About Rev. Megan

headshot 3I am Unitarian Universalist minister, educator and social scientist living in Los Angeles, California with my partner, as well as a cat named Emerson and a dog named Violet. The relationship between religion/spirituality and health is central to my vocation; it guides my work in community, congregational and academic settings.

Currently, I teach and serve as faculty advisor to theological students at Starr King School for the Ministry, a member school of the Graduate Theological Union, which is located in Berkeley, California, but includes students and faculty members located around the world. I am privileged to partner with students in developing their gifts for ministry and religious leadership through Master of Divinity and Master of Arts programs.

I bring a chaplain’s heart to my research interests in medical sociology. My doctoral dissertation project is a phenomenological study of the religious/spiritual experiences of women of color coping with congestive heart failure. I am committed to working at the interstices of multiple spaces: the academy, clinical practice, justice movements, and global communities of faith. These loyalties have guided me to various exciting projects: teaching didactic seminars and participating in research symposia with hospital chaplains; co-developing an immersion course trekking across Transylvania; creating a congregation-based support group model for people with chronic conditions; and leading trainings on class and classism for leaders.

I hold a BA in Society & Health from Simmons College in Boston and a MA in Ethics and Social Theory from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. I am a PhD Candidate in Sociology at UCSF School of Nursing (expected to graduate Spring 2019).

April 21, 2017

Dear UUA Board,

I woke up this morning, remembering how much gratitude I have to Black organizing and people of color led movements. I also recalled how often Unitarian Universalism has lauded itself on involvement in civil rights movements, and movements that emerged from and followed the lead of Black and brown organizers (in struggles for GLBT rights, marriage equality, women’s rights, youth movements). I sat in gratitude for how these leaders, scholars, theologians, and ministers have shaped me.

Fourteen years ago, my own role and voice on the UUA Board as the first voting youth trustee-at-large was indebted to this history in tangible ways. I recall feeling the support and the charge from youth of color organizers and their allies in YRUU and the Groundwork Collective– those who were naming their realities and putting into practice the lessons from Black and POCI movement elders in our own faith community, and those leaders across the US working across gender and class to win and struggle for racial justice. Two of my mentors and peers from that time are among you: Elandria Williams and Gregory Boyd.

I admit then it felt like immense pressure, and I felt inadequate every step of the way. When the two-year term came to a close, I sobbed through the entire Trustee farewell party. The ENTIRE PARTY. As I observe and dig into this moment and observe your meetings, I am beginning to understand more of the reasons I cried a blend of happy-sad tears that day. I am curious if some of your tears, dear Board members, are of a similar blend.

Today, I see our faith as more broken-open than broken down. I observe more opportunity than fear. I know that $5.3 million for Black Lives of UU is a big commitment, but not nearly as big as what Unitarian Universalism has already accomplished and applauded itself for, on the backs of Black, people of color, and indigenous peoples’ organizing. As a white UU, this turning point represents an opportunity to more fully inhabit my faith: to integrate the part of my faithfulness and call to leadership that have been in deep gratitude and indebtedness to Black and POC organizing, and still broken-hearted, dreaming old dreams not-my-own of what a liberating faith might look like. I know there is JOY in following the leadership of people of color in ministry and in religious education. White people have meaningful work to do, for which there is no substitute or alternative in building a Beloved Community. I am so grateful to be able to witness Black and POCI leadership, and to be listening deeply enough to follow. This is a life force. It keeps me tethered to my faith.

Uncomfortable is not a crisis. It is a necessary step in a movement of embodying the vision of a transformative faith. 
At 33 and still starting out in ministry, I hope to welcome at least a couple of generations into the religion you are unearthing and affirming right now. Thank you.

One of the most memorable imperatives I recall from my time on the UUA Board was the advice, “don’t forget to count the ‘Yes’ votes.” At times, voices supporting our actions would feel softer or quieter than the no’s, than the fear, than the threats, than the spewed and spun misinformation. There is a tremendous YES for what you are collaborating in right now–authorizing funding of BLUU, for bringing three brilliant and fiercely relational interim co-presidents, and for redesigning hiring processes — for countering white supremacy and not shying away from complexity and ambiguity. Yes, yes, yes.

I am grateful for your leadership and eager to support this transformation. Keep going!


Megan R. Dowdell

Visiting Asst Professor of Ethics and Society, Starr King School for the Ministry

UUA Board, 2003-2005

UUA Commission on Appraisal, 2007-2015


Dear UUA Board: Yes, yes, yes!

With Open Arms and Heart


With open arms and an open heart, I have been on a journey of educational and vocational training since Fall 2006. Along the way, I have served Unitarian Universalism and a variety of organizations and causes. As the process draws quickly to its final goals, I keep this post updated to provide current information related to my whereabouts, activities, and availability.

Currently, I am available for preaching and other short-term leadership in the greater Los Angeles area and beyond. After completing clinical pastoral education at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in May 2017, I will seek a position in which I can contributes to the health and spiritual depth of communities and congregations in the greater Los Angeles area through teaching, research, and religious leadership. I will complete my Ph.D. in Sociology by Spring 2018.arm out preaching
From August 2015 to June 2016, I served as the full-time Intern Minister at First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego, California. After my position at First Church ended, I returned to complete my doctoral dissertation (remotely) in Sociology at the University of California San Francisco and continue the final stages of attaining ministerial fellowship with the Unitarian Universalist Association.

