By Nicole Salemi, Director of Community Engagement
This fall Julie Parker Amery stepped into the newly formed role of Director of Faith Formation and Spiritual Development with an eye toward expanding upon programs and ministries for teens and adults to ensure they are rich and varied. With an open horizon ahead of her, Julie is excited about the possibilities the new position offers. We spent a morning talking about where she started and what she hopes to expand into in the future.
“We are blessed to have Julie remain among us in this new position. She brings nearly twenty years of experience at FRS and a deep passion for adult faith formation and spiritual development.” – Rev. Rebecca
Q: What brought you to the First Religious Society and where did you get your start?
Julie: I first came to FRS when I was expecting my first child and thought the work environment and role as Director of Religious Education would be a good balance and fit. When I first started, I thought this would be a good job to have when my kids were little. But this place and the community had a way of embracing and keeping me. I will have been here 20 years in the spring.
I started in 2000 as the Director of Religious Education, which was responsible for the young church and teen programming and ministries. It has been a blessing to serve this community as a religious leader in this capacity. I realized my calling to this work when it occurred to me one day that it combined all of my professional experience (having spent years working for the Unitarian Universalist Association in various capacities) and my education (having a Master’s of Education in school counseling), as well as some of my key life experiences (having been very involved in my church as a youth, which helped shaped who I am).
Q: How has your previous faith experience prepared you for your new role?
Julie: I grew up in the Congregational church and discovered Unitarian Universalism in my early 20s, when my first job out of college was with the Unitarian Universalist Association. My professional life has been spent almost exclusively within Unitarian Universalism in some capacity since then. I first felt called to work as a religious professional in my teens, based on my rich experiences in church, and I feel blessed and grateful to have found a faith where I am at home theologically.
Q: What does faith formation and spiritual development encompass?
Julie: At this moment, I am only scratching the surface of what the role has the potential to be. In general, I am charged with ensuring that our programs and ministries for teenagers and adults are rich and varied. More specifically and of this moment, I am supporting the Chalice Circle Steering Committee, and the Pastoral Care Associates. I am working with Rev. Rebecca on providing training for these groups. I am also still overseeing and leading the teen programming and ministries, which includes the coming of age program and youth justice trip. I’m really happy to still be involved with our youth. I’ve always loved working with the teen group because it’s where you start to see the theoretical things we discuss in church begin to truly have an impact on them, their ideas and their lives.
Additionally, I will be taking on some justice action work with the planned racial justice and white supremacy workshops with the Rev. Karlene Griffiths Sekou, who will visit us three more times this church year. My plan is to build upon the strong foundation that Rev. Karlene will guide us in establishing for ourselves.
Then there is the Indigenous Peoples work with the UU Common Read. I’d like to drum up more participation and interest in this important topic.
And of course, there is Wednesday Night Fellowship. I’m super excited about this programming. Our first one was amazing, and comments ranged from being really excited to gushing. You have everything in one program—good food for community building, worship ritual and music, and two choices for faith formation, including one that appeals to people of all ages. We are hoping more families are able to come. On November 20th we’ll offer making ornaments for Christmas Tree Santa, and an ancestor walk from Joanna Macy, which is an embodied experience to further our understanding of where we come from. We’ll be shaking it up as we go. Moving forward, some month’s activities will be discussion based using UU pillars, other months more knowledge based. There will be a lot of arts involved, movement, singing, ritual, discussion, and spiritual practice. We might even get a Twilight Zone episode in there.
These are just a few of the areas of programming I am beginning to focus on and to think about how to build upon to form a cohesive and rich program experience for our beloved community.
Q: How would you describe this new position for someone not familiar with the specific programs you mention?
Julie: If I were to describe what I hope this position expands and evolves into, I would use a model from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashua, NH. They describe five pillars in which they organize their programming and ministries:
- Faith in action: which is justice work
- Faith in community: which is akin to our chalice circles and community building
- Faith in spirit: which is spirituality programs
- Faith in living: which is about life span programming that cover topics of interest to people or groups at certain stages of life
- Faith in knowledge: which is about delving into history and other more academic areas
In my planning and future expansion in this role, I want to make sure all of those pillars are covered. I will use our Six UU Sources to ensure that we are drawing from those as we help people on their journey.
Q: A year from now, what do you hope for yourself and this role?
Julie: Most important, I would hope that every person here would feel that they are on a continuing journey and that the church is supporting them and their forward movement on that journey.
I know it will take time for people to get to know me, but I would love for people to come to me with ideas. What would they like to see offered? What skills and knowledge and interests do they have that they might be interested in offering to others?
For some people Sunday morning is enough. Others want something more. Hopefully in the future we will have a faith formation ministry that will support everybody in the way they need.
FRS is a healthy congregation. I find it exciting and wonderful to have been here through all the different phases and to continue to have the opportunity to grow alongside the congregation.