Dr. Frances Sink, licensed clinical psychologist, practiced in the medical field for more than 30 years before adding a new title to her name: Reverend.
Sink is the minister at the Unitarian Universalist Society church at Stamford's 20 Forest Street. She's been with the church for the last year, and said the move to leave the field of practicing medicine for a stronger presence in helping others through faith was all about finding the right ways to fill void in life.
"I've just been here a year now, they have a long tradition here before my arrival," Sink said. "I still am [a] licensed clinical psychologist. I had a 30-year practice, primarily child and family oriented. I saw adults as well and worked in hospitals... I actually had been away from religion for about 20 years before I came back. When people do want to be back in a community, but are wounded by the tradition they grew up in, we offer this open and inclusive, respectful atmosphere that allows people to find there way back in. We don't tell anyone they have to give up who they were before. We don't have doctrines. We focus on deeds, not creeds."
Unitarian Universalism is a concept that different people with different beliefs can gather as one faith, according to Sink. The church is Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender/Queer [LGBTQ]-friendly and believes there is one interdependent existence and that everyone is part of a single, unified experience everyone is sharing.
"Our life on Planet Earth is really what it's all about," Sink said. "We focus on life before death, not after death. Lifting up the earth is an important part of our tradition. [Ralph Waldo] Emerson and [Henry David] Thoreau, back at the end of the 1800s, they were part of our tradition. That nature-based way of thinking is something we really value."
Sink's roots in psychology began in college, when ideals called her to enter a role she felt would be the best way to help others. But she found her work in psychology wasn't providing the healing she felt people were seeking out. There was a void left unfulfilled and Sink was determined to find a better way to help others.
"This is going to sound naive, but I was sure psychology was the answer for human kind," she said. "In some ways, I traded psychology for religion. People had spiritual yearnings that psychology wasn't really addressing. It wasn't talking to the soul of people."
Sink's desire to "change society for the better" led her to the Yale Divinity School. She said it was a difficult decision to make, going back to school after already obtaining a PhD and being out of school for so many years. Ultimately, she was ordained this past January at an event held in the sanctuary of the
UU Society in Stamford.
"I started looking around for a religious community that answers people's yearnings for wholeness and also speaks to the problems and ills of society without going through doctrines you may or may not agree with," Sink said. "That's what I found in Unitarian Universalism... I was being called to ministry rather than psychology."
Sink said Stamford was one of the best places she'd found to help a community grow. There were already a great deal of progression in the city, and that it is a thriving city now only adds to the voice she feels the congregation can have working towards social change.
"I was very attracted to this Stamford congregation because being in a city is an ideal place for a religious community to be active and live its faith out," she said. "I lived nearby in Wilton and watched Stamford grow and watched the downtown change over the last 20 years. I saw an opportunity to be here, in a downtown congregation, it was very exciting to me. I continue to feel that way. I feel like Stamford has so many resources and so much positive change going on and, at the same time, has all the problems and the justice issues that you could find anywhere, so there's so much work to be done."
Affordable housing, improved education, support for young people—all examples of social justice issues Sink said are important not just to be fought for by political boards, but also the congregations of faith from within a city. And her efforts have seen results. Sink's message helped grow the congregation by 12-percent last year, and she hopes to take that growth to 20-percent in the current year. That means getting a message of acceptance and inclusiveness out to more people.
"In all kind of diversity, we try to [evolve] our organization to reflect what we believe," Sink said. "You're going to find diversity in our leadership in a lot of different ways. We support more ministers of color. We were among the first to support women ministers before they were allowed. We support LGBTQ ministers. The idea of the inherent worth and dignity of each and every person is so basic that we want it to be basic to our institution. Institutions can be rigid or institutions can strive to be open and progressive, as well as their congregation. Encourage your individual members to look at themselves... It's a very diverse world that we live in now and the 21st century is really about learning to know ourselves as a diverse people on a very biologically-diverse planet. That's our work: to have reverence for all of that."
Services at the Unitarian Universalist Society are held every Sunday at 10 a.m.