Ann Arbor Spiritual Center Welcomes New Director

BY JASON A. MICHAEL

Meet Lauren Tatarsky, 30, the new senior minister of the Interfaith Center for Spiritual Growth in Ann Arbor since June.

"We're an inclusive space and safe haven for spiritual seekers who come from many different backgrounds," said Tatarsky of the center, which is nearly 20 years old. "The majority of people who come to the center consider themselves spiritual, not religious. All are encouraged to follow the specific tradition, teacher or spiritual path that speaks to them - including none at all. We share a desire for an expansive and accepting community; a community that nourishes us in deep ways and that offers a space to connect and grow in our own personal spiritual path, whatever that may be."

Tatarsky considers herself to be a spiritual eclectic as do many people who attend the center, which averages 75-80 people at their Sunday morning services. She takes what speaks to her from many different traditions and engages in diverse spiritual practices that include contemplative meditation, visualization, nature walks, dream analysis, free-form dance and yoga.

Born in Denver, Colorado, and raised Reform Jewish, Tatarsky was spiritually curious from a young age.

"When I was 10 years old, I printed out copies of my favorite quotes about life and hung them all over my walls," Tatarsky recalled. "I've always been someone who seeks inner truth, meaning, purpose and deep experience."

Tatarsky's activism began to take shape while she was in high school.

"I became the president of our International Club and that's where it all started," said Tatarsky. "I raised over $10,000 for a compound in Ethiopia with a hospital, K-12 school, orphanage and biodynamic farm. My first true international travel was visiting the compound when I was 17. This all led me to American University where I studied international relations, sociology, race relations and the like. I traveled with the US Campaign for Burma to Thailand, and I went to Turkey, Greece, and Cyprus for a peace and conflict resolution program through American University. I studied abroad in France and traveled a bunch throughout Europe, and went to Africa a few times."

By the time she earned her bachelors of arts degree in Peace and Conflict Resolution from American University she was a full-fledged environmentalist.

"I ended up my senior year of college studying a lot about the environment, specifically food systems," Tatarsky said. "I got really passionate about food access and the environment because it brought together issues of human rights, health, empowerment of marginalized groups, and the environment, all of which I was super passionate about. My first career was in food systems, doing food policy that promoted access to healthy foods in low-income communities across Colorado."

Tatarsky would go on to earn her master's degree in Spiritual Guidance from The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology before she met the woman she moved to Michigan to be with.

"I actually moved here for a relationship that didn't last," she said. "It was a typical lesbian U-Haul situation. But I have always loved Ann Arbor and I had been ready to leave Denver for a while and find a place that felt more like home to me. I'm a small city person with a serious love of nature, so living in Ann Arbor gives me the best of both worlds and I could not love it more."

Tatarsky had only been in Michigan a short time before she found the center.

"I stumbled upon it online while looking for a spiritual community when I first came to Ann Arbor," she said. "The first time I went to a Sunday service, I found out they were hiring to replace the senior minister and I immediately got a shock to the heart. The application was due before the next Sunday and I applied right away. The thought of directing a spiritual center that is diverse and open and affirming was kind of a dream for me. I never expected it to come true so early in my career."

But the dream did come true and Tatarsky got the job.

"I give the Sunday talks most weeks and that usually lasts 15-20 minutes," she said. "My talks usually have a topic that has something to do with life and spirituality, things like uncertainty, possibility, grief, liberation, awareness, and then I bring in different traditions and spiritual practices, as diverse as I can get.

"The Sunday services are really member-driven, as there are so many points of participation," Tatarsky continued. "There are numerous committees that support the center and so much volunteer involvement you wouldn't believe. There is a very horizontal leadership structure, with all of us really working together as a team. I support the center's growth and communicate our vision and mission to the community. I offer spiritual counseling to our members during times of difficulty and I do home, hospital and hospice visits. I also lead workshops and courses there. I'm doing a beginning meditation workshop for teens in September and a free-form dance workshop in October. I'm also developing a meditation course for the winter."

To connect with Lauren Tatarsky or to learn more about the Interfaith Center for Spiritual Growth, visit http://interfaithspirit.org.
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