Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sankofa Project Archives First Ever Visiting Scholar

L to R Wendy Pantoja, seminarian at Meadville Lombard Theological School (MLTS) Rev. Shuma Chavarty, Sankofa visiting scholar and Rev. Dr. Qiyamah A. Rahman

Rev. Shuma at office of Sankofa

Rev. Shuma in front of 1st Unitarian Church in Chicago, IL where she preached

Shuma at her Brown Bag Lecture held at MLTS

L to R Rev. Nan Hobart, MLTS Chaplain and Rev. Shuma at Brown Bag Lecture

The Sankofa Project Archives, established in 2006, is a repository for documents, biographical information, sermons and photographic images of Unitarian Universalist Ministers and Laity of Color. The Sankofa Archives are both a physical archive and an on-line educational resource serving people at varying educational and research levels ( It celebrates the lives, ministries and accomplishments of Unitarian Universalists: focusing on people who are multi ethnic/multicultural, African, African-American, Arab and Middle Eastern, Asian, Caribbean, Hispanic-Latino/a, and Native-American descent. In doing so the Sankofa Project Archives helps to uncover the contributions and lives of its ministers and laity of color, thus strengthening the family of Unitarian Universalism.

It has been a privilege for me to work with the Sankofa Project Archives since moving to Chicago. Recently, Sankofa was able to bring its first Visiting Scholar, Reverend Shuma Chakravarty. While in Chicago she completed her biographical information that will be posted on Sankofa's website, served as guest minister at the First Unitarian Society of Chicago and delivered a brown bag lecture at Meadville Lombard Theological School. Shuma, author of three books, lectured on four spiritual giants and connected their prophetic voices and lives in a powerful lecture without benefit of one single note. These giants included: Mohatma Ghandi, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama.

Her presence in Chicago is just the kind of endeavor that Sankofa hopes to continue in the future.

Sankofa Project Archives provides three types of support:

•solicits and documents the scholarship and contributions of Unitarian Universalists (UUs) ministers and laity of color

•builds bridges between Unitarian Universalists by familiarizing UUs with the

•promotes presence and visibility of ministers, seminarians and laity of color

•promotes the small but growing number of Unitarian Universalist ministers (less than 50 ministers of color out of a total of 1,700 Unitarian Universalist ministers are ministers of color)

Our work helps to strengthen and support the documentation of the contributions of Unitarian Univeralist Ministers and Laity of Color in our larger movement of Unitarian Univeralism. Hence, encouraging the recruitment and presence of UUs of color to the ministry.

For more information, please contact: Reverend Doctor Michelle Bentley, Director, Sankofa Project Archives, 5700 S. Woodlawn Ave. Chicago, IL 60637 773 643 6988

Contributions can be sent to: Sankofa Project Archives
5700 S. Woodlawn Ave.
Chicago, IL 60637

Blessed Be!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Spirit Moved Me: and Look What Happened!

Well, I declared 2007 my year of completion. I have been true to my word so far. I moved to Chicago, January, 2007 so that I could finish seminary. That will happen the end of the year. Meanwhile, I have finished my dissertation and received my doctorate. I went before the Ministerial Fellowship Committee and was fellowshipped September 28. Last week, on October 21 I was ordained at my home congregation, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte. It was a most memorable and moving ceremony. I will hold it in my heart and memory all the days of my life. The picture above was taken while I was delivering the benediction. After the ordination we went off to the social hall for the reception.

My family members present included my mom, all my children and daughter in law, two of my sisters (Betty and Brenda and her husband, Ira). Brenda and Ira gave me a beautiful pen engraved with the words, "ministers pen" in an equally beautiful wooden box with thes engraved words, "Answering the Call...God's Chosen Minister - It was he who gave some to be. . . evangelists, pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people. . . Ephesians 4:11."

Personal friends from church and other personal friends from outside the church came. A friend,Kathryn Liss that I had not seen in years drove from Asheville to be present. She gave me a beautiful framed picture of a sister who is joyfully poised to take flight with her arms outstretched and her feet taking flight. The picture is titled, Surrender All! One of the songs that I had requested from the soloist, Jennifer McCloud, was R. Kelly's, I Believe I Can Fly! The Choir sang, Wade in the Water with Jennifer's beautiful voice carrying a solo. They concluded with Siyahamba, a South African Freedom song in honor of my plans to begin my ministerial career in South Africa.

Evangelist, Betty Jean Holmes, my oldest sister, drove from Atlanta, as did my sister, brother in law and mother. My mother brought greetings from the family. She has been so active in her home church over the years that she had developed into a poised and confident speaker and I was so proud of her.

