Rev. Catharine Is Currently On Medical Leave

Rev. Catharine Is Currently
On Medical Leave

Rev. Catharine Is Currently
On Medical Leave

Reflection and Gratitude [Rev. Karen Lee Scrivo]

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Reflection and Gratitude [Rev. Karen Lee Scrivo]

Rev. Karen Scrivo is one of my colleagues in Unitarian Universalist ministry, a friend, and a former client. She and I have shared many of the ups and downs of community ministry, including what it means to be an entrepreneurial minister in a system built around bricks-and-mortar congregations. She remains devoted to social justice and the particular needs of her area — Prince Georges County, Maryland (just outside DC). Her connection with other religious leaders outside Unitarian Universalism is notable and necessary. Several years ago, I had the privilege of coaching Karen through her Ministerial Fellowship Committee preparation, as well as delivering the Charge to the Minister at her ordination. I so appreciate not only her work, but her ways of being in the world. I give you the last of the July guest series, written by Rev. Karen Scrivo!


Catharine calls Reflections, her weekly “love letter” to those of us who have found the inclusive and affirming community she created here at The Way of the River. This week’s Reflections is a love letter to my dear friend and spiritual companion Catharine, who is taking some much-needed time off to tend to her health and prioritize her own healing.

I’m honored to fill this space today as we wrap up a month of moving Reflections by members of the WOTR Community. Oscar Lewis Sinclair shared about his own “being laid low” and the importance of presence. Sara Goodman reminded us of “the interdependent web of community” and how critical it is for our wellbeing. And Jack Mandeville invited us to walk with him “along the ledge of the roofline” and allow “something new to grow…”

Each of these authors capture a part of what is at the heart and soul of Catharine’s spiritual presence and her work: being fully present, supporting the spiritual growth of others and creating a nurturing and inclusive community. She does this through Reflections, Beloved Selfies, her annual Going into the Dark virtual retreat, spiritual accompaniment for individuals and groups, shepherding aspiring Unitarian Universalist ministers through our complicated credentialing process, creating and leading rituals, and so many other ways.

Like many here, I have been blessed by Catharine’s spiritual ministry. I met Catharine in 2010 at a year-long Healthy Congregations training for lay leaders. She had just been accepted to Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC and I had just started as a low-residency part-time student at Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley (California) and working as an interim religious educator at a Maryland congregation.

I’m now an ordained UU community minister focusing on justice and education in the DMV (District, Maryland, Virginia) area. Before that, I was a journalist, Montessori elementary teacher, a religious educator and a manager for a State Department study program bringing international journalists to the United States.

Soon after our paths crossed, Catharine and I began meeting for breakfast at a local café. We shared our hopes and dreams, successes and disappointments and wonderings along the way. After she moved to Portland (Oregon) for her ministerial internship and decided to stay, we continued connecting through online chats and Zoom conversations.

We’ve supported each other through seminary, internships, the UU credentialing process and our own entrepreneurial ministries as well as the ups and downs of our lives and relationships – including our own.

Neither of us have congregations in the traditional sense but we’re both pastors in the communities we serve and spiritual companions to those we journey with and whose paths we cross. I’ve witnessed and cheered on many of Catharine’s ministerial dreams. And I’ve even been a beta tester for some of them.

When Catharine began formal training to become a spiritual director and needed clients, I signed up and stayed on long after she received her certification. Catharine often gently reminded me to be truly being present to the moment I’m in. Not easy for someone with a monkey mind who’s often jumping several steps ahead. She also encouraged me to accept myself as I am – imperfections and all. I’ve also become more faithful to my daily spiritual practices, as a result of our time together.

It was during one of our sessions that I wondered out loud if she’d help me prepare for my final interview with the Ministerial Fellowship Committee, the UU credentialing body. This involved writing volumes about meeting their requirements and preparing for the interview that included an opening reading and preaching a short homily. Catharine said ”Yes!” and read through my many-paged application, listened to my homily, offered clear, actionable feedback and cheered me on throughout the process including the day of the interview. I was welcomed into the fellowship of UU ministers and this was the beginning of her successful MFC Coaching practice.

In 2015, Catharine launched her The Way of the River blog that grew into Reflections, a website and the creation of this caring community. Her Reflections have reminded me of the rich contemplative practices of my Catholic upbringing, my love of liturgy and ritual and my need for daily doses of music, beauty, poetry and art. Her deep sharing of her personal journey has helped me become more aware and inclusive of those whose lives are different than my own. It’s a weekly spiritual repast that replenishes and renews my spirt.

I also look forward to Beloved Selfies, Catharine’s Monday morning call to “notice each other’s beautiful face and complex nature.” I so enjoy seeing everyone each week. I feel more connected to this incredible on-line spiritual and caring community. As someone who’s more comfortable behind the camera, it’s been harder to post my own picture each week no matter how I feel or look. But it’s been a gift that helps me accept my whole and imperfect self.

At the end of the year, I try to participate in Catharine’s Going into the Dark virtual retreat. It is such a welcome pause during this hectic time of year. It gives me the space and time to reflect on the passing year and plant seeds for the new one. I’m also learning to embrace the dark rather than running from it. For this is where unseen and often silent beginnings occur.

Throughout the years, I’ve also enjoyed participating in Pagan celebrations Catharine has created for Samhain (Oct 31-Nov 1), when the veil between the world of the living and the dead is the thinnest; Imbolc (Feb 1-2), that pays homage to Brigid and celebrates increasing daylight, and others. I know I have been changed for the good for having known Catharine and being part of The Way of the River Community. It’s hard to imagine where I’d be had our paths not crossed. I give thanks often for the day they did those many years ago. And I am so saddened by the health challenges she’s currently facing. While I can’t be there physically, I’m sending her the words to “Sending You Light,” by Melanie DeMore.

“I am sending you light, to heal you, to hold you
I am sending you light, to hold you in love
I am sending you light, to heal you, to hold you
I am sending you light, to hold you in love.

No matter where you go
No matter where you’ve been
You’ll never walk alone
I feel you deep within

I am sending you light, to heal you, to hold you
I am sending you light, to hold you in love
I am sending you light, to heal you, to hold you
I am sending you light, to hold you in love …”

I hope you’ll join me in sending Catharine light. And if you get a chance, send her a love letter too!

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