On this page, you will find three letters of recommendation: My former supervisor at First Unitarian Universalist Society in Newton, a former congregant at First Unitarian Universalist Society in Newton, and my advisor at Boston University School of Theology.
Letter from Director of Lifespan Religious Education at First Unitarian Universalist Society in Newton
I write to you today to share my highest recommendation of Danielle (Dani) Lindstrom for the ministry. Dani possesses the maturity, the judgement, the intellect, and the compassion to make an exceptional minister. For two years during Dani’s graduate theological education, I served as Dani’s supervisor and mentor while she worked as a Youth Programs Coordinator for the First Unitarian Universalist Society in Newton. Never before have I seen such dedication and growth in someone I have supervised.
From the time of her interview, the search committee and I were impressed with Dani’s ability to speak eloquently to her experience working at Victoria’s Secret in terms ministering to people through helping them feel good about their bodies, which highlighted her ability to provide ministry in nontraditional environments. When Dani arrived at FUUSN, I had recently started envisioning a new model of youth ministry for our congregation. Without knowing whether or not this model would be successful, Dani experimented and explored with an open mind and an open heart. She built rapport with the youth, identifying the strengths of individual youth and pulled them into leadership. Over the two years she worked with the program, Dani worked with an outspoken teen, “Lisa,” who was clearly not interested in youth group and was struggling with the transition to high school. Dani connected her with childcare gigs in the congregation and sought Lisa’s input and invited her to co-lead a childcare training for the 8th graders. By the next year, Lisa was involved in more youth programs and developed a deeper sense of confidence, which led to Lisa’s nomination to serve as a youth member on the congregation’s Board of Trustees, where she is thriving.
Furthermore, Dani assembled a group of adults to serve as a Youth Ministry advisory team, involving all of the adults working with youth. This included the Advisors of Youth Teachers, the Advisors of Youth Group, the Advisors of Coffee House, a few ad hoc members with a history in working with the congregation’s youth, and occasionally the Coming of Age Coordinating Team. Building the relationships with and amongst these youth deepened the commitment level of these adults to the programs, to each other, facilitating communication and building buy-in to the programs. When it took longer than anticipated to fill Dani’s role after her departure, the strength of this group made it monumentally easier to continue to support Youth Ministry in her absense. Dani easily and naturally connects with both youth and adults and draws out their strengths. Because of the solid foundation Dani created and the intentionality she put into her transition, our youth ministry has become more successful than ever this year.
Despite balancing a full course load with her 15-hour/week job at FUUSN, Dani consistently engaged deeply in the FUUSN community, committing to not only do her job well, but to also build the programs and leave them better than how she found them. Knowing that she would eventually leave, Dani carefully documented her process in running each of the many components of our Youth Ministry program in Google folders, clearly organized in a way that would make them accessible for other people and building the capacity of our program. She developed a guide to orient someone new to the work to ensure the utility of her work.
Dani’s investment expanded beyond the work she did with our youth programs. As our Religious Education staff team became more collaborative, Dani deeply engaged and devoted the time and energy to explore, address, and improve both the macro and micro elements of the program. Her curiosity about the attitudes of adults toward youth leaving after Coming of Age led us to jointly meet with parents of all age groups, exploring reasons for participation in religious community and promoting the engagement of children, youth, and families throughout the entire lifespan. Time and time again, Dani stepped up to draft job descriptions for volunteers, to take notes, to plan meetings, and to offer critical analysis, based on information learned in meetings. She is reliable and trustworthy.
Not one to shy away from conflict or challenge, Dani speaks up about issues she finds challenging, whether evaluating the potential racism in an organizational partner or naming impact in interpersonal relationships. While speaking her truth, she does so with love and respect, allowing for constructive ways forward and for healing to occur. Her judgement seems to come from a depth of reading, training, conversations with others, and a deep inner wisdom, and she is able to explore how to make decisions that benefit everyone and how to strategically disappoint people when that is necessary as well. Dani engaged in practices of seeking peer support as necessary, both through supervision and through her leadership with the UU Boston Area Youth Staff (UUBAYS) group, grounding herself in community and affirming best practices.
Dani’s confidence grew tremendously as her knowledge and experience grew. As she needed less and less scaffolding, she would speak up regarding how to get the support and freedom she needed to do her job well. With Dani, I find it challenging to think of areas of needed growth. The growth I witnessed in her over the two years we worked together demonstrated the passion, commitment, and dedication needed to endure through the sometimes challenging work of ministry.
