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Petaluma Profile: New UU minister surfs, cooks and works for social justice

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It’s time to welcome a new face to town.

After a long search, The Unitarian Universalists of Petaluma’s have offered Rev. Jeremiah Kalendae the opportunity to be their minister. Kalendae, who began work the first of August, describes himself as, “The newcomer, just learning and listening.”

Harkening back to his small-town Ohio roots, Kalendae’s “get involved” experiences began in high school, where he was a senator in student government, and co-founder of his school’s Queer Alliance.

Finishing high school a year early, Kalendae studied psychology and sociology at Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio.

“Moving from a very conservative community, I hung around with artists, freaks, and gay rights activists, and my moral conscience was awakened,” he explains. “I helped organize Food Not Bombs, and Free Tibet and became President of the Gay/Straight/Queer Alliance.”

Kalendae then earned his MSW in Social Work Management as a Mendel Scholar and student body president at Case Western Reserve University. His involvement with community economic development issues led directly to a position as special assistant to Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell.

“My body may be from Ohio, but my soul is Californian,” Kalendae says, describing his move to the Bay Area, where he earned his Master of Divinity at UU’s Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley. This led directly to a fellowship at the First Unitarian Church of Cleveland, and becoming a ministerial intern at the 1,650-member All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“They had several services each week, so I had a crash course in parish ministry,” recalls Kalendae. “But I had no idea how conservative Tulsa was, and although it was a really cool experience, I wouldn’t want to go back.”

Instead, Kalendae spent four years of clinical residency in spiritual care and counseling at the Cleveland Clinic’s world-class Heart Center.

“It was incredibly emotionally intense,” he says. “Between hospice patients and emergency admissions, I was providing chaplain services for an average of 16 deaths a day, and also working with Dr. Tanya Edwards to establish the Center for Integrative Medicine, to provide a spiritual component to plans of care.”

When asked how he coped with the stress, Kalendae laughs and says, “I ate. I gained over 50 pounds.”

Drawn back to California in 2010, Kalendae became the First Unitarian Society of San Francisco’s “Beyond Sunday” minister. Three years later, he was appointed Director of Admissions and Recruitment at Starr King, and also taught Eastern philosophy and theology, Hindu, Christian, Islamic and Buddhist traditions, and counter-oppressive social change.

“I felt very blessed to be able to return to the school that served as the foundation for my own spiritual formation and path to professional religious leadership,” he says.

Although it sounds like Kalendae spends a lot of time in practical spirituality, he also enjoys a number of other pursuits, including Ashtanga yoga, silent meditation, vegetarian/vegan cooking, traveling, rock climbing, spending time with friends and family, surfing, and “trying to dance.” His first sermon in the new position will be part of the all-ages “Water and Stones” service, beginning at 11:30 a.m., Sept. 9, and will be immediately followed by a picnic.

The Unitarian Universalists of Petaluma meet at 625 Middlefield Drive.

“I am so excited to embark on this new ministry,” says Kalendae. “The Search Team sold me on Petaluma by sharing how they want someone who will help them grow, and how my multiple experiences can help shape our gifts to meet the needs of the world.”

(Contact Gil at gilmansergh@comcast.net)