So, in case you’re not glued to my every word, I’ll remind you that it was All Souls Unitarian in Washington, DC that really sucked me into Unitarian Universalism, and ultimately into ministry.
I had attended another Fellowship in the past, but it had never grabbed me as All Souls did. And it wasn’t the Fellowship’s fault. How could it compete with a multiracial, multicultural, justice-seeking, spirit-nurturing congregation?
I jumped in with both feet. And soon after I became a member, I was invited to be on the Vision committee. Some of you are rolling your eyes in pain at this point. Strategic planning? Mission and Vision? Ugh.
Nonetheless, my work on this committee was among the most nurturing, fun roles I filled in my time at All Souls.
We worked hard. We designed creative, fun ways to gather information. We attended every other committee and group we could get our hands on. We gave presentations, and held a “Vision Summit” where I offered the Benediction and was pleased to facilitate a “small” group of about fifteen or twenty people who were most interested in the spiritual side of the church. Others were in community life and social justice.
I ended up being an officer of the congregation. I helped at congregational meetings, and I counted votes in the special meeting we held to call Rev. Dr. Susan Newman (later Re. Dr. Susan Newman Moore) as our Associate Minister. I taught and attended Adult Spiritual Development classes. I also was trained and then taught Our Whole Lives, frank and comprehensive sexuality education.
I loved being part of this congregation, as I’ve said.
“The Best Job Ever”
And one day before church, I said to Julie, “Rob and Shana (then our Associate Minister) have the best job ever. I wish I could do that job.” I looked off wistfully into the middle distance until Julie called me back to myself.
“Honey,” she said, “You can.”
She stopped me dead in my wistful tracks.
“You just have to go do some more school. But you can do it. You can be a minister.”
(Little did we know how much more would be required than going back to school, but don’t worry about that.)
Later that month, I spoke with Rev. Louise Green, my voice shaking as I told her what I was thinking. That I believed I had the skills, the desire, and the initiative to be a minister. She knew about my Earth-centered practice and affirmed that it could serve me well.
She agreed that I had a lot to ponder.
Then I spoke with Rev. Rob Hardies, our Senior Minister. I told him how my best friend had dismissed my desire for minister. I told him how I had led ceremony for hundreds of people at Four Quarters. I told him how much I admired his preaching and how I believed I too could be a good preacher.
He affirmed the pain I must have felt at being rejected. He saw how emotional I was feeling, and he affirmed the weight of the decision I was considering. He affirmed my sense of my gifts.
It was such a relief.
Those two conversations were such a relief because they confirmed my own thoughts and encouraged me to go deeper into discernment. And that was exactly what I needed to hear.
Onward and Upward
So in May 2010, I graduated from the University of Maryland University College. On August 18, my father died. His sickness and death are a story in themselves. Two weeks later, I found myself at Wesley Theological Seminary, where I would spend the next three years studying, listening, talking, thinking, and growing.
And then, in 2013, I landed what Rob Hardies called, “the big one,” the ministerial internship at First Unitarian Church of Portland, Oregon.
In July of that year, Julie and I would take off with my brother and another dear friend, to drive across country with our two big dogs and two cats.
What a journey it was turning out to be…