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Top Unitarian Seminary Schools

by Jennifer Spirko
The flaming chalice is a symbol of Unitarian Universalism, which has two seminaries and relationships with a third.

The flaming chalice is a symbol of Unitarian Universalism, which has two seminaries and relationships with a third.

In 1961, the Unitarian church in the United States officially merged with the Universalist faith, creating the joint denomination known as the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. Unitarian Universalism requires commitment to a set of principles but has no creed, making its path to clergy unusual among mainstream religions. The faith’s acceptance of a variety of religious traditions also means that its ministers can pursue their studies at a variety of seminaries. However, there are only two official Unitarian Universalist seminary schools in the U.S., with a third closely affiliated.

Clergy Education

The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations has established a set of rigorous requirements for becoming a minister, including mastery of a reading list, sponsorship by a Unitarian Universalist congregation and an internship. Among these requirements is a Master of Divinity degree or its equivalent; the UUA’s Ministerial Fellowship Committee determines the validity of such proposed equivalents. The committee has approved a long list of colleges around the United States and Canada whose Master of Divinity programs may meet the degree requirement.

Meadville Lombard

In Chicago, Meadville Lombard Theological School offers four accredited degree programs in religious study, including a doctorate. It is the older of the two Unitarian Universalist seminary schools, founded first in Pennsylvania in 1844. In the 2011-12 academic year, the school had 114 matriculated students and a full-time equivalent of 58.52. In addition to scholarships available from the UUA, Meadville Lombard also offers several financial aid packages, including three full scholarships.

Starr King

Founded in 1904, Starr King School for the Ministry, in Berkeley, California, took its current name in 1941 to honor 19th-century minister Thomas Starr King. Its two master’s programs are both accredited. As of the 2012-13 academic year, the school had its largest population, with 87 students. Like Meadville Lombard, Starr King offers a variety of financial aid options, including endowed scholarships.

Harvard Divinity

The UUA has had a long, historic relationship with Harvard Divinity School, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Affiliated with one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in North America, Harvard Divinity's mission focuses on a specifically multidenominational education. Today, Harvard Divinity is the United States' oldest nonsectarian seminary school. In the 2011-12 academic year, it had 339 students in its four accredited graduate degree programs.

About the Author

Jennifer Spirko has been writing professionally for more than 20 years, starting at "The Knoxville Journal." She has written for "MetroPulse," "Maryville-Alcoa Daily Times" and "Some" monthly. She has taught writing at North Carolina State University and the University of Tennessee. Spirko holds a Master of Arts from the Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-on-Avon, England.

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