So now that I’ve written some about the service, healing, ritual, and journeying of a priestess, the question becomes, How and why did I become a Unitarian Universalist minister?
The answer is a bit convoluted, as these things go. I had attended a UU congregation in the early-to-mid-nineties, and while I enjoyed the intellectual rigor of the experience, and sometimes the creativity of the services, it did not end up being a place for me.
Many years later, in 2007, my wife and I were driving down 16th Street, NW, in Washington, DC, on our way to the Dupont Circle Friends (Quakers) Meeting. The problem was that the Meeting began at 9:15, and it was 9:10. There was no way we were going to make it in time.
I don’t know whether you’ve ever been to a Quaker Meeting, but I used to attend one regularly in State College, PA. Being late to Meeting is MORTIFYING for me. The whole place is silent as people are settling in to wait for the movement of the Spirit, the door creaks open, you shuffle into a pew. It’s just awful. So there was going to be no going to Meeting that day.
And then, just as we crossed Columbia, before we got to Harvard Street, Julie pointed at a church on our left. “Hey,” she said, “That’s All Souls. I’ve heard good things about them. Let’s go there!” The service didn’t start until 9:30, so we had plenty of time to park (illegally, like ya do in DC on a Sunday morning), cross the street, head up the steps, and walk into the vestibule of the church.
One of the men greeting us at the door was clearly queer. He had earrings in, was in his late forties or early fifties, and was wearing leather pants. Yes, I thought, this is a good sign. He is my people. And he was just the first one at the door.
It was October, and Generosity Sunday. The leaders of the fundraising committee–Allison nd Aaron–were making their pitch for people to support the church financially. I was a fundraiser at the time, so I appreciated the work these people had done, how challenging it was, and the authenticity of what they shared from the pulpit.
They talked about why All Souls Unitarian was important to them, what the church had done for them, how their hearts had been affected, and why they supported the mission and ministry of the congregation financially.
It was beautifully done.
And not only that, but the sermon was moving, the music was fantastic, and the lighting of prayer candles was solemn and done with care. And then there was the sharing of the peace. At least, that’s what I had learned to call it in my Roman Catholic background. But at All Souls, people crossed the aisles, hugged one another, and I felt as though the entire choir descended on us to welcome us to the congregation.
Even for me, a big extrovert, it was a little overwhelming.
But it was so loving.
And that was the thing. The love.
The love and the multiracial, multicultural, multigenerational experience of the day. They are what drew me into the flame.
I was hooked as surely as a fish on a line. I wanted what All Souls had to offer, and over time, I not only received those gifts, but helped to give them.
When next we follow our intrepid (ha!) adventurer, read about the best, most fulfilling service project I had ever engaged in a church. Read more about how I came to live in the heart of the flame—to burn yet not be consumed.
(Photos taken at All Souls by Lea Ann and Stephanie Stuart Mawler)