It's an honor to meet you.
God is not subtle in my life.
From an early age I knew that there was more than what meets the eye in this world, and I was deeply drawn to understanding what it would mean for me to honor the sacred as a life path. Likewise, I was drawn to the stories of struggle, suffering, and injustice. Even if I couldn't articulate it as a young person, I knew that the political is personal is theological. That is, ensoulment, living into this soul, and embodiment, living into this body, were shaped by personal, social-political, and theological ideologies and practices, some of which we shape as agents, and others by which we are shaped, whether through an active present tense agent, an historical haunting, or a future hope beckoning us toward transformation.
I grew up, and remain, spiritually fluid. I learned rituals and liturgy, tradition and doctrine, authority, the importance of education, and social justice from Roman Catholicism beginning in infant baptism. I learned the importance of the Bible as sacred scripture and communal text, chosen community, and missionary zeal from Baptists as an elementary student. I learned emotional self-control, self-discipline, and silence through karate and meditation practice. I learned spiritual realm attuning with my mother, a very spiritually gifted woman, and the sanctuary of spiritual adepts who introduced me to plant medicine, energy medicine, and made me aware of ancestors, angels, spirit guides, and other forces in the universe. I became a yogic aspirant in 9th grade after a small metal statue of Devi Shakti (Divine Feminine), the Bhagavad Gita, and a musty 1970s paperback on yoga found their way to my bookshelf. Against this context was always my place of birth and formative years: Washington, D.C. as the Nation's Capital, and Virginia, both as Inside the Beltway and imaginary of the fallen South.
I was also driven toward intellectual pursuits. I not only wanted to experience and participate in "religion," but also wanted to understand it. However, the path that took me toward academia and the study of religion, psychology, and culture was not always clear. I excelled in academic studies from an early age. I was avid reader and eager to learn. When I began college, I started as a Biology major with the intent to pursue medicine. After both reckoning with family secrets and a break-though mystical experience, I turned my studies to Theology and Philosophy. Even as my intellect was stimulated, I was always drawn toward the tensions, the unresolved matters, the places where there were no bridges built. At a conservative, rural Catholic college in the late 1990s, I wrote a history paper on Stonewall and the fight for LGBTQ rights, and, while standing in my role as president of the student body, interviewed the chaplain, dean of students, and academic administrators about why there was no public affirmation of sexual difference and how they might support queer students. In my senior research paper, I wrote on Black Theology although I had never taken a course or been introduced to it formally. My theology internship in prison ministry with the Sisters of St. Joseph and after-prison ministry with an evangelical congregation had revealed to me social and theological disparities that no one spoke of: White supremacy, misogyny, trans-and queer phobia, disoriented Christian hegemony, extractive ecocidal economic systems. I realized, then, that I would need to educate, heal, and liberate myself.
My driving need to educate, heal, and liberate myself in ways that brought theology and practice, the spiritual and the material, together for critical reflection and self-inquiry allowed me to journey toward my own integration and self-authorship through profession, education, and personal development. Care and justice were woven together.
My work in health disparities, food justice, sustainable agriculture, and as an urban farmer paved the way for repairing my relationship to the land, food, and my body, allowing me to release 100 lbs from my frame that I had carried since childhood. My work in cognitive behavioral mental health, neurological and physical difference, and community housing allowed me to sense what family, spiritual community, and homecoming might entail even as I saw the the inadequacy of social services and legislation that didn't go far enough. My work in service-learning and civic engagement as a higher education administrator showed me that institutions and strategic partnerships can effect personal and social transformation through community organizing, public policy, and electoral engagement, even as I learned that institutions resist new models and that power to the people is not a commonly shared sentiment. My Master's in Theological Studies gave me license to produce theological writing and I found myself loving the production of scholarship, curriculum design, and instruction. My Ph.D. in Religion, Psychology, and Culture confirmed my expertise as a community-based researcher and scholar in feminist pastoral theology, care, and counseling, the social formation of the self, and theories & practices of recognition. A fellowship, my first tenure track job, and subsequent promotion to associate professor allowed me to hone my craft, working as an asset-based community researcher attentive to spiritual health as central to human, social, and economic development. I also came to remember that the work of a career serves vocation, not the other way around. A 200 hour Taoist yoga teacher training, a 3o0 hour Vishwa Aryuveda yoga teacher training, Reiki Master training, somatics, First Nations restorative peace circles, dreamwork, and nature-based initiations called at various times. I opened the door and stepped through the threshold.
By my late thirties, I kept asking: "Where are the adults?" I surveyed the landscape of fear-based leadership, trauma-filled and dysfunctional organizations, and counted the tolls of personal and social suffering, political violence, and spiritual deadening. Workplaces, institutions, cities--mine included--had come to reflect the vitriolic projections of Other. I came to understand power and powerlessness in ways that made me account for my ancestors and my lineage. I had allowed my internalized shame to cloak itself under the virtues of humility and rigor. No longer could I simply see myself as a theorist in academia. I was asked, nay forced, to make decisions about who my work serves and whether I really wanted what I had asked for: enlightenment in this lifetime and complete freedom.
What I had taught myself and integrated into my being was needed in a greater way. I hadn't realized until then that I had enlisted in a corps d'esprit: a body of Spirit. That body called for emancipation, liberation, movement, and opening, and it required embodied, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual care, safety, and healing. It asked for me to covenant to my craft with integrity, pride, and excellence. It asked me to show up and reveal how the work is done. I began working in a more concerted way with the social and private sector to bring to light what I had searched to find in the mountains, the desert, the oceans, the forest; to get to the root of the trauma housed in the bodies and histories of persons, organizations, and society; and to operationalize and scale healing for an economy and a society where we strive for equity, integrity, and making wrongs right both publicly and privately.
Katharine E. Lassiter Consulting and Strategic Healing, LLC, is the culmination of my expertise: spiritual caregiver and feminist pastoral theologian; community developer, political educator and social activist; academic researcher and professor; administrator, non-profit manager, and institutional strategist; and initiated spirit worker.
My name is Katharine E. Lassiter, but you can call me Dr. Kate. It's an honor to meet you.
Dr. Lassiter has expertise in community actualization, operationalizing and scaling spiritually-rooted practices, and public strategies for healing and just care. She has extensive experience in higher education, the social sector, and diverse religious communities. Dr. Lassiter holds a Ph.D. in Religion, Psychology, and Culture from Vanderbilt University, with minors in Community Research & Action, and Theology & Practice; an M.A. in Theological Studies from the University of Dayton; and a B.A. in Theology from DeSales University. She is the author of Recognizing Other Subjects: Feminist Pastoral Theology and the Challenge of Identity and numerous articles. She is an avid outdoorwoman, a yogini, and ordained by Universal Ministries.