The First Unitarian Universalist Society of Burlington Celebrates the Installation of Reverend Mara J. Dowdall as Settled Minister on March 30, 2014

Reverend Dowdall is the first woman to be inducted as senior settled minister at the First Unitarian Universalist (UU) Society. The board and members feel Dowdall will bring a youthful and inspirationally powerful presence in the pulpit, in groups, and in one-on-one interactions and will further the Society’s mission statement: “to gather together to inspire spiritual growth, to care for each other and our community, and to seek truth and act for justice.”

About her new role, Dowdall says, “I'm excited to think boldly with the members about what Unitarian Universalism and this congregation can offer the world.” She brings a deep appreciation and commitment to social justice, “both in and beyond a congregation,” and feels that this must also be “blended with a commitment to spiritual nourishment and a pastoral presence.”

Dowdall comes to the First UU Society from the Unitarian Church of Montpelier where she served as the minister from 2009-2013. A native of Philadelphia, she now lives in Burlington with her husband, Ben Fowler, and their young son. Her life before ministry included stints in Washington DC at a national women’s rights organization and as an aide to a member of Congress. She also lived and worked in the Boston area for five years, where she interned at the First Parish in Cambridge, served the UU Society of Wellesley Hills as Assistant Minister, and did an interim directorship at the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) headquarters. Dowdall is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Divinity School.

The pending installation of Dowdall serves to affirm the shared ministry relationship between the First UU Society and its new minister going forward. “The ministry I hope for,” Dowdall says, “will be lit with a sense of enthusiasm and possibility. It will be life-giving and challenging, stretching yet sustainable for both minister and congregation.”

 At the heart of the ceremony is an “Act of Installation” in which the President of the Board of Trustees, Chip Patullo, leads the minister and the congregation in a spoken litany of exchanges and commitments. The sermon will be given by Rev. Shawn Newton, Minister of the First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto. Carefully chosen choral music will be led by Music Director Lisa Wolff, including an original hymn titled "The Journey," which was created for this occasion, with music composed by Dr. Thomas Benjamin, currently Minister of Music at the UU Congregation of Columbia, MD, and lyrics by Rev. Dr. Thomas Mikelson, a Unitarian Universalist minister, hymn writer, and Martin Luther King, Jr. scholar. Mikelson, who will participate in this service, is a long-time mentor of Rev. Dowdall, currently serving as Interim Minister of the UU congregation in Saratoga Springs, NY. The First UU's Ministers Emeriti and Emerita will also offer words (by speech or written message), including Revs. Robert Senghas, Gary Kowalski, and Roddy O'Neill Cleary.

The site of the installation is the sanctuary of the First UU Society’s brick Meeting House, which is the oldest surviving place of worship in Burlington and a widely heralded local landmark. It is located at 152 Pearl Street in Burlington, intersecting with the top of Church Street. UU Society members and guests are warmly invited to attend this 4:00 pm service and the festive reception in its parlors immediately afterward. Childcare will be provided. The building is wheelchair-accessible.

Rev. Dowdall is available for interviews.


Office phone: (802) 862-5630, ext 24

Cell phone: (802) 505-1248.

Alternate contact: Christina Fulton, Administrator, First Unitarian Universalist Society;

Office phone: (802) 862-5630, ext. 22

Further information: the website of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Burlington, Vermont:

Mailing address: First Unitarian Universalist Society, 152 Pearl Street, Burlington, Vermont 05401

More Information About the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Burlington

We’re here to inspire spiritual growth, care for each other and our community, seek truth, and act for justice. We’re here for you.

Who are we?

The First Unitarian Universalist Society of Burlington is a congregation dedicated to justice, compassion and spiritual awakening. Our intentionally diverse community includes Christians, Pagans, Jews, Humanists, Buddhists, and more–united in their belief that religion should build bridges of understanding among the world’s varied faith traditions.  Whatever your race, creed, gender or sexual orientation, we welcome you.

What do we believe? UU’s believe in:

•    The inherent worth and dignity of every person;

•    Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations;

•    Acceptance of one another and encouragement of spiritual growth in our congregations;

•    A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;

•    The right of conscience and the use of democratic process within our congregations and society at large;

•    The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all;

•    Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

What is our history?

Our Society was founded in 1810. Many Unitarian Universalist churches trace their origins to the very beginnings of this country. Famous Unitarians include American founders like John and Abigail Adams and Thomas Jefferson, poets and essayists like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, reformers and visionaries like Susan B. Anthony and Buckminster Fuller.

What are worship services like?

We honor our Jewish and Christian roots, and also reach out to know the great truths found in other religious expressions. Our gatherings begin with ringing a meditation bell, inviting heightened awareness and appreciation of the moment. Inspirational readings from scriptures, poetry and modern literature are included along with music and, typically, reflections from one of our ministers. We also offer children’s Religious Education (RE) programming through classes which meet most Sunday mornings during our 9:00 or 11:00 services.