn more about Helen’s work on their UUA profile, found here

I am personally very excited to see this amazing young adult—an incredible mother, activist, speaker, and Unitarian Universalist—moving forward on this path. And I feel honored that we at Westside get to be witnesses to the journey.

With gratitude and excitement,

Rev. Carol

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