Bahai News - Rev. Streets reflects on life of spirituality Published Thursday, March 4, 1999

Rev. Streets reflects on life of spirituality

The University Chaplain said exposure to religious and ethnic diversity helped shape his life.

YDN Staff Reporter

The Chaplain of the University is a pastor for the Church of Christ at Yale. It may be surprising to find out that he also lived with Jesuits and has made frequent trips to a Bahai Temple.

Rev. Frederick Streets presented a spiritual autobiography in which he described the different experiences of his life that contributed to his spirituality in a Pierson College Master’s Tea yesterday.

He began by describing his early predisposition to religion. He said he pretended to do funerals for birds and little animals when he was young.

“I cannot remember a time that I did not sense or think about God as early as elementary school,” Streets said. He speculated that “maybe my mom dropped me on a Bible when I was born” to account for this affinity for religious thinking.

He was born prematurely in 1950 and spent a month in an incubator. He lived through this difficulty, and his parents believed that he survived to serve a specific purpose in his life.

In 1957, his parents divorced, and he moved to an area with people of many different races. The diversity of the area exposed him to many different cultures, he said.

Streets’ oldest brother was an artist and craftsman, and the next oldest was a talented singer. This brother was invited to many different church programs, which began Streets’ exposure to a variety of religious experiences and settings.

His brother’s talent caused some sibling rivalry, since everyone constantly praised his older brother.

“It was sickening,” Streets said with a smile.

His grandmother also played the piano in many church services, and this continued Streets’ experience with many different religious venues. On some Sundays, he said, he was in different church services from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

In 1964, his grandmother passed away, and he entered high school and started to receive a tutorial on preaching at church.

Two years later, he gave his first trial sermon and received the necessary votes from the congregation to begin preaching officially.

Streets said the members accepted him based more on his willingness and desire to preach than his skill and delivery.

That same year, he met Martin Luther King, Jr., who also told him that he had a purpose in life. Streets said this encounter “changed my life.”

Streets was also continually exposed to different religious settings. During one summer of high school, he spent time at a Bahai Temple while attending a program in Evanston, Ill. He also lived with Jesuits for some time, and although he was not a priest, people believed him to be one and were amazed to see a black priest.

In high school, he was a “super student” who participated in everything and received many scholarships.

However, he encountered a personal crisis that caused him to believe he would not be able to go to college. On his SATs, he made patterns out of the bubbles because he was so upset. Luckily, he was able to attend a small liberal arts school in Kansas after graduating high school in 1968.

In 1972, he married and came to the Yale Divinity School. He graduated in 1975 and began working at a church in Bridgeport, where he spent much of his time until he came to Yale to serve as chaplain.

©Copyright 1999, Yale Daily News

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