Rowan Van Ness, Director of Religious Lifespan Education at First Unitarian Society in Newton
Letter from Congregant at First Unitarian Society in Newton
I am delighted to provide this letter of reference for Dani Lindstrom. Dani served as the Youth Programs Coordinator at First Unitarian Society in Newton for two years and I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work with her.
I was on the hiring committee when Dani first interviewed at FUSN. Because Dani was not living in the area when she applied for the position, we had to interview her via Skype. I am generally not a fan of Skype interviews because they can feel stilted and awkward and it’s hard to get a good sense of the candidate. However, as anyone who knows Dani knows, her warmth and enthusiasm and good-heartedness radiated from the screen upon first blush. She shared her interests and experience and it was clear immediately that she would be a terrific youth advisor for our congregation’s teenagers. My favorite answer during her interview was when we somewhat jokingly asked her about her experience as a sales associate at a mall lingerie shop—we told her she was our first applicant who ever had a resume quite like that. We loved her answer—she waxed poetic about how finding a good fitting bra for frustrated customers is a ministry of sorts. She had us at hello in the interview.
Once Dani arrived at FUSN she was a natural fit with the teenagers—she had all the pieces that matter in youth ministry, warmth and compassion, positive energy, self-deprecating humor, sound judgement, hipster cred, and, most importantly, a strong commitment to fostering youth leadership. She modeled a thoughtful and accessible spiritual practice for the kids. In addition to working well with our congregation’s youth, she was highly respected by parents, congregants, and her colleagues on the church staff. I have worked with many youth advisors over the past 15 years at FUSN and I can unequivocally say that Dani was our best one!
In addition to being a terrific youth advisor, I was very impressed by Dani’s programmatic and administrative strengths. Dani is a strong communicator and project manager. In addition to her ministerial strengths that enabled her to run a strong youth program, Dani was successful in putting together job descriptions, policies, and programmatic operating manuals for future youth advisors at FUSN. These serve as a blueprint for our current youth advisor and future youth advisors at our church.
I spent the second year that Dani was with us at FUSN telling her that I was sad that she would be leaving us! She has that “spark of divinity” within that will make her a wonderful minister. We are so fortunate that she shared her gifts with us for a short time at FUSN.
Letter from Boston University School of Theology Advisor
I am very pleased to write on behalf of Danielle Lindstrom, a candidate for ordination in the Unitarian Universalist Association. I have known Danielle for a little over three years, and I served as her academic advisor in the latter half of her Master of Divinity program at Boston University School of Theology. I met Danielle midway through her academic program. Her advisor has left the school, and I was assigned to be her advisor. Although many of our students need more direction, Danielle thrived even when she was not receiving much institutional support. Her academic work was consistently excellent,
and she was continually reflecting on vocational matters and engaging in experiences and taking courses that would prepare her for ministry. I was extremely impressed by her maturity and the focused progress she was making toward ordination.
As an advisor, I worked with her in selecting courses and conducted a mid-degree assessment, which is an extensive review of her progress in the program. In this conversation, I was able to listen to her reflect on how her studies were shaping her theologically and how her UUA identity was growing in a place that did not always support or recognize her tradition. In a United Methodist school (although
there are a variety of traditions represented here), Danielle was able to articulate differences, distinctions, and alliances that will be vital for her ministry. She is well prepared to interface with leaders of other faiths and to find productive ways to address critical social and economic issues from various faith perspectives.
She was instrumental in organizing the UU student group at BU School of Theology. What impressed me was the level of commitment that Danielle had to mentoring students who were in the beginning stages of the program. I was so impressed by her level of reflection she displayed in the mid-degree conversation that I asked her to contribute to the process of assessing how we approach spiritual formation at the school. At my request, she organized a special meeting of the UU group to discuss what it would look like to approach spiritual formation as a UU student. Her involvement with this group
made a deep impact on the STH community, and the mentoring model that she put in place continues.
A side note: An old friend wrote me an email out-of-the-blue and said that she decided to attend a local church, because she had recently moved to Davis, CA. She was extremely delighted when she discovered that the person leading worship was a former student of mine. She wanted to write and tell me that she was so impressed by Danielle’s poise,
warmth, and wisdom. I had no doubt that Danielle would find a home in ministry. I believe that her ministry will continue to impress and that it will deepen in unanticipated ways.
Sincerely, Dr. Shelly Rambo