Laurel Hallman, candidate for UUA president

Laurel Hallman, candidate for UUA president

Minister of First Unitarian Church of Dallas emphasizes comfort with religious language, UUA services.
Jane Greer


The Rev. Dr. Laurel Hallman announced her candidacy for the presidency of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations on January 6, 2008. The UUA General Assembly will elect a new president in June 2009.

Hallman’s presidency would focus on developing Unitarian Universalism’s “spiritual maturity,” she said in a recent phone interview. She also emphasized the importance of social justice, growth, religious education, and youth and young adult ministry.

Hallman has been the senior minister of the First Unitarian Church of Dallas, Texas, since 1987. Before that she served as minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Bloomington, Ind., from 1981 to 1987. Prior to becoming a minister, she served as an administrator and religious education director for Unity Church–Unitarian in St. Paul, Minn. A former president of the Southwestern Conference chapter of the UU Ministers Association, Hallman has also served on the Meadville Lombard Theological School board of trustees, the UUA’s Ministerial Fellowship Committee, and the UUA President’s Council. She has a Master of Arts in Divinity degree from the University of Chicago Divinity School, a Doctor of Ministry degree from Meadville Lombard Theological School, and an honorary doctorate from Meadville Lombard.

Hallman cited “spiritual maturity” as one of the UUA’s biggest needs. “We need to learn how to reclaim ourselves as a religious body, as an Association, and then have some clear conversations about what that means,” she said. “We’ve begun to talk about a language of reverence and I want to expand that claim to religious language and practice—and create an umbrella large enough to hold us in our varied experience of the holy.”

During Hallman’s 22-year tenure at First Unitarian Church in Dallas, the congregation grew from 550 members to 1,100 members. The church was recognized by the UUA as a Breakthrough Congregation in 2005. Under Hallman’s leadership, the church adopted a policy-governance model in which the board of trustees makes policy decisions leaving the implementation of policy to the staff. (The UUA Board is moving toward a similar governance model.)

Hallman is attentive to the need for growth in the UUA. “We have to have significant growth strategies that come from noticing growth where it happens and trying to replicate it in other places,” she said. But she said that growth should come as a result of other policies. “If we focus only on growth,” she said, “I think we’ll cheapen our mission.”

She also reaffirmed the importance of the denomination’s commitment to social justice. “I’m interested in social justice issues that are especially aligned with civil rights and freedom,” she said. “Real openness to communities that are traditionally oppressed has been in our history and is very important.”

As a former religious educator, Hallman praised the new “Tapestry of Faith” lifespan religious education curricula currently under development by the UUA. She also expressed interest in strengthening resources for youth and young adults in UU congregations.

Hallman said she feels called to the UUA presidency after spending a year in discernment. “The UUA president is expected to hold many differing opinions—strong opinions—in a kind of tension, but also with equanimity, so that we don’t fly apart,” she said. “I will be expected to use the office to help heal the world and give effective witness to freedom and justice.”

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