Recent PSWIRL Theme Speakers and Topics

Please click on underlined Theme Talk to get detailed information.


2015    Tom Owen-Towle (Unitarian Universalist Minister Emeritus, First Universalist Unitarian Church of San Diego "The Art of Finishing Life Well"

One of our major challenges is completing or finishing a task, a job, a relationship, an experience, and ultimately our singular existence…as well as possible. As a fellow-pilgrim, in his mid-70s, navigating his own homestretch, Owen-Towle will address this critical theme through presentations, songs, readings, and follow-up group discussions. Our daily sessions will focus upon practicing primal virtues such as Gratitude, Joy, Love, Forgiveness, Hope, and Surrender as we bring our journeys to a meaningful conclusion.


The Rev. Dr. Tom Owen-Towle and his life-partner of 42 years, Rev. Dr. Carolyn Sheets Owen-Towle, are ministers emeriti of First UU Church of San Diego. Tom has written two dozen books on self-growth and spiritual fulfillment since he launched his parish ministry in 1967. This PSWIRL week will draw mainly from Homestretch, Wake-up!, Hard Blessings, Wholly Joy, Theology Ablaze, Sauntering and his latest book (Spring, 2015) entitled SELF: Caring for Our Best Gift. Some of Owen-Towle’s books will be available for purchase; others will be offered as gifts to interested PSWIRL participants. Tom is currently preaching and leading workshops throughout our PSWD as well as singing in nursing homes, mentoring children and at-risk youth, and volunteering among the homeless of San Diego. Owen-Towle and his family have been regulars at de Benneville Pines since 1969, and he is deeply honored to re-attend PSWIRL as its farewell speaker.


2014    Rev. Ellen Livingston, Minister Emeritus of Monte Vista Unitarian Universalist Church

"Transcendentalism Speaks to Us"

For more information about this program click here and go to page 10.

Reverend Ellen Livingston, minister emeriti of Monte Vista UU Church, has an MA in Literature with an emphasis on African-American studies, and is most proud of her work in fostering good human relations between all peoples. She earned her MA in Theology form Southern Methodist University, where she was welcomed even as a Unitarian Universalist. Although retired, she continues to be a social activist, working on the cutting edge of social progress and justice. Ellen invites all adult UU’s and their friends to join her this summer for 5 days of growth and expansion: “I look forward to being a guide to you on this path. We will share in lively discussions and find renewed inspiration from the progressive ideals and amazing creativity of the American Transcendentalists. I hope you will join with me on this journey.”


2013    Tom Owen-Towle (Unitarian Universalist Minister Emeritus, First Universalist Unitarian Church of San Diego

"Nurturing Our Whole Being"
The key to a healthy existence is nourishing six zones of the Self: body, mind, heart, spirit, conscience, and soul. Through presentation and exercises, we will explore the challenges of each zone. We can never fully repay the Creation for the gift of our existence, but we can
respond through taking good (not perfect) care of our selves.

      The Reverend Tom Owen-Towle has written two dozen books on self-growth and spiritual maturity. This workshop will draw from his writings as well as 45 years of parish ministry.


2012    Matthew Crary (Unitarian Universalist Minister, Riverside Universalist Unitarian Church)  

"What's Going On?"  The title of Marvin Gaye's 1971 socially conscious masterpiece is our theme. Inspired by the Occupy Movement, the "Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream" symposium of the Pachamama Alliance and the lifelong work of Joanna Macy, the Rev. Crary will lead participants in grappling with what's going on in our individual lives, and in our world including the environment, socially and spiritually. 

      The Reverend Matthew Crary has served the Riverside UU congregation for almost nine years. During that time he's found a calling to the ministry of innovation. He's discovered that innovation in our lives arises not for its sake alone, but from the matching our spiritual growth to the needs of our world. In his 2012 sabbatical, he has explored his own spiritual growth as a minister, husband, father and human being and the environmental, social and faith needs surrounding us today. He brings his learnings and revelations on innovation to PSWIRL 2012. 


2011    Michael Dowd (Unitarian Universalist Minister) and Connie Barlow (Scientist)  

"Thank God for Evolution, the Marriage of Science and Religion"  

Details about their workshop series is available if you click on More information about these speakers and their philosophy are given at Please also click here to see the book "Green space, green time: the way of science" by Connie C. Barlow. Also, check out


2010    Rev. Stefanie Etzbach-Dale, Unitarian Universalist Church of Verdugo Hills 

"There But For The Grace Of..."


2009    Jim VanderWeele, Minister, Unitarian Universalist Minister from New Orleans 

"The Secret Working Together in Time of Crisis"


2008    Jim Grant, Unitarian Universalist Minister 

"The Struggle to Become Human"


2007    John Morehouse, Minister of the Pacific Unitarian Church in Rancho Palos Verdes 

"Making Peace from the Inside Out"


2006    Jon Dobrer, Minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fullerton

“Islam, Judaism and Christianity Intertwined: What Does It Mean For You?”


2005    Marguerite Lovett, Minister of the Unitarian/Universalist Church of Long Beach

 “Can We Stand The Test?”


2004    Jim Conn, Methodist Minister and former Mayor of Santa Monica

“Our Lives and the World after 9/11”


2003    Teri Masters, Interfaith Minister

“Making Peace – With Ourselves, With Each Other, With the World”


2002    Susan Ziemer-Brender, Holocaust Victim to Licensed Therapist

 “Survival to Celebration”


2001    Barbara Reinhart, Licensed Therapist

 "The Balanced Life: A Refocusing for the 21st Century"


2000    Jeremy Taylor, Unitarian Minister and Dream Analyst

“The Evolving Role of Mythology and Liberal Philosophy in the New Millennium”


1999    Cecile Andrews, founder of the Voluntary Simplicity movement

“The Circle of Simplicity, an effort to live the examined life”


1998    Dr. Natalie Houghtby-Haddon, Minister, First Methodist Church in Torrance

“Gender and Justice in the City (Heavenly and here-and-now)”


1997    Anne Hines, Minister of the San Dieguito Unitarian Fellowship

“Revealing the "Old" in our Everyday Life, Clearing Up Some Religious Distortions”


1996    Jim Conn, Minister of Santa Monica’s Church in Ocean Park

“Reweaving the fabric of our lives: our communities, our relationships, our souls”



List compiled by Peter Landecker

List last updated on March 9, 2015.


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