Our new intern minister

Board President Franny Howes writes: This summer, our UUFKC board was presented with a tremendous opportunity: to have a ministerial intern support us, together with the other Southern Oregon Unitarian Universalist Partnership congregations in Ashland and Grants Pass. In consultation with committee leadership and after a review of our finances, we voted in favor of this and we will be working with Alison Duren-Sutherland this coming year. We are incredibly excited about all that Alison brings to us, and we will all be getting to know her better throughout the coming months. And now, you can hear from her in her own words:

My name is Alison Cole Duren-Sutherland, Duren from my mother, Sutherland from my father, and Cole for the street in San Francisco we lived on when I was born. I am excited to have the opportunity to introduce myself today as the incoming Ministerial Intern for the church year running September 2020 – June 2021.

At the mid-point of my distance-learning Masters of Divinity with Starr King School for the Ministry, and a recognized Aspirant to the Unitarian Universalist Ministry, I am honored and humbled for the opportunity to serve the three UU communities of Southern Oregon (UUs of Grants Pass, UU Fellowship of Klamath County, and Rouge Valley UU Fellowship) as Intern Minister under the supervision of Rev. Sean Parker Dennison of RVUUF.

I look forward to creating worship experiences for each community, and some that we can all share together. I look forward to organizing with you, inspired by the Actions of Immediate Witness passed at our Unitarian Universalist General Assembly this past June and the call of our 5th principle to uphold the democratic process. I look forward to getting to know you as we share joys and sorrows, triumphs and defeats, as we do the work of being beloved community and Widening the Circle of Concern. And I am excited to share with you some of the Education to Counter Oppression that I am receiving at Starr King.

To learn more about my internship, CLICK HERE for the proposal, keeping in mind that this is a living document that provides a framework for my ministry, which will evolve to meet the needs of our community. Through this internship serving the three congregations of the Southern Oregon UU Partnership (SOUUP), I seek honor the memory of Gordon O’Hara of UUGP by serving his vision of a strong and interdependent Unitarian Universalist movement that is a force for good in Southern Oregon. The COVID-19 Pandemic has changed the ways that we can be together, and the Unitarian Universalist Association has provided excellent leadership and resources to help us keep our faith and each other alive by coming together online. In some ways, this gives us more opportunity to participate together in the work of our faith.

A bit about me: I grew up in Portland, Oregon in a liberal off-shoot of the Mormon church. In my early teens, a series of anti-gay measures sponsored by the Oregon Citizen’s Alliance appeared on ballots in statewide and local elections. The hateful message was couched in Christian rhetoric, and when I came out as bisexual, I no longer trusted my faith community to love me as they said they did. At the same time, I was learning about the Bible as an historical artifact, a collection of early common era writings curated by the most privileged men of the 11th century, translated again and again, and ultimately, in my family’s faith, explicitly revised to fit one man’s vision of God’s truth. During my years at Smith College, studying mathematics and anthropology, organized religion was largely absent from my life.

Working at a women’s reproductive health clinic in Seattle after college, I learned about the Unitarian Universalists through the Our Whole Lives curriculum. When I had a tiny person that I was responsible for teaching values, and determined to live into my queerness in a way that was visible to her despite my straight-passing marriage, I ended up in a UU church. Reading the principles and sources, hearing that service is our prayer, and reading #530 Out of the Stars in the gray hymnal, I thought, “Here is a place where the wholeness of myself and my belief is reflected and welcome!” I came home to a community that held the faith that was alive in my heart

I came to Southern Oregon to manage a birth center in 2011, and the roots I have put down here run most strongly through the Rogue Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship; I was at RVUUF the first Sunday after we moved. When they invited me into the pulpit, I felt all the talents I love most to use come together into joy, as I researched, wrote and shared the loving, liberal, queer, feminist, sex-positive, justice-seeking UU pagan faith that is alive in me. The call to ministry came in my heart and from my people.

I live in White City with my husband Jamie, and our two daughters, Ramona (12 years) and Frances (5), plus four chickens, two pear trees, and an ever-burgeoning thicket of plums. We love to visit the Oregon Coast, but are staying home these days to protect Jamie, who is at increased risk of COVID complications due to an underlying medical condition. Our garden has been an incredible source of solace for the family during these times of staying at home.

I look forward to sharing more with you, learning the stories you have to share with me, and being of service to and with the UU communities of Southern Oregon. Merry meet, merry part, merry meet again!

Get to Know Our Intern Minister

Alison asks, “Please schedule an online meeting so we can start to get to know each other. All meetings will be via Zoom, and a link will be provided once you schedule. I’m excited to learn the story of this fellowship and how you found your way here, the gifts you bring and your hopes for our future together. CLICK HERE to schedule a meeting. If you can’t find a meeting time on the calendar that works for you, email me at intern.minister@rvuuf.org and let’s make a plan to get together a different time.”