I was so delighted to see friends that I had not seen since I left Charlotte - Eva and Jan were present and gave me a beautiful prayer bowl. Amad was kind enough to share a reading in the service and he and his fiancee asked me during the reception if I would perform their marriage in May, 2009. I would be honored! Osei was present and it was good to see him. Jeanine came out to share my day and gave me a beautiful set of earrings.

I am grateful to Grace Mills, board member at the Church of Light of Religious Science, Dave Smith, President of the Board of Trustees of Mecklenburg Ministries and Annette Marquis, District Executive, TJ District for their presence and greetings that they delivered on behalf of their constituencies.

Special thanks to others that participated in the ordination. I have already acknowledged Ahmad Daniels beautiful recitation of the poem, In the Midst of a World. Leon Spencer, came all the way from Statesboro,GA to deliver his powerfully insightful sermon.

Rev. Leslie Takahashi-Morris, co-minister at Thomas Jefferso Unitarian Church in Charlottesville, VA carried out the ritual of the "laying on of hands" and gave such a powerful history lesson, while at the same time demonstrating while it is still a treasured ritual. I will carry the reassuring touch of her hand on my head as I move into the next phase of my life and my ministry.

Rev. Amy Brooks, affiliated Community Minister at the Church. You have been a guiding presence in my ministerial formation and it was apropo that you be present and to join me in this significant rite of passage in delivering the ordination prayer. Thank you for your poignant and powerful words!

Rev. Dr. Lee Barker, president of Meadville Lombard Theological School. You were my angel that agreed to show up at the last minute! Thank you for your presence and for saying yes to my request and bringing your usual wit and provocative words.

Rev. Jay Leach, my colleague and my pastor! We struggled and made it through to the other side of this beautiful ceremony. The outcome was worth every minute of struggle and time invested. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for the apology. Thank you for things known and unknown.

Thank you Cindy for your role in bringing things together with the super reception! I loved that you got the young people involved!

Lois, thank you for clearing your calendar for my ordination. I will make you proud!

Finally, while everyone worked really really hard, I must thank my daughters for their behind the scene efforts. A big thank you to Kaleema for your help with the ordination and particularly, Sankofa. For those that don't know, Kaleema made the invitations, did the mailing and came up with the idea for "planting" the hyacinth bulbs and packaging them. Her limited funds were the only reason that more were not available. And while I am thanking her I want to let you know that half the credit for my doctorate goes to you for the hours and hours you spent formatting the damn thing.

Before we left the hotel, I invited my family to join together in prayer as I acknowledged what the day meant for me and for my family. I acknowledged the prayers that have gotten me through as well as honoring my covenant with Spirit. I believe we covenant with Spirit before we are born to sign on for this life and the ministy/work we intend to do. My ordination is simply a milestone along that journey and a commitment to that covenant.

For anyone that I left out I do apologize! I love you all! You have helped me open my heart a bit wider as I step out in the world to do the work of healing self and humanity!
Blessed Be! Reverend Dr. Qiyamah A. Rahman
I am truly blessed!
warmest regards, Rev. Dr. Qiyamah A. Rahman
ps I will send pictures as soon as they are available!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Qiyamah's Angels

These are my three angels that I have been blessed with!
(left; Libra Malika) (right - Kaleema Haidera) and (background - Muhammad)

The Amazing Reverend LaDonna M. Sanders

The last of the summer party potluck poetry jams, and my first, was held as a fundraiser for the South African Mission Fundraiser in Chicago, IL. I was privileged for the first time to hear the amazing poetry and vocals of Rev. LaDonna M. Sanders. I was so moved that I shared bits of a poem that has been percolating in my brain, titled, "This is no Time to Jump off the Love Train." More about that in another post!

When LaDonna is not reciting poetry and raising her voice in praise to God's grace and love, she is working with the South Africa Ubuntu Project, a bridgebuilding mission founded by LaDonna. She has been hosting Love Poetry Jams and other gatherings to foster the spirit of connection here in Chicago and the U.S. for over 12 years. Her HIV/AIDS ministry has taken her to South African three times. Like yours truly, she is called to ministry in South Africa and is looking to return and eventually establish a plan that permits her the flexibility to travel back and forth between Chicago and South Africa.

Let us pray for the continued success of LaDonna's ministry and for the orphaned children and the communities that benefit from her ministry.
Blessed Be!

First Unitarian Society of Chicago - Religious Education Teachers

These are some of the hard working and dedicated religious education teachers that teach every Sunday at First Unitarian Society of Chicago so that the youth have the opportunity for exposure to world religions as well as acquiring information about Unitarian Universalism.

