Kara Reagan

Class of 2002, Physics and History double major

Director of Christian Education at the United Church of Los Alamos

Q & A

I get to engage in fun, interesting, engaging questions all day. I get to explore and learn and take other people with me. The church I work at was established as the only place of worship for all religions in Los Alamos when it was a secret government town housing people working on the Manhattan Project. When the town opened, divergent nominations made their own places of worship. There was a group of people that enjoyed the ecumenical feel of this church and that is how the modern iteration of this place was established.

The number of times I was in class, taking a test or something of that sort, and Dick Hilt would walk in with his coffee grinder squeaking. That, and Ed Langer walking around barefoot. Now that I live in a town that is filled with an overabundance of physicists. I realize how amazingly normal by the typical standards the physicists at CC are.

I'm a working clergyperson so part of my job is trying to figure out the best way to meet people where they are. The fact that I live in Nerdville means that having a background in hard science allows me to easily understand where folks are coming from. We can also converse quite comfortably about their work and passions. I worked as a hospice chaplain and that is a lot more of a drive-by theology because you only have a few visits with this person and need to quickly earn them and their family's respect. My background has made all the difference in being able to earn people's trust and confidence.

I am basically an associate pastor. I preach occasionally, but my main sphere of responsibility is making sure we have educational opportunities. That looks like everything from Sunday school classes to bringing in speakers and working with other congregations to put on special events. Every summer, we have a faith and science program because we have a lot of people who are very religious from many traditions and we have a lot of scientists. There is a lot of overlap in that Venn diagram. We bring in many folks that are pondering those intersections and the resonance and dissonance between the two categories.

There are two loud extremes that get a lot of press and attention. One is "if you are a true person of faith you can't possibly believe all the things that scientists are trying to force down your throat." The other is "how could you buy this outdated malarkey when we have rational empirical evidence of things?" The reality is that a lot more people exist in the overlapping space of the Venn diagram and it isn't a problem. It just depends on how threatened you are by what can't be observed or what can be observed.

I wanted to go into pyrotechnics. Approaching it more from the physics side than the chemistry side. It's interesting because now my spouse, who also had dreams of doing pyrotechnics, is now a chemist and they work in Los Alamos now on explosives research. So although I don't work on pyrotechnics myself, I get to live that vicariously through my spouse.

I really liked math and science, and physics feels like the sweet spot. If math is running, physics is baseball. It gives the running a point. I like the applications. I knew I needed a humanities major too. I appreciated the aspects of physics where there were defined answers that we endeavored to find, but I also knew I needed to think creatively and work on making reasoned arguments. I balanced my focus with the two ways of using my mind. I entered CC intending to major in Physics and Theatre. I was excited about theatrical pyrotechnics and enjoyed my drama classes at CC. I took a few history classes and got really sucked into that department. I let theatre go and double majored in Physics and History. My history background has informed how I think about things and in this town, there is lots of interesting history to explore.

I graduated from CC and took a little time off just to work a few cruddy jobs and figure out what I was going to do. I didn't realize that all the signs were pointing towards going to the seminary. I went and got a Master's in Divinity from Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis in 2009. I worked in a church in St. Louis, then I moved to Los Alamos with my spouse. I got involved in the interfaith community in Los Alamos and was a hospice chaplain for a few years, then in 2017, I got my current job.

To use some imagery from the Christian scriptures, when Paul is on the road to Damascus there is a bright flash and he receives a divine revelation all at once. That was not me. I had a slow realization that I was called to pursue. I grew up in the faith and I have a great love of questions and engaging questions and figuring out puzzles. I got to do that in the physics department at CC, I got to do that in a different way in the history department at CC and I got to do that in a different way with spiritual life at CC. In all three of these, I recognized my love of questions, not necessarily answers, just the pursuit of questions. When it comes to things like faith, all of what they are come into how they look at a particular matter of faith. I am not the same person so when we engage each other, we come to a more full understanding. My realization of the love of the pursuit of questions is what began me down the road of pursuing my Master's in divinity.

If you have a good question, you can wrestle with it forever. I have my own interests and the people in my congregation have their own interests. We find ways to engage with questions and wonder about things and figure out how to know ourselves, the divine, and our world better. So I get to do exactly what I love in my job.

show all / hide all

Report an issue - Last updated: 02/04/2022