Unitarian church welcomes new minister
By Denise Baran-Unland Correspondent March 27, 2013 2:16PM
Updated: April 29, 2013 11:47AM
Diversity in worship and doctrine is more than religious belief for Ashley Horan, the new consulting minister at the Universalist Unitarian Church (UUCJ) in Joliet.
Horan, 31, is also currently diverse in both her ministerial capacities and personal spiritual growth. In addition to leading worship one Sunday a month in Joliet, Horan works as a consulting minster to Open Circle Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Fond du Lac, Wis.
On her “off” Sundays, Horan might attend her partner’s church with their daughter or explore Chicago-area churches. Several times a week, Horan’s back in Joliet, working with the church board, the religious education committee, the membership ministry and the generosity team, which is the church’s stewardship group.
But that’s because Horan, who grew up in Unity Church Unitarian in Minnesota and graduated from Meadville Lombard Theological School in 2012, finds liberation and growth in a variety of expressions.
“We believe it’s more important how we live our beliefs in the world than in what we believe together,” Horan said. “We believe in forming deep relationships with each other and community accountability.”
Horan is the first minister at UUJC in several years. Emily Gage served as minister from 1997 to 2008. From 2008 to 2009, UUJC had an interim pastor, Dr. Neil H. Shadle. Chuck Teeter of Plainfield, president of the church’s board of trustees, said everyone is happy with Horan and the pastoral care she’s bringing to the church.
“She’s enthusiastic, responsible and works well with all age groups,” Teeter said. “She’s brought increased energy with her wonderful ideas.”
Serving others as a minister accomplishes two purposes for Horan. One, it’s her way of showing appreciation for her early faith experiences. Two, it uses her gifts of preaching and community-building in tangible ways.
“I am a people person. I deeply love human beings,” Horan said. “I love to hear their stories and walk with them as they go through different life journeys.”
A typical Universalist Unitarian service may resemble some Protestant services in that it offers hymns, prayers or meditations and preaching. Its difference lies in the material used from week to week. What unites everyone is its common themes.
“We all ask the same questions about life and death, our purpose in the world, justice and love,” Horan said.
For instance, an element particular to UUCJ is a time for “joys and concerns.” It’s equivalent in a traditional Christian church would be prayer requests. At UUCJ, members share the events in their lives and ask others to remember them in their thoughts.
“We believe that everyone was born with the spark of divine. We emphasize there is no one path to truth or meaning in life,” Horan said. “We’re given reason to help us discern what we believe.”
For more information on UUCJ , call 815-744-9020 or visit www.uucj.com