I have just begun teaching grades 4th-8th and using a curriculum titled, Neighboring Faiths along with Abby Dawes and Allen Harden. The year long focus is religions and denominations in the United States. Thus far, we have studied Judaism and Hinduism and have included field trips to said places of worship. Research indicates that when individuals are exposed to other faith traditions there is less chance of reacting fearfully and with hostility. May we continue to build briges and eliminate false boundaries in the human family!
Blessed Be!

Another Milestone

Reverend Dr. Qiyamah A. Rahman holding her dissertation and relieved to put it in the mail!


Joe Cherry, Meadville Lombard Theological School seminarian and Rev. Doctor Qiyamah A. Rahman at Kinko's around 1AM mailing off the edited corrections of my dissertation! Joe is my hero!

Imagine this scenario, you defende your dissertation November 2006 and fully expect to graduate May 2007. You inform your Committee Chair that you will be taking a full course load so please send your dissertation back for any edits promptly. So it is returned June, 2007. As a result, I did not attend my graduation exercise in May, 2007, even though I was assured by administration that arrangements had been made and that my name was on the graduation roster. My sense of paranoia would not let me subject myself to the expensive trip and time only to face possible humiliation. Why am I telling you all of this? Because the pictures accompanying this post were taken the night that I put my edited dissertation in the mail. Neither time, nor space would allow me to articulate the emotional roller coaster I have endured as a result of engaging a dysfunctionl institution. I have ben assured that my dissertation will be backdated to May, 2007. At some point you just want to get on with your life. That is what these pictures represent. Thank you Joe Cherry for your superb editing skills that allowed me to put my dissertation in the mail around 1AM at the twenty-four hour Kinko's.

Stay posted to hear when they actually review the edited version and finalize my credentials. Meanwhile, I am sending out my love, prayer and reflections to anyone working on their dissertation. You will hear more about this after I have degree in hand. Meanwhile, Blessed be!
warmest regards, Reverend Doctor Qiyamah A. Rahman

I'm Back!

Qiyamah A. Rahman on front porch of daughter, Kaleema's apartment building in Jamaica Queens, MA

Kaleema Haidera Nur, 3rd year law student at Northeastern University - walkig down the street where she lives in Jamaica Queens, MA


Kaleema painting in her studio apartment. We were doing some powerful conjuring! Look out folks!


Kaleema's studio apartment that proves she is a humble and struggling law student. She is preparing for her last internship at the Inter American Human Rights (something something) in Costa Rica!


Two angels in the back yard!


Qiyamah enjoying the last of Boston's summer weather


Be sure to get my good side!

I have been on somewhat of a "break" due to a combination of technical difficulties as in, "I can't figure out how to post my digital pictures." Additionally, I have been so busy with life and classes, engaging in enhanced spiritual practices as well as survival issues that it has been difficult to make time for my blog. But I'm back.

These pictures were taken in Boston, MA the weekend of interview with the Ministerial Fellowship Committee on September, 28, 2007. I hung out with my daughter Kaleema and indulged my inner artist with some art and conjuring time.

Facing (and Passing) the MFC: A First-Person Account
by Qiyamah A. Rahman

As I prepare for my next milestone, my ordination on October 21 at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte, I am reflecting on the fact that I will have experienced two major milestones in my ministerial journey less than a month apart. I recently met with the MFC and received a one on September 28, 2007 in Boston, MA. After such an intense buildup and what seemed like endless days and nights of muddling through what was supposed to be my plan of study, the conclusion felt almost surreal. These were my feelings that I noted immediately after the interview, standing in the foyer of Picket and Elliot where we met. I was talking with my daughter who had managed to find her way unbeknownst to me, to congratulate me. It seemed unreal that just less than an hour earlier I had been speaking to my assigned chaplain, Reverend Carlton, a fabulous chaplain. To finally have it all behind me just felt unreal. Afterwards, my daughter and I went for a marathon viewing of two feature back-to-back movies, preceded by dinner and drinks to toast my success.

So, what worked and what didn’t with the MFC process? What didn’t work was not preparing well in advance with dates and locations of continuing education, workshops, seminars, conferences and trainings that I would have to identify on the competencies section. I could easily transfer course work from my transcripts but this other information was packed away in my storage space in Atlanta. You will want to create a systematic way to compile this information over the years well before you put your MFC packet together. I have some suggestions, but space and time will not allow me to provide those details.

