In addition to her divinity degree, Slabon has a masters
in social work and is a licensed clinical social worker, while
Tollerud is a licensed professional counselor. They say they
may return to open a private practice in the area.
When the Rev. Linda Slabon and her partner Toni Tollerud
arrived 26 years ago to serve the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
of DeKalb, they were still in the closet.
There were only 10 members in the fledgling congregation,
which since has grown to 79 members, with another 30 regular
visitors who participate in some way.
Slabon reflected on her long tenure at UUF as she prepares
to retire later this summer. Both she and her spouse had been
married and divorced before they found each other. Toni already
had three children from her first marriage and now they hope
to spend some time with the grandbabies and travel
extensively. She said they are both committed to counseling and
Unitarian pastor Rev. Linda Slabon stands out- side
the sanctuary in the churchs fellowship hall. (Schrader
photo for Shaw Media)
Although she was raised Lutheran and received her religious
divinity degree from Chicagos Lutheran School of Theology,
she decided to become a Unitarian minister because they
supported, affirmed and celebrated gays and lesbians as clergy.
While ministering to her congregation, she has reached out to
the LGBTQ community, many who may have been marginalized and
also to educate people on racism and injustice.
She has embraced a congregation that has played an active
role in the broader community people like Clark Neher,
Dan and Maylan Kenney, the late Helen and Jim Merritt, school
board member Howard Solomon and County Board members Sue Willis
and the late Frank OBarski, among others.
These people are several examples of those who have
put their faith into action, and she sees their activities
as a very powerful thing for a small congregation
as she reflected on the goodness they have contributed.
Asked about her own activism, she cited one example where
they organized a march and rally at the DeKalb County Courthouse
when Illinois finally passed a law allowing gay couples to form
a legal union. They had nearly 200 participants witness the ceremony
uniting 10 couples who had been issued civil union licenses by
the county clerk. Of course, later gay marriage also was legalized
in Illinois. Slabon explained that they exercise faith in action,
dealing with issues like racism and immigration.
Looking ahead at the challenges facing her successor, who
has not been selected yet, she sees the need for forming coalitions
with other faith communities, building bridges as we face
transitions in our culture, even with those who have typically
seen Unitarians as outside of their beliefs and experiences because
their spirituality is not based on the Apostles Creed and not
Biblically based. We need to talk about some of the fears
and anxieties in other religions in our culture as well right
now Jews and Muslims are under assault.
She added that there is a need to serve humanity with less
resources. The old 1950s and early 60s model of a
church where you have multiple staff, lots of volunteers and
big buildings is no longer the norm.
Slabon seemed to be speaking to me in a recent sermon I
attended, when she said, We dont have to think alike
to love alike
yearn to learn
collaborate and engage
with leadership and decision-makers. Practice body politics
put your body and your money where your values are.