About Jan Carlsson-Bull

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“At home over the years I have posted as wisdom reminders various pieces that you have written. One is a Thanksgiving blessing you wrote in The Common in 2006:

‘I am thankful for this life and this day. I am thankful for resilience that we might at any point alter our course in this life and this day. I am thankful for imagination that we might transcend our habits. I am thankful for laughter that we might give expression to its many sources. I am thankful for peace, however we find it, however we attain it. I am thankful that together, we might be instruments of peace in a world where hope is too commonly a scarce commodity.’”

Annie Spang
Tribute to Jan, June 2010
First Parish UU,
Cohasset, MA

The Professional Minister

Jan Carlsson-Bull has overseen the outreach and advocacy ventures of one of our flagship congregations, the Unitarian Church of All Souls, New York City, where she served as Assistant Minister for seven years, mentored and cheered on by the late Rev. Dr. Forrest Church and All Souls’ now Senior Minister, Rev. Dr. Galen Guengerich. There she also preached periodically; supervised the DRE and seminary interns; and did considerable pastoral work and trauma response in the wake of the events of September 11, 2001. For the next six years, Jan served as Minister at First Parish Unitarian Universalist in Cohasset, Massachusetts. At First Parish, a smaller congregation in a historic coastal village south of Boston, her ministry was comprehensive—preaching; pastoral care; leading rites of passage; adult education; supervising staff; introducing and leading small group ministry; and guiding the congregation in community building, justice making and denominational engagement. Ready for a change, Jan explored interim ministry and was invited to serve the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Catskills in Kingston, NY. As Interim Minister, Jan is guiding this congregation through the challenging transition between a successful 18-year ministry and a newly called minister to arrive in August 2012. While ministry there has proved deeply satisfying, she realizes that she forges deep connections with individuals and community, as does her husband Dan. She is ready once again for a settled ministry. Throughout Jan’s 14+ years of professional ministry, she has held leadership positions in the community and denominationally, both at the district and national levels.

Jan at Churchdoor Shaking Hands Jan’s 25 years as a Mom/Stepmom in a blended family have served her well in discerning the dynamics of Unitarian Universalist congregations, which she commonly compares to blended families. Her expertise in Developmental Psychology, in which she holds a Ph.D., has enhanced her understanding of a congregation as a learning growing system, ever developing in mind and heart.

The Road to Ministry

Jan has written this about her path to ministry:
If I drew my life as a single line, it would ramble and curve and detour. Ministry is that golden thread that connects it all. It allows me to integrate the seeming incongruities of my life. It’s a search whose fulfillment was growing in me throughout my life. From my earliest “Why’s?” as a child in Presbyterian Sunday school, I have been drawn to matters of God, this life, the “other side,” and why humankind is not so kind and how we can change. As an undergraduate student in philosophy, my questions were far more than academic. As an undergraduate student drawn to the campus ministry and moved by the campus activism of the late Rev. William Sloane Coffin, Jr., I felt my call to ministry, specifically to campus ministry.

Forrest at Jan's Ordination

Plans bend; so did mine. Yet I entered Union Theological Seminary enthralled with New York City and the academic and communal ambience that was Union. Detour after detour ensued. I completed my M.Div. after losing my first husband, a fellow seminarian, in Vietnam. After remarriage and the birth of two wonderful daughters, after the marriage imploded and I divorced, after becoming Unitarian Universalist in 1978, after finishing my Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology in 1986 and marrying Dan a week later and gaining another daughter, after several years of work in the corporate and non-profit sectors and 19 years as a lay leader in the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Montclair, NJ, I found my way to the Unitarian Church of All Souls as Assistant Minister, thanks to the late Rev. Dr. Forrest Church and All Souls’ now senior minister, Rev. Dr. Galen Guengerich. There I thrived. In 1999 I was ordained as a Unitarian Universalist minister, with my life-long hero, Rev. William Sloane Coffin, Jr., preaching my ordination sermon and The Revs. Forrest Church and Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley, both now deceased, sharing the charge.

As a Unitarian Universalist minister, my dreams continue to unfold. I am ever grateful for my mentors and role models and most especially for my wondrously supportive family and extended family who have been alongside me on this continuing journey that is ministry.”

Family, Friends & Fun

Family Photo Rev. Dr. Carlsson-Bull has been married to Dr. Daniel Bull for 25 years. Dan is a. Ph.D. chemical engineer by education but now spends much of his time writing on matters of eco-justice and practicing sustainable gardening. He also holds a black belt in Gōjū-ryū karate. Upon marriage, their family expanded to five. With daughters Shana and Sarah from Jan’s previous marriage and daughter Lisa from Dan’s previous marriage, the Christmas tree was at risk of two stars for several holidays. Blending happens and children grow. Shana and Sarah and Lisa have made it to caring adulthood, with college degrees for all and one graduate degree thus far. Daughter Lisa has worked as a Director of Marketing in New York City and currently does part-time consulting. She and her husband Rob are the parents of Oliver Daniel, Jan and Dan’s first most adorable grandchild and are expecting a little girl in February. Daughter Sarah has worked in community history and taught junior high social studies in Vermont. She and her husband Robb are now the parents of Jan and Dan’s next most adorable grandchild in the world, Forrest Joseph, now 19 months old. Daughter Shana tutors autistic young adults through the Easter Seals program and is partnered with the love of her life, Ray, who is divorced and brings two children into the relationship. Shana adores Maya and Noah, and it seems to be mutual.

Jan’s mother, Lillian White, was an inspiring force for most of Jan’s life. “Mom,” “Gram” and, to her great-grandchildren, “Gigi,” died at the age of 100 ½ just two years ago. She is deeply missed.

Jan on her Boogie Board The Carlsson-Bull – Bull home has always brimmed with friends and family and cats and dogs. Books abound, bikes still clutter the garage, jazz or folk or classical music sounds from the living room, and when the doorbell rings a welcoming woof is heard from Google—their lovable four-legged mutt. Both Jan and Dan are cinemaphiles and bookworms. Jan is also an aquaphile. When summer arrives, she heads to nearest swimming site, but her favorite is the beach. With boogie board in hand and Google occasionally looking on, she rides the waves, an apt metaphor for surf ridden, survived, and now thoroughly relished.

Jan and friends in wildflowers Jan has forged close friendships over the years and tries to keep in close touch with friends whose history she shares. Sometimes this even means crossing the country to reconnect.


About Jan Carlsson-Bull

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