Welcome! My name is Jenna Crawford, and I am just delighted to meet you. I am a first-career UU minister (with a short stint as an outdoor educator in the American Southwest between college and seminary), influenced and moved by science, nature, poetry, community, contemplative quiet, liberation theology, and our spiritual ancestors who were abolitionists, feminists, prophets, and social gospellers.
I received my theological education from Boston University’s School of Theology, the “School of the Prophets,” which has long been a hub for the social gospel and liberatory strands of liberal theological education, as the seminary that trained Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and employed Rev. Dr. Howard Thurman as dean of Marsh Chapel.
I’ve had three “call” (to ministry) moments in my life. First was my own transformative experience participating in my first small group ministry in college, from which point on I felt called to offer presence and witness to folks’ grief and heartache, joys and questioning (one thing about me: I love small groups).
Second was a semester-long call moment during my study abroad program in North India. This trip both called me to ally with self-determination wherever it felt threatened after witnessing the lasting impact that colonial rule had in India, and introduced me to what Episcopal priest Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor calls “holy envy.” Walking on the grounds, through the gurdwara, and inside the Golden Temple in Amritsar (the holiest pilgrimage site in the world for our Sikh siblings and cousins) was an experience I will never forget. Take off your shoes, beloveds, for you are walking on holy ground.
The Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab, India.
And the third was from staring too long at a detailed diagram of the citric acid cycle. At the time, I was studying biochemistry and was enrolled in a food biochemistry class. Because it was an upper-level elective with several chemistry prerequisites, we could get really into the weeds about the host of chemical reactions that make up the citric acid or “Krebs” cycle. So, staring too long at this diagram, I was captivated as I considered how many intricate chemical reactions are underway in our bodies right this second to make it do the things that it does, and how vastly interconnected we are with all of life.
It doesn't have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don't try
to make them elaborate, this isn't
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.
I’m what you could call a “6th Source UU.” My spirituality is deeply influenced by the natural world and spiritual renewal for me comes from time spent in nature. I’ve led backpacking and canoeing trips for kids, youth, and young adults across the United States, from the pristine wilderness of the Adirondacks in New York to the petrified forests and painted deserts of eastern Arizona to the rolling hills of the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. I’ve also had the great joy and even greater privilege of paddling twice in the Adirondack 90 Mile Canoe Race and spending 26 days in the summer of 2014 hiking the John Muir Trail in California, where I swam in my first high alpine lake and carried everything that I needed on my back.
Watching the sunrise from Mt. Whitney in California, on the last day of our John Muir Trail thru-hike.
Interfaith engagement is also a deep passion of mine which, in a way, introduced me to the wonders of lay leadership and ministry. In high school, I organized an Interfaith Leadership Summit for area high school students and, in the doing, got connected to Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Baha'i youth and community leaders, which became another formative moment for me in my winding path toward ministry. In college, being only one of a few UU students on campus at Hamilton College in upstate NY, I found my primary spiritual nourishment through our interfaith student group, and ultimately led those gatherings my last year on campus as Interfaith Senior Chapel Fellow.
I bring with me into the ministry my deep commitment to experiential education from my time as an outdoor educator, a reverence for life from my time studying biology and environmental education, and my deep love of Unitarian Universalism as not just a life-enhancing but a life-saving tradition after how I’ve seen UU churches become refuges and sanctuaries during this heartbreaking pandemic.
I currently live in Brookline, Massachusetts, which is to say the unceded land of the Massachusett and Wampanoag people. When not at the church or studying for the MFC, I’m watching the seasons change, in the infinitesimal way that they do every day, on my runs around Jamaica Pond; on the phone with my trusted spiritual friend (in the Buddhist tradition, this would be called a kalyanamitra); singing hymns with my colleagues; or tucked away in a quiet corner of the nearby coffee shop with a favorite book.