Posted by: Sue Spencer | March 27, 2008

Clarity Comes

This blog has been quiet for a while, mainly because I didn’t feel free until recently to “go public” with the turn my discernment has taken. Now that it has crystallized into a decision, and I’ve told the Community about it, I’m free to share.

Someone has defined discernment as “turning down the volume on some voices so that you can hear others.” Our Lenten quiet time proved very deep here. A few weeks into it, a voice within me started coming to the fore, and it seemed to be pointing me back toward parish ministry. One Saturday morning in late February, for example, my first thought upon waking was, “You know, my REAL passion is congregations.” I noted it with interest, but at that point it was only one thought among many.

Over the ensuing weeks, though, the voice became clearer and more insistent. It seemed confirmed by some vivid dreams, such as missing a bus full of women clergy and being very agitated about it. I came to realize how deeply I missed preaching, and congregational life in general. Thoughts like these had come up before, but somehow this time they seemed to carry a different weight – more authority and less emotion.

In March I spoke at length with my spiritual director, and found myself very much at peace with the idea that it was time to move on. Nevertheless, I decided to sit with it through Lent, and not make any irrevocable decisions until after Easter Sunday. We had a wonderful Holy Week and Easter here – I’ll write about it later – but somehow I knew that they would be my last with the community.

Tuesday morning, I met with my mentor, Sr. Catherine Grace, and told her of my decision. She was very supportive, and not entirely surprised. Our thoughts at this point, subject to the community council’s approval, are that I will stay here through April, visit the city sisters in early May, and then take my leave of the community. I have a trip planned to the southwest during the first part of May, and then expect to be back in Massachusetts the middle of that month.

For a long time I’ve been intrigued by the possibilities of doing interim ministry with congregations, and this seems an ideal time to pursue that option. I’m in the midst now of writing essays for my on-line ministerial record, and hope to know by early to mid-summer where I’ll be in September.

I have no regrets whatsoever about my decision to come to community. The last year and a half has been a great experience, and has taught me many things. The work the sisters are doing here at Melrose is brilliant, in my opinion, and I hope to stay in touch after I leave.

Similarly, in no way do I feel that I have “failed” in leaving the religious life. Rather, the discernment process has “succeeded” for me, helping me to come to deeper clarity about my vocation, and to discover that my original call to ministry still seems to be alive and well.

I’ll keep you posted as things develop.



  1. Congratulations to you on your thoughtful decision. I’ll bet that you will be an outstanding interim minister. I’ve enjoyed (and learned from) your postings.

  2. You are fortunate to have a clear insight as to your next step. I’ll look forward to future postings from you.

  3. Dearest Sue, As always your little faithful flock of UUCSC’ers went on our annual retreat to Mt. Calvary this weekend: the Claymans, Diane Dalton, Mary Beth Rennie, me and a few newcomers. We’re all pretty “lapsed Unitarians,” which may be about as lapsed as one can get, but we always ask for any news of you. Steve said he had your blog address and sent it to all of us this evening. WOW! What a great decision. None of us wanted you to remain cloistered, like hiding your light under a bushel basket–or a syrup pan! I hope your new interim job will be somewhere near us. Maybe we can arrange a “field trip” to see, hear and cheer you on.
    I do miss you and wish you very well in this next stage of your career shifts and changes. MIne continues to change and grow as well. I am now an advanced candidate in psychoanalytic training and need one more control case and a paper, sort of a second dissertation (!) to complete the program. We’ll see.
    All the very best,
    Elisabeth Clark

  4. Sue: Discernment has always been your “strong suit” and has always landed you in the place “just right” for YOU! May the spirit of love and light continue to illuminate your path.

    cheerfully, Roger Kuhrt (colleague and friend)
    PS: Working with the situation Tim Jensen faces in Portland, MAine might be a place where you are needed–just a thought!

  5. May God be with you. Times like these can be so turbulent, I know firsthand.
    Just remember, change is good and God is always there!

  6. I’m a little behind in my blog reading (and writing for that matter) and just found out about your discernment and decision.

    From what I have learned about what discernment means, I would say yours was an unqualified success.

    Know that you will be missed here (as you obviously are elsewhere. Do tell Elisabeth that your light has been far from hidden under a bushel).

    I wish you all the best and I do hope we have a chance to say goodbye in person.

  7. I’m grateful for the opportunity to follow your life and discernment process that the blog has given your friends and spiritual companions. I knew you would come to the right place and decision, whatever it was, but I confess I’m glad you’ll be back soon and ministering to others…It’ll be a joy to talk over dinner!

  8. Dearest Sue,

    You may not know this, but you are one of the people I most admire.

    For many, many reasons.

    But one is this fearless quest for the right, the true and the beautiful.

    I’ve so much loved your stopping and looking, your sitting with deepest community. And your willingness to share it…

    And I have no doubt, where ever you ultimately end, heaven, of course, will have manifested in each step.

    And, whomever you end up serving next; boy, are they lucky.

    Much love,


  9. You’ve got a great blog here. I’m going to miss you at the Internovitiate meetings, but please keep me posted (via e-mail) of where you’ll be. I’d love to come to one of your services!

    Love & prayers,

    Mary Julian

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