Jun 04 2014

Introducing Nikira Hernandez – First Unitarian’s Field Education Student, 2014-15 by Rev. Nancy Palmer Jones

Published by at 10:38 pm under Minister's Musings

First Unitarian’s leaders, Rev. Geoff, and I are busy making plans for our “Year of Compassionate Troublemaking” in 2014-15. With great joy, I can now announce that our Board of Directors and the Program and Operations Council have accepted my proposal that we welcome Nikira Hernandez as our Field Education student for the coming year.

The Field Education Experience

With this field education placement, First Unitarian returns to serving as a “teaching congregation,” helping to shape the future leaders of our faith movement. Here, Nikira will witness how the members and staff of this program-sized Unitarian Universalist congregation work together to keep this “spiritual cooperative” vibrant and healthy. She will practice her teaching and preaching skills, participate in our social justice work, and help us prepare for our 150th Anniversary Celebration in 2015-16. Her questions and perspectives will help us to see afresh our strengths and the areas where we need to grow. Field education placements are a win-win arrangement for congregants and students alike, as we learn and serve alongside each other.

There is no financial burden to FUCSJ for next year’s field education placement. Instead, we offer the learning environment, the mentoring, and the support. Nikira will spend 12-15 hours a week on-site from September through May. She and I will meet weekly for reflection sessions on the practice of ministry, and together we will develop a Learning-Serving Covenant for each semester, spelling out her learning goals and the areas of ministry on which she will focus. Three to six of our congregants will form a “Teaching Parish Committee,” meeting with Nikira for an hour once a month. This committee provides feedback on her work, answers questions about congregational life, and helps Nikira establish the best practice of collecting and then incorporating lay members’ feedback into her emerging ministerial identity.

My conversations with Nikira, with her references, and with the director of Field Education at PSR have given me a glimpse of the wonderful person we will welcome into our midst for the coming year. I am delighted and grateful that Nikira sought us out as her field education placement. The next section lists her gifts, skills, and experiences. What interests and intrigues you the most? Please feel free to share your hopes and dreams for this new relationship with me at revnpj@yahoo.com. I’ll ponder your messages as I take time in July to rest and rev up for the coming year.


Nikira Hernandez

FUCSJ Nikira Hernandez photo 05-14

Nikira T. Hernandez has just completed her first year in the Master of Divinity program at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, where she has received the Presidential Scholarship, the school’s highest merit award. She received her undergraduate degree in environmental studies from Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts in 2008, with a concentration on environmental justice. At Mount Holyoke, she chaired the team that sponsored Native American History Month, and she served as an officer with the Interfaith Council, which worked to promote tolerance and understanding among all faith groups on campus.

In Santa Cruz over the last few years, Nikira has served on the board of the Coastal Watershed Council. As Vision Keeper for Naraya, A Dance for All People, she has been responsible for the spiritual and administrative wellbeing of this Native American spiritual community. She has also coordinated programs for LGBT youth and foster youth at the Santa Cruz Community Counseling Center and the Diversity Center, as well as serving as speaker and trainer for Triangle Speakers, a speakers’ bureau that works to eliminate fear, prejudice, and hatred against LGBTQ people. In 2004, she founded the Safe Schools Project in Santa Cruz County, recruiting and training local nonprofits and law enforcement agencies to raise awareness of the atmosphere that LGBT youth face on school campuses, to advocate for the enforcement of anti-LGBT bullying legislation, and to catalyze action in each school district.

With her partner, she owns and runs her own business, Light Hands Healing, an energy healing practice with a focus on empowering women to create change.

Nikira’s first official Sunday with us will be Homecoming Sunday, September 7.Please join me in welcoming Nikira Hernandez to our Beloved Community!

You, dearly loved community, have my enormous gratitude for the wonderful year we are completing and for the terrific year to come, which we will create together. May you too find some time for rest and renewal this summer—and may we “make Love visible” in all that we do and say!

With warmth and affection,


Rev. Nancy


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