Once upon a time, I was raised alongside my two older brothers in an old Victorian house by the ocean. I always wanted to serve the church, but if ministry hadn’t worked out, I would have aspired to be a novelist, an editor of history books, or a princess.
In middle school, I discovered CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien and made it a life goal to one day study in Oxford so that I could walk in their footsteps. In high school, in between theater productions, I sang in my church choir and also helped lead music for contemporary services. I loved theater, and while I was more effective behind the curtains than in front of them, I grew to value good lighting and costume design and still hope to one day see one of the stage plays I wrote be performed.
In college, I double-majored in theology and history because since I knew I wanted to go to seminary for grad school, my middle brother convinced me that I should study something other than theology to have a broader worldview. If I hadn’t chosen to study abroad three times–once in Rome and twice in Oxford–I might have triple-majored in Creative Writing as well.
Instead, I studied medieval witchcraft in Oxford, which remains one of the most incredible experiences of my life so far. When I came back from Oxford, I won a research award for my history thesis, “Fashion…Gone With The Wind: Civil War Gowns from the Nineteenth Century to the Twentieth,” exploring Scarlett O’Hara’s clothing and the history behind what she would have worn in the 1936 novel as well as the costume design of the 1939 film. I also completed a theology capstone project, “The Veils of Abraham’s Daughters,” chronicling the history, fashion, scriptural justification, and politics of headscarves in the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian traditions.
After college, it was important to me to do a service year because I hadn’t been able to take part in a church community in college or spend much time volunteering. I believe that ministry is about people, service, and God more than it is about academic knowledge, so I didn’t want to go from one school straight into another. I moved to Washington, DC, where I worked as a long-term volunteer at a non-profit dedicated to ending the cycle of poverty in the district. I led activities in low-income housing buildings and helped manage a food pantry at our headquarters.
Seminary was a revelation in terms of experiencing diverse worship styles and talking about God with people from all kinds of backgrounds and perspectives. I came to consider conversations in the dining hall every bit as important as those in classrooms. After my first year, I had the privilege of being able to serve my DC church as a summer intern, learning more about urban ministry and mission work.
After finishing three years of classes, I spent a year at a VA home working with a retired army chaplain, learning about ministry to the elderly and caring for the dying and the grieving. I believe that if we truly believe in the Resurrection, we should be comfortable confronting death and aspire to someday study mortuary science in order to better minister to a Church made up of humans who will grieve and die and be overwhelmed by those processes. After finally completing my M.Div, I have been working in a psychiatric office for real world professional experience.
In my spare time, I enjoy reading, swing and contra dance, Star Trek, bragging about my niece, learning new sea chanteys, catching up with friends across the country, infusing vodka, painting my nails, and fantasizing about throwing an elaborate tea party with Martha Stewart as the guest of honor.
Notable objects that moved into the manse with me include the Doctor Who scarf I spent 18 months knitting, a collection of black and white photos of some of my favorite silver screen actresses, a framed calligraphy of 1 Corinthians that remains one of my favorite college graduation presents, and the sewing machine my grandmother bought me in 2002.
Now that I’ve moved to Michigan, I look forward to seeing the penguin exhibit at the Detroit Zoo, going to Hell, not having to share a kitchen with multiple roommates, adopting a cat to kill spiders for me, finally figuring out what ice caves are, and attempting to survive my first winter.
As I settle in, I hope to get to know all of you and share in the life of this congregation. I would love to have you stop by the office, set up a time to meet up for coffee, tea, or drinks (or whatever), get a walking tour of Milan from a local, hear about your favorite places, or talk about your dreams for the church’s future and what the church has done in the past that has been meaningful for you! You can email me at [email protected]
Shalom and agape,
Rev. Leia Rose Battaglia