I find this journey we call life fascinating, inspiring and, at times, heartbreaking and perplexing. My earliest memories are of being a small child with a vague awareness that somehow, all of life is connected and that there is more here than we know.
I was born into a working class, non-church going family in rural, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. On Christmas and Easter we would accompany my paternal grandmother to her Lutheran church for services. Although I did not feel spiritually fed by these visits, I remember being fascinated by the concept of a faith community. Throughout my school years I would keep a look out for a religion whose theology allowed room for what was becoming my ever evolving one. Living in the country, I had noticed that I found my greatest spiritual connections outside, amongst the fields and woods that, fortunately, surrounded our home. Long walks became my worship.
As a young adult, I began to more earnestly search for spiritual community. At the age of 22 my search led me to a yoga ashram located in western Massachusetts. I quickly fell in love with the practices and the people and made the choice to move to this celibate, live-in community of over 300 spiritual seekers – staying for almost four years. My time there included full-time work in the community’s vegetarian kitchen, daily yoga and meditation practices and evening worship with music and spiritual teachings. This time truly served as a deep dive into what I call the two wings of spirituality: inner personal work to help foster a loving heart and external work to help foster a peaceful world.
After I left the ashram, my life and professional journey would unfold over the next two decades to include becoming a restauranteur and executive chef and blessedly the mother of 2 wonderful daughters, now 23 and 26. I became a yoga teacher and life coach, studied a variety of meditation styles and discovered Taoist philosophy and qi (pronounced Chee) gong, establishing it as my primary spiritual practice.
In 2013 the curiosity and longing that I had held in my heart for a ‘church’ community with wide arms revealed itself when I discovered Unitarian Universalism. Here was a faith community that encouraged spiritual growth and the free search for truth and meaning. A faith that recognized the interconnectedness of all of life and that declared the truth that each human is inherently worthy and loved.
Within months, I began the educational journey that would lead me to Unitarian Universalist ministry. Over the last 6 years, along side completing my Master of Divinity degree, I have served as the intern minister at the Winchester Unitarian Society of Winchester, MA, been a monthly guest minister for the Pittsfield UU Fellowship of Pittsfield, MA and served as a full-time hospital chaplain in Albany, NY.
It is with great joy that I have now been called to serve as the settled minister for the Emerson Unitarian Universalist Congregation. This is a dedicated and heart-filled community of people who care deeply about the earth and all of its inhabitants, who strive to love everyone beyond belief, who truly allow service to be their prayer and love to be their doctrine.
The details of my personal theology continue to evolve but I have found my spiritual home in the wide arms of Unitarian Universalism.
In the Spirit of Love and Life,
Rev. Deborah Bennett