Welcome! I am Rev. Catharine Clarenbach, and I am delighted to introduce myself to you!
I have been a spiritual seeker with an unquenchable thirst for Divine Communion since I can remember.
One of my early religious memories is the sound of bells rung during the elevation of the Communion Host during the Sacrament of the Eucharist at St. John’s Catholic Church in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. It was probably sometimes around 1977.
I knelt next to my mother and wondered at what I then believed was a miracle. Along with other early worship experiences, that time, that sense of the miraculous has shaped my heart. While I may no longer believe in transubstantiation, the literal transformation of bread and wine into the body and blood of a god, I still find power, glory, and grace in liturgies of many traditions.
Moving within religious institutions and outside of them, I have both depth and breadth of experience with religion and spirituality. Others might call it a “checkered past.” I suppose it depends on one’s vantage.
I am a fat femme, a trauma survivor, and a queer woman assigned female at birth.
I also have mental illness and visible and invisible physical disabilities.
I am grateful to every community, every person, every grace that has brought me to where I am now.
All these identities and experiences, as well as many others, contribute to the way I see the world and how I yearn and long for an ever-more-powerful connection to my own Deepest, Wisest Self. I have written about many of these identities and their intersections with my spiritual life on The Way of the River blog.
No longer Roman Catholic, not since I came out at age 17, I am now part of two other religious traditions. I have thrown in my lot with their strengths and beauties, faults and failings. I am a Unitarian Universalist minister, and an initiate in the Stone Circle Wicca tradition.
I further describe my theology as Christian-adjacent, because though I am not a believer in the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth, I have nonetheless been powerfully shaped by my love of Christian liturgy, texts, and traditions.
I have been welcomed to shared spiritual life in Unitarian Universalist, Wiccan (and other Pagan), Roman Catholic, Reform Jewish; Mainline Protestant, Quaker, and Pentecostal Christian; and African Diaspora communities. I also spent several years in discernment with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden.
I have happily experienced life with and within religious institutions, and I have also felt constrained by those same institutions. I know many of you share complex identities and relationships with religious institutions.
Despite whatever constraints I have sometimes felt, a whole constellation of religious institutions have brought my work to where it is today as The Way of the River.
I have learned many of my skills in institutional community.
- pastoral counseling
- worship leadership
- spiritual direction (what I call spiritual accompaniment)
I attained my Masters of Divinity with honors from Wesley Theological Seminary in 2014. And after preaching, teaching, offering counsel to and learning from hundreds of people, I was ordained a minister in the Unitarian Universalist tradition in April of 2015.
I am also an initiated priestess in the tradition of Stone Circle Wicca and began my Earth-centered studies in 1990. I have led rituals for thousands of people in ceremonies as large as 400. Most large rituals took place in a Circle of Standing Stones under dozens of branching oaks. Some small ones have been just a couple of folks in a living room.
Finally, I have offered spiritual direction—what I call spiritual accompaniment or sacred conversation—for nearly twenty years, and have been certified by the Urban Spirituality Center in Portland, OR. Over that time, I have companioned people as they encountered, explored, and shared their relationships with the Divine and with their own Deep Selves.
What I Hope For
Traditions and history aside, my desire is to help you experience the gifts I have seen emerge over and over through yearning toward intimacy with the Running Spring of Living Water, the Never-failing Well of Creativity, the Great River that Leads to the Sea of Eternity, the Source of Life and Love.
However you feel called, I encourage you to call back. I encourage you to open your heart and sing out to the Divine Self within and beyond you. I encourage you to sharpen your thirst for the Holy.
Nothing in my life has ever proven so steadfast, so glorious, or so alluring as this yearning, this leaning in toward the Divine.
In our seeking for the One Who Is Many; All Genders and None, many of us gather on Facebook, in The Way of the River Community Group. We share classes, discussions, article, queries, celebrations, and ritual time. Please consider joining us.
I also invite you to subscribe to my weekly “Love Letters,” called simply, Reflections. Reflections may include meditation on the season, the day, or something that I have been pondering in my heart to share with you.
This desire for depth, for wisdom, and for Divine Union is what moves me to be here with you.
To be here.
I am here because you are.