One of the many accomplishments for UTS in 2018 was the alignment of our academic curriculum. Led by Dean Kyle Roberts, the faculty made great strides in developing the sequencing and balance needed to provide greater clarity for students in all of our concentrations.
Concurrent with that alignment, a new department was formed that linked those responsible for the non-academic development of our students. This realignment included John Lee (director of formation), Greg Meland (director of vocation), and Andrea Sorum (chapel and music coordinator). Along with VP Karen Hutt, this team has developed a set of expectations for students that include their personal and leadership development, vocational and professional planning, and experiential out-of-the-classroom opportunities to explore community based options for spiritual leadership.
We are also responsible for creating and modeling a student-focused culture of affirmation and challenge. This will be accomplished by providing programming experiences that offer students praxis opportunities, to “put flesh” on their ministerial goals and aspirations.
A few words from the team……
I love meeting with students, discerning with them about what brings them into seminary education and what pathway leads them to the vocation waiting on the other side. With our whole team and an external network of resources, we help students discover their unique gifts and strengths while managing all that detracts from positive possibilities and outcomes.
I work with students preparing for, selecting and completing required internships, contextual and Clinical Pastoral Education experiences. We want each student at United to have a practical experience, customized to their specific developmental goals.
The Formation, Experience and Vocation team is continually adding internal and external resources: building and nurturing a global network of relationships and partnerships available to students and alums.
Director of Spiritual and Vocational Development
When I attended seminary for my M.Div., I was still searching for why I was there. I heard the call to study and delve into theological inquiry but didn’t have a destination in mind. I assumed my classmates were certain of their futures as pastors, chaplains, community leaders or professors. But I discovered most were also uncertain of the ultimate goal for being in seminary. Our many late-night theological conversations and study sessions were really efforts in trying to find together the answers to these age-old questions - Who am I? What is my purpose? How then shall I live? In following with my classmates, I can see our paths have twisted, turned, and surprised us from what we initially speculated they would be. The answers to these eternal questions continue to evolve.
But one lesson has arisen – the academic and intellectual aspects of seminary are essential for theological education, but the formational aspects (personal, relational and spiritual dimensions) are just as vital and have a longstanding impact on our presence and leadership beyond seminary. How you relate to yourself, those who are distinctly different from you, and that which is immanent and transcendent within your spiritual expression is at the heart of your lifelong development. This is the center of our formation focus at United, which hopes to illuminate your own authentic presence and spiritual leadership with others who are seeking to discover their path as well. The formation team and I are excited and honored to support you through this time of self-discernment and discovery and through honest conversation, humble reflection and non-anxious inquiry. Seminary can be a time of unsettling deconstruction and unpredictable epiphanies. But our hope is that we may accompany and assist you in noticing where you are being called with each step.
Rev. John Lee
Chaplain and Director of Formation
I see my role as an integrated spiritual leadership coach. Students and faculty lead and participate in diverse expressions of faith--primarily through our unique chapel services and contemplative practices and KOR, our sacred song circle. I also plan and lead larger community worship and collaborate with artists, alumni and outside organizations to create music events that compliment our theological and spiritual education. Students and faculty bring a variety of spiritual leadership experiences and skills to our community. We collaborate and cross-pollinate, sharing our wisdom and resources with each other. Students feel confident when they preach, pray or sing after marinating in the diverse richness here at United. Through this important part of their education, students learn to trust their authentic voice and draw on an abundance of resources to support their ministry.
In these times of unrest we are called not only to worship and create safe spaces within our sanctuaries but also brave spaces, where blessing, healing and prayers for peace are most needed. While we continue to keep chapel, meditation, song and prayer a part of our weekly life on campus, I also help create interfaith sacred spaces in public spaces for the wellbeing of all working for a better world. It is my hope that the resources we curate and generate will be widely available publicly for the mission and life of communities worldwide. We are United, we are activated leaders bringing comfort to one another and challenging systems of oppression within and outside ourselves and our walls.
Chapel and Music Coordinator