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.
BY JAY KANG
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
“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
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
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
Page last updated/revised 120300
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