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Profile: Rev. Sean Dennison


Many thanks to the Rev. Sean Dennison for allowing Transfaith to post his #DailyPrayer offerings on the Transfaith Facebook page. You can find them at 8am every morning. We thought we would start with Sean as our first Transfaith profile of the new year, so you can get to know the man behind those posts a little better.

How would you describe your spiritual or philosophical perspective?

I am a Unitarian Universalist. Many people don't know what that means, so here's my personal definition: We're a movement of about a thousand congregations with a long commitment to religious freedom and social justice. We emerged from Christian and Jewish roots, and now welcome people of any spiritual or religious persuasion (or none.)

How has your spiritual or philosophical perspective evolved over time? What kinds of opportunities and challenges have shaped your perspective?

I began in mainline Christianity, became a fundamentalist Christian, then left religion altogether. I returned as a young parent because I intuitively knew that my son needed more hope and love than I could provide him. I found Unitarian Universalism and was thrilled that they offered both love and hope without enforcing a particular dogma. Raising a child of color and then coming out as a trans guy, I was very lucky to find a community that lived up to its ideals of Love.

How do you see your work (vocation, calling, advocacy, role, etc) in the world? How does your spiritual or philosophical perspective relate to your work?

My calling in the world is to help liberal religion (not just Unitarian Universalism) become or stay relevant in the world. I do this by living with authenticity and integrity and inviting others to do the same and by helping congregations and systems to adapt to the changes around them. When asked to summarize my beliefs, I tell people, "I believe you are enough. You are loved. You can make a difference. And you don't have to do it alone." Each of those statements is deeply rooted in my the[y]ology and in Unitarian Universalist history. I work hard to help create communities where people can grow and learn and practice becoming people who really live up to those core beliefs.

When do you feel the most vibrant and alive?

I feel the most vibrant and alive when I'm involved in making art. Another big part of my ministry is trying to reconnect art and soul. I teach and write poetry, am working on an autobiographical novel, paint, and perhaps most importantly, support a number of artists and musicians so they can bring their gifts to the world. I'm also working to create something called "Cabaret Church." It exists mostly online, but we'll have our first gathering on May 31, 2015. Imagine a tent revival meets art festival meets cabaret and you're pretty close to what we hope the day will be.

What kinds of issues or concerns do you think need more attention in the world?

The most pressing issue of our day is meanness and all the ways it plays out in the world. I don't just mean individual people being mean, but systemic oppression like racism, ableism, misogyny, classism, homophobia, transphobia...and any other kind of hating. We've been steeped in these cruel systems and unfortunately, have all internalized their meanness. Sometimes we aim it at ourselves, sometimes at others. We have a lot of work to do to dismantle these systems and do the personal work of living in ways that are ever more compassionate and kind.

Read more:

In NY Times "Transgender Today" (2015)

Rev. Sean Parker Dennison Installed as U.U. Minister in McHenry (2013)

Gender change gives McHenry pastor unique insight (2012)

Honor the Transgender Day of Remembrance (2012)

My Story: The Integrity of the In-Between / Mi Historia: La Integridad de lo Intermedio (2006)

Relevant Websites:

Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation

Unitarian Universalist Association 

Cabaret Church on Facebook

Minstrare (blog)


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