Since 2009, I have taught at Starr King School for the Ministry, a Unitarian University identity theological school and member school of the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) in Berkeley, California. I have been serving in the role of academic advisor and the visiting assistant professor of ethics and society since 2014.

I am a proud member of the Greater Los Angeles Ministers (GLAM) cluster meeting in the UU Ministers Association’s Pacific Southwest Chapter, member of the American Sociological Association, and the International Association of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics.los-angeles-1675489_1920

Course: Sexual Ethics

Sexuality is sacred. 

Sexual Ethics, with Megan Dowdell, is an intensive course that examines the role of sexual health for faith communities and their leaders.

It is offered through Starr King School for the Ministry, a member school of the Graduate Theological Union.

sexual-ethicsStudents engage key theological, ethical, and public health perspectives on themes in sexual ethics, including:

  • sexual freedom and responsibility
  • pleasure and desire
  • relationships
  • meaningful consent
  • power
  • prophetic witness for sexual justice

The course serves two purposes for graduate students: it provides a rigorous and supportive academic environment to explore these themes and relevant questions through deep reflection and the co-creation of knowledge. Also, for those students pursuing professional forms of ministry and religious leadership, it is an opportunity to develop and demonstrate their competency in professional clergy sexual ethics and promoting sexually healthy congregations.

Particular emphasis is paid to multi-religious, queer, and womanist/feminist voices on sexuality and faith. This dedication is integrated throughout the course instruction and reflected in the selected readings, forms of dialogue, and pathways to learning provided. Students will not be required to have prior experience in ethics, theology, or philosophy, but those entering without formal preparation in ethics or sociology will need to complete brief introductory reading in addition to the readings and written assignments required for the first day of the seminar. A final project will be announced and turned into the instructor at an assigned date/time.

The general structure is a week-long seminar that meets Monday through Friday from 9:00am to 5:00pm, with ample time provided for nourishing food, spiritual practices, breaks, and solo study time. Students who expect to successfully complete the course should not plan to miss any sessions during the week. Also, they can expect to spend up to three hours on (at least two) weekday evenings, completing additional reading or assignments, possibly in a small group.

Educating Religious Leaders

Megan is the visiting assistant professor of ethics and society at Starr King School for the Ministry, a member school of the Graduate Theological Union, where she has taught since 2009.

She offers a warm introduction to academically rigorous material and real-world applications of new knowledge and skills.

Megan’s pedagogical style is responsive to feminist, queer, and liberatory methods. She embraces student input and self-reflection, wishing to help religious leaders to develop embodied, critical perspectives on issues that span multiple viewpoints, contexts, and concerns. She uses dialogue, multimedia, and case study analysis to cultivate shared meaning that “sticks” with you — take what you learn in the classroom into your professional life and communities.

Courses Taught, 2009-2016

Introduction to Thea/ological Ethics

Community Intern Integrative Seminar

Health Ethics

Sexual Ethics

Dynamic Youth Ministry

Resilience & Resistance


Top 10 of 2018.

  1. Interviewed with the Ministerial Fellowship Committee, concluding an 11 year process.
  2. Celebrated my 34th birthday with my closest friends in Big Bear.
  3. Led a workshop and an affinity group for people with chronic conditions.
  4. Met two precious wonderful newborn twins.
  5. Got engaged in Maui to a very dreamy person!
  6. Flew to Europe by myself, explored Spain with my sweetie.
  7. Co-led a 14 day spiritual hike across Transylvania for 19 North Americans.
  8. Joined an academic writing club and actually wrote.
  9. Best lady-ed at my best friend’s wedding.
  10. Witnessed at the US-Mexico border to support the human right to migrate, affirm the dignity and humanity of asylum-seekers, and demand an end to militarized borders

Prayer for Memorial Day, 2016

On Memorial Day, we honor those men and women who have died while in military service. The day also gives the opportunity to recognize living veterans who continue to struggle with their experiences overseas and the hardship of reintegrating their lives at home.

I’ve heard veterans speak of the “deaths” carried in their hearts and minds, friends they lost in combat, and the pieces of their own souls, forever needing repair and compassion.

When someone passes in our community, we often learn of their achievements, their hobbies and friends, and their fully human lives.On this day, we recognize veterans who served and died, honoring their fully human lives, dedicated and vulnerable, courageous and fragile.

As the memorial poet John McCrae writes: “In flanders fields,” they “lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved.”


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A Desire Prayer

Spirit of Life, help us to see that each life is a miracle,

how our expression of ourselves is not simply born at birth but emerges as our genes and this wild human existence intertwine.

Show us that who we love, what we love, and why, are woven in a rich plaid tapestry of identity and desire.
Help us to become deeply connected to each other’s soul.
Help us to call each other by our “true names.”
Help others to see us.
Help us to stay open, humbly see the beauty in each person’s expression of themselves
on any given day.
Help us to affirm the patchwork of qualities

that make us who we are

that make us happy

that make us beautiful.

Help us to welcome the stranger and the outcast,
help us to see each other whole.
For this and more, we are so grateful.


Would you like to use my words?
Please use full citation for print and web. Please use my name for worship or speech. If you can, send me a message to let me know.