What worked:
Mock interview-This process was invaluable and gave me feedback that I am convinced allowed me to shine in my actual interview. This is also the place where you can receive feedback on your sermon and whether it is working or not. The feedback to cut mine, put more of myself into it and slow it way way down was invaluable! I also blew the RE questions and history questions in my mock and that alerted me that I really needed to focus on those areas. The fact that I was showing up as a “teacher” rather than a minister in several instances was again, important feedback that I worked on correcting.

Spiritual practices – You will want to increase your spiritual practices, what ever they may be. I found that doing so centered me and mobilized my energy and integrated body, mind and spirit. If we are unable to rally our inner and outer resources to facilitate our ministerial journey and in the time of our greatest need, then how can we do it for others? Thus, you will want to have identified your preferred spiritual practices long before you are scheduled for the MFC and begin to hone them for times such as these.

Sample Packet from a Friend – Two individuals shared their packets with me. Only ask your closest friend(s). These packets often contain the most intimate and vulnerable glimpses into a persons life, as well as information that you are not aware of. So only ask someone you are really close to. I will be eternally grateful to the individuals that shared theirs. I will be happy to share the outline. The one on the UUA website can be downloaded but you cannot work directly on it. I will be happy to send the outline since I now have it on my hard drive.

Consultation – Although no one informs you of this, you can request a review of your MFC packet and a subsequent consultation with David Pettee, Ministerial Credentialing Director. He will review your packet either prior to the deadline or immediately after you submit it. I am so glad I contacted him. He spotted a couple of things of concern. I was able to edit my packet to reflect his feedback. David knows what the MFC is looking for. We don’t. So utilize his expertise. You do not want any surprises, particularly around anything controversial. Also, the packet you receive from the UUA Administrator will reflect the complete packet including all your transcripts, RSCC letter, CPE Evaluations, Internship Evaluations, Letters of Recommendation, and any other information that has been placed in your file. Something like changing ones mind about an internship that was approved by the MFC and then doing a different internship got flagged in my file. David brought that to my attention and I was prepared to give an explanation about the change. If you have anything controversial in your file then the consultation with David will be very important. Because of the challenges around maintaining fellowship outside of the United States I even talked with David about this decision in the event that the MFC raised question. In other words, there should be no surprises!

MFC Packet – Be thoroughly familiar with your packet. I cannot stress this enough. The MFC reads every single line. Something said to me in confidence that I repeat to you, “If they (MFC) sees smoke, they will assume there is fire and they will investigate any concerns or questions they have.” I was asked about what appeared to be a discrepancy in my transcripts. It was four years ago. I didn’t even recall the incident and they had to remind me of the details before I could respond. They also asked me about a comment that my Internship Supervisor made about my ignoring a reporting protocol and another related incident. They asked me about these issues in relationship to how I deal with authority. By the way, know that you can challenge your CPE supervisor’s evaluations and the final versions will possibly be revised. When I realized they thought that they might be seeing someone that had an issue with authority I had a moment of panic and was entertaining bluffing my way through. Instead, I decided to go with the truth. I told them it was my perception that sometimes some of my supervisors gave us duplicitous tasks that appeared to be busy work and that I sometimes resisted that. Furthermore, I supposed that could come across as resisting authority but that as an adult learner there were times I needed to give them a reality check about their expectations and that I viewed myself as a mutual player in this learning process.

Acquire a Spiritual Director – Some psychology programs require all graduate level students be in therapy as part of their training. As seminarians, I think we are well served by having someone that is helping us think through ministerial formation and other things of a spiritual nature as a good sounding board and to challenge us on our blind spots. The MFC did not ask me if I had a spiritual director, but I have heard of others that were asked this question. Besides, it will look good if they pick up on anything of concern. It demonstrates your maturity, pro-activity and insightfulness. You can also use your spiritual director to help work through any anxiety you might have about your pending MFC process.

Sermon - This is the day to shine and let your minister self be fully present and show up. I think the sermon sets the tone so choose a topic that really sets the mood and demonstrates who you are. I had the most difficulty around this, and made several false starts before I landed on my topic. I was asked for a copy afterwards for the file. I had made last minute changes and had to send it to them afterwards.

First Question – Like the RSCC interview, you provide the first question. There are several strategies, use it to shine and wax eloquently; use it to proactively address something that could be controversial and that you want therefore to be able to take the offensive on; use it for a “deficiency” that you know exists that you want to be able to address and that you have made great stride on.

Notifications and Thank you cards- Send thank you’s to the MFC and emails to the world shouting your good news. And if you got a 2 and you know you are a minister, then buck up after you have a good cry, work with your spiritual director and Meadville staff and prepare to show the MFC that they are wrong! If you get a three, and you know they are wrong, then prove them wrong. I know one person that . . . Ok, that’s another story!