Family of Origin
My paternal grandparents came from Poland to Detroit around 1915, to take advantage of Henry Ford’s landmark offer of $5 a day. They lived in the US for more than 60 years and never learned to speak English.
I was raised there, in Motown, the fourth of five kids in a working-class family in the 1970s; I was first woman in the family to get a liberal arts degree and the first to openly question Catholicism.
I grew up with a profound religiosity: good people take time every day to contemplate the good, to help those in need, to correct mistakes. We strive for love and justice.
For my parents, that religious fervor focused on Jesus and complex Catholic theologies that never quite made sense to me. Starting around age 8, I had to reject that ideology – but I never let go of the deep religious commitment. The twin commandments – to love the God of my understanding with my whole heart and to love my neighbor as myself, held across world religions – oriented my life as a child, and they have ever since.
Becoming a UU
A roommate at the University of Michigan in the 1980s had been raised UU, and her description intrigued me. I visited the UU church in Detroit.
After a journalism internship in Washington, DC, and two years working in publishing in Detroit, I ventured to New York City in the 1990s, where a friend from the Michigan Daily (student newspaper) helped me to get my dream job as an editor at Ms. Magazine. I worked there for five happy years.
Journey to Ministry
Over time, the daily grind of bad news at Ms. wore me down; I longed for a post-feminist vision of human equality. At the same, I began volunteering to feed the homeless at All Souls Unitarian Church in Manhattan. I soon joined the church and helped to create a new young adults group. With guidance from Rev. Forrest Church, I discerned a call to ministry, and Harvard Divinity School offered a scholarship.
While at Harvard, I worked as an editorial assistant at the UU World (May 1996-September 1996) and as Special Assistant for Public Witness to UUA President John Buehrens (Sept 1996-June 1997). I gratefully completed my hospital chaplaincy at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston in the summer of 1997, and I did a one-year, part-time student ministry at First Parish Lincoln 1997-98. I followed that with a one-year, full-time intern ministry at the UU Church of Reading, under Rev. Jane Rzepka (September 1998-June 1999).
Starting a Family, Working as a DRE
I graduated from Harvard Divinity School in June 1999. That same month, I married James Intriligator, who had just completed his PhD in neuroscience at Harvard. By that fall, when I was ordained by First Parish Lincoln (September 26, 1999), I was expecting our first child, a son named Eli.
James began to work as a consultant to internet incubators (which create new internet companies), while I stayed home with Eli for a year.
Over time, we decided that we wanted to raise our kids nearer to our families, so we moved to Los Angeles (James’s hometown) in February 2001. I found a 3/4-time position as the DRE at the UU Church of Santa Monica, CA. Two years later, our daughter Lily was born.
After the internet “bubble” burst, my husband James decided to return to academia, and he found a post for which he was uniquely qualified – in Wales, in the United Kingdom. We decided to try it, for 3-5 years maximum, while the kids were small.
James thrived there. As a pioneer in the new field of consumer psychology, he earned tenure and many teaching awards. But because he specialized in an interdisciplinary approach, he couldn’t get a US university interested in bringing him back stateside.
I tried many ways to find meaningful work in Wales. In 2005, after the birth of our third child, Theo, I studied the Welsh language, in order to find work locally, to no avail. I helped to found a new Unitarian fellowship in our town, one of only a few new groups in Britain in the last 200 years. Today, 10 years later, the 10-member group continues to meet monthly. I considered teaching, so I took a job in a local high school for one year, as a reading tutor and in-house substitute. I also earned a credential to practice as a freelance funeral celebrant for the British Humanist Association; I conducted about 20 funerals in 2009 and 2010.
Then I discovered a program that funded PhD studies via public/private research partnerships. I pitched a project to use crowd-sourced media content to build community and drive increased tourism to ancient archaeological heritage sites in a depressed local county. I won a scholarship from the European Union, and I developed the innovative, crowd-sourced “Anglesey: A Bridge Through Time” website project from 2010-2013. I finished my PhD in digital media for community engagement in 2015.
During that period, I also worked as the communications officer for the tiny but nationwide volunteer network called “2020: Growing Unitarianism in Britain.” Under the leadership of a visionary American UU minister working in London, we worked to raise funds, both to plant new groups and to renew older, flagging Unitarian congregations across Britain.
Online Strategist to the UUA
In July 2013, while still living in Wales, I saw a job posting at the UUA for an Online Strategist, a person to help the UUA develop, refine, and coordinate its web presence across its departments. I was hired. I worked mostly from home in Wales and flew into Boston for one week in every six. In June 2014, UUA management created the new post of Outreach Director, and my position was discontinued.
Across the 13 years I lived in Wales, I felt a constant pull to return to the US — to my culture and to the UU ministry I always felt called to pursue. But I felt I couldn’t move my children back without a job and health insurance, and I felt unsure about entering the UU search process from abroad, without recent US church experience.
Life in Lexington, MA
In November 2015, in Wales, I was once again searching online UU job postings, I discovered the post at Follen UU Church in Lexington: Director of Community Engagement. I was well qualified for the work: a blend of membership, leadership development, and communications. I was hired, and two years ago, in January 2016, I moved with my younger son, Theo, to Lexington.
James, Lily, and Eli stayed in Wales to finish the school year, and then, by another miracle, James got a professor post at Tufts University. He now leads the well respected Human Factors Program in the department of Mechanical Engineering. We bought a home in Lexington last summer, and the kids are settling well into their new lives as Americans.
Working at Follen Church
I love the people at Follen. Landing there, after so long abroad, has been one of my life’s greatest blessings. It’s a healthy, energetic congregation, full of committed and highly-skilled volunteers, and they have received me with overwhelming warmth and support — plus healthy challenge to refine my ministry skills. Together we’ve done transformative anti-racism work, and we’ve overhauled our adult education offerings.
Though I’ve layered lots of ministry work on top of the duties outlined in my job description, I still long to be employed officially as a minister full-time, to have my training and experience acknowledged and embraced by a whole congregation. I am ready to be called, to join in a covenantal commitment with a congregation, to grow forward in loving and purposeful community.