Reverend Kathryn (Kat) Hawbaker
I was raised in the First Universalist Church of Minneapolis from fourth grade through high school. My formative years religiously were in junior high and high school, when I participated in church programming: About Your Sexuality, The Church Across the Street, and the Youth Group. After high school, I was an interim coordinator of their World Citizen group, and a Summer Services Coordinator (1987). The experience that set me on the path of ministry was my work as a youth representative to the Intern Minister Review Committee. This engaging and intimate look at what it took to be a minister made ministry a vibrant and viable possibility for me. I appreciated the opportunities for personal growth and leadership that were awarded to me in my home church, and I hope to pass on this tradition.
I entered an Open School program in sixth grade that enabled me to have many special opportunities for experiential and shared learning. After participating in a United Way training program for communication skills "Peer Training", I then taught these methods to other students. I moved on to direct a drama program for junior high students, and facilitated study groups in areas like mythology and literature of the Bible. The Open School program gave me an early foundation in community building that I built upon in subsequent leadership positions in high school and at Beloit College. Building community continues to be a major aspect of my approach to life, whether I'm on the playground, at school, on the soccer field, or at work around a conference table. I have long been a mediator and bridge-builder to oversee transitions and periods of adjustment, for I view them as opportunities for change.
My first settlement was serving two small rural churches in Eldorado and New Madison, Ohio. Since these congregations had only a few children, I joined the District Youth Adult Committee and started an after-school outreach program so I could continue to work in youth ministry. A second priority for me was to be involved with community service and interfaith ministerial organizations so that I could be visible to the wider community.
In my second stage of ministry I served as half-time parish minister with the Hopedale UU Community in Oxford, Ohio. At the same time I served the UU Church in Bloomington, Indiana, as the Young Adult/Campus Minister, and was part of the staff team. After three years of dividing my time each week between two congregations in two different states, I joined the Campus Ministry Center in Oxford, Ohio, serving the Miami University community and centering my activities in Oxford with the Hopedale UU Community. When the Campus Ministry position ended, I turned to substitute teaching in the Preble County schools to supplement my income and develop new skills in working with young people, especially children with multiple disabilities. This recent opportunity has been a great blessing in my life, confirming my desire to be engaged in intergenerational community building, and lifelong learning.
I have found from experience that people must begin where they are. If there is an openness to change, transformation comes from within and as a result of outside pressures. Patience and planning can be joined with creativity and caring for change that is progressive and healthy. This has been my personal strategy for my own growth, and the vision I offer for a congregation.
When I was young, I was eager for every opportunity that might help me grow in skills and experience. I have realized that every request or opening that is offered must be weighed in terms of whether it is truly empowering and enhancing to my goals of ministry and personal growth. At this stage of my life and ministry, I am more interested in helping others develop their skills and gifts, even as I continue to deepen and grow my ministry. Each day, I renew my faith by saying "yes" to life and love with gratitude and creativity, and without regret for the experiences that have shaped me. I am a work in progress, sharing in the ongoing creation that calls forth the best and brightest efforts of us all.
Bright Blessings, Rev. Kathryn Hawbaker