Starting college, Elferdink planned to train for the Presbyterian ministry but she soon became disillusioned with mainline religion. After attending the University of California Santa Barbara she went on to the College of Wooster in Ohio, graduating with a BA in history and art in 1970. While living in Philadelphia she earned an MEd from the Antioch Graduate School of Education. Elferdink worked as a school teacher and a Public Television producer in western Massaachusetts. She encountered Unitarian Universalism when she stumbled across the Unitarian Universalist Society of Greater Springfield and knew she had found a spiritual home. While still an independent TV producer, she became the Director of Religious Education.
While attending Harvard, theology professor, Paul Rasor mentioned a little-known WWI era British woman Unitarian he had heard about from Dorothy Emerson. That person was Margaret Brackenbury Crook, a minister, Biblical scholar, and theologian who had taught for over thirty years at Smith College in Northamapton, Massachusetts. When Elferdink started her internship in Northampton she found herself walking past Crook’s former house and meeting people who had known her. She was stunned by Crook’s brilliance and tenacity.
Elferdink's senior thesis at Harvard was on Ms. Crook, as was her presentation at the 1998 Collegium. She received her MDiv from Harvard Divinity School in 1998. Ordained in 1999, Elferdink served parishes in Amherst, Massachusetts and Madison, Connecticut. Cynthia Grant Tucker suggested that Crook and Elferdink's Crook paper deserved a wider audience and should be published in the Journal of UU History (JUUH). Thanks to Kathleen Parker, JUUH Editor, the Crook paper was condensed and published in 2012.
Elferdink took a sabatical leave the next year to work in the Transylvania Unitarian Archives. Archivist Lehel Molnar, translated the JUUH article into Hungarian and published it in The Christian Sower, the Transylvanian Unitarian Journal. In 2014, Amy Dahlberg, an editor for the Dictionary of Unitarian Universalist Biography extracted the biographical highlights from Elferdink's senior thesis and the JUUH article to produce the DUUB article linked at the bottom of this page. Claudia Elferdink retired from full-time ministry in 2013.
All this attention is a testament to the significance of Margaret Brackenbury Crook. Little could Rev. Elferdink ever have imagined that Crook would still be coming back into her life two decades later! Hopes that Margaret Crook's groundbreaking efforts would gain the recognition they deserves seem to be coming true. Crook's visionary theology has “given her legs.”
Claudia Elferdink and her husband, John Egnal, live in both New Haven, Connecticut and Silver City, New Mexico close to their two children, Martha and Stuart and three granddaughters. Rev. Elferdink continues to volunteer for the Transylvanian Unitarian Archives in Kolozsvar, thanks to digitized documents. She is also actively connected with UU clergy on both coasts, maintains a lively ministerial identity, and still imagines what she will do in retirement!
Margaret Brackenbury Crook