Our Stories: Lisa Moore
by Janet Meyer
Our new intern minister, Lisa Moore, has been engaging with our Fellowship entirely online due to Covid. With Lydia’s upcoming sabbatical, we thought it would be good idea for all of us to get to know her a little better. On a recent afternoon, we spoke about her calling to UU ministry, her impressions of our Fellowship so far, and her hopes and vision for her future ministry.
Lisa was born and raised in a middle-class Catholic household in Joliet, Illinois. Her mother worked in HR, and her father was a police officer. She said that she heard early inklings of a call when she was very young, but found it unappealing. “Get thee to a nunnery, did not resonate with me.”
She moved out to Colorado in 1986 to finish college and stayed, graduating from Metro State with a BS in Management (she says, “emphasis on the BS”). Life took her through a winding path of jobs before she went to massage school, and she eventually was licensed as a massage therapist. She remembers giving massages to family and friends most of her life. “Healing touch came naturally for me.”
In Denver, she attended St. John’s Episcopalian. Although she loved the church and the architecture, over time, she was turned off by the patriarchy of Christian religions. Primarily on her own, she explored paganism and wicca and other earth centered spiritual expressions. She had a daughter (Tala) and weekends filled with the usual distractions of family life.
Eventually, Lisa found herself longing for spiritual community. She wanted something broader and more progressive than the Christian churches she’d experienced. A friend introduced her to Judaism, but when Lisa met with a rabbi, he recognized that she was a UU at heart, and sent her on to Revs. Jim and Nan Hobart, at the First Unitarian Society of Denver. Immediately, she was thrown into committee work, which we joked might be a kind of UU baptism. She was assigned a “first friend,” who helped her get acquainted with the community. She got involved doing hospitality, making coffee, serving as a greeter, working on the nominating committee, and eventually did everything except the board. I asked her, how did she go from this normal congregational involvement to a call to ministry?
“I had an emotional breakdown due to some personal issues at home.” When her life went off the rails, the congregation stepped in and helped her. “They helped me find a place to live, helped me pack and move, while I just cried. They kept loving me and got me through it.” Although she couldn’t see it at the time, after she was through it, Lisa could appreciate what they had done. “The combination of that UU congregation and my dog kept me alive.”
She received help from the Mental Health Center of Denver, which was instrumental to her recovery, and learned to manage her challenges. She especially found a year-long program of DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) valuable in her healing journey. “That’s where I really heard my call. Before that, I had been trying to live into the ideals of other people, not me.” In order to acknowledge her call, she had to go through the process of getting and staying mentally healthy. Once she got clear, she applied to Meadville, in Chicago, the seminary she attends right now.
Lisa found her way through the stigma and shame of poverty and mental health issues to follow her path. And the lessons she learned along the way are with her still. She credits the skills she learned through DBT as helping her during the pandemic. “I dance with ADD, depression, and anxiety. Sometimes they lead, and sometimes I do. Now I do most of the leading.”
I asked her what her impressions are of our Fellowship so far. “You guys are wonderful. So much grace and kindness, it is amazing!” She is reminded of trainer Rev. Nancy Bowen, at Russell Lockwood Leadership School, talking about the power of unconditional love, the notion that “there is nothing you can do that will stop me from loving you.” This is the power of a covenantal religion. At the Fellowship, she sees that even when there is conflict, we’re still here, still showing up. She sees examples of our congregation actively work toward creating beloved community here, striving to practice unconditional love in many areas of our Fellowship. It is clear that it’s what we value, it’s what strive for.
She also is aware of and excited by the potential of what is to come, as the pandemic loosens its grip, and we can move into the building. We will offer ourselves and our building as a resource to the community around us, embodying our commitment. And, at the same time we are extending an invitation to the wider world to connect with us, we will work to stay connected to one another.
When your time here is done, where do you think you’re headed, I ask her? She envisions more of an entrepreneurial ministerial path, perhaps working with people with mental health differences. Helping people find balance both outside themselves with the larger world, and within themselves.
And she hopes to indulge in some spiritual wanderlust. As part of her seminary studies, she went to Transylvania for walking pilgrimage in 2018. And then in 2019, she studied at Tsubaki Grand Shrine in Japan, which has a partnership with UU seminaries in US. Lisa is looking forward to doing more spiritual travel.
Until then, she’ll be at home with her partner Patrick Phillips, and her 7-year-old lab mix, Sonja.
She describes Patrick as a quiet, introverted 6’4” ginger. He works in construction, and “can fix anything!” She likes to ride her bike and has already done two or three century (100 mile) rides. She also enjoys lots of other physical activities including lifting weights, yoga, hiking. She enjoys reading and would like to start knitting again.
I hope that you’ll get a chance to get to know Lisa during her time here at the Fellowship.