Reverend Dr. Rak was raised in New Jersey and attended Glassboro State College (now Rowan University), studying art with an eye toward later focusing on art history. After college, she worked for a then-major investment firm (Bache and Company) and American Telephone and Telegraph in “operations liaison” work, providing customer service to brokers and individual stock and bond holders.
In 1981 she began working as a Director of Religious Education at the First Unitarian Society of Albany NY, where she began professional training in the Unitarian Universalist Association’s newly developed “Renaissance” program. She served on the UUA R.E. Futures committee and the Saint Lawrence District Religious Education Committee. Toward the end of her time in Albany, she entered the UUA’s Independent Study Program in preparation for the Ministry of Religious Education.
After relocating with her family to Delaware, Rev. Dr. Rak continued work as a religious educator at the UU Fellowship of Newark DE and then the Unitarian Universalist Church in Cherry Hill NJ, continuing her involvement in District R.E. activities. She enrolled in Lancaster Theological Seminary in Lancaster PA, joining several other UU’s completing Masters of Divinity degrees there. She also pursued studies in ministry thorough Meadville-Lombard Theological School’s “modified residency program”. Her “call” to ministry turned in its focus from religious education to the preaching ministry of the parish. She completed her internship at Cherry Hill, graduated from Lancaster Theological and was ordained to the parish ministry by that congregation in May 1996.
After ordination, her ministerial experience includes serving the Community Church of New York as Interim Associate Minister (1996-97); the UU Fellowship of Lower Bucks (Levittown PA, 1997-98); the Unitarian Universalist Association (as Program Consultant for the Joseph Priestley District, 1997-2001); the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Bridgeport (Stratford CT, 2001-03); Unitarian Universalist Church of Flushing, NY (where she aided in the consolidation of the Flushing and Hollis congregations, forming the UU Congregation of Queens, 2003-05). And more recently, she served The Unitarian Society, a Unitarian Universalist congregation in East Brunswick NJ, from 2005 – 2014.
As an Interim Minister, she has put into practice all the skills and learnings from these varied experiences as a Unitarian Universalist leader, both lay and ordained.
Rev. Dr. Rak continued her professional development and pursued a Doctor of Ministry degree at Meadville-Lombard Theological School, starting her studies in 2005. Her doctoral project explored the theological tensions that exist with our Unitarian Universalist congregations and the presented thesis is entitled “What’s God Got to Do with It? Living and Loving the Tension of Unitarian Universalist Theological Pluralism”. She was awarded the degree of Doctor of Ministry in May 2009..
She and her spouse, Dr. Mary Chinery (Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, Georgian Court University in Lakewood, NJ) share their home in Asbury Park NJ with three cats and a lot of books! They have been together for 20 years and celebrated their civil union in 2008.
Beyond ministry, Rev. Susan loves music – a very wide variety from ancient to contemporary classical, jazz, “world” music, and some good old rock’n’roll. She also is an fan of films (from grand, sweeping epics to independent and foreign films to science fiction movies) and stage productions, on and off Broadway. Her interest in fine art (especially painting, prints and photography) has remained a constant throughout her life. Taking in exhibitions at various museums in the NY metro and whatever city or country she visits is an important source of inspiration and soothes the soul! When they can, she and Mary love to travel. (pictured here in Monet’s gardens at Giverny, France).