It was finding Unitarian Universalism and then attending General Assembly that brought my call to light.
Discerning my Call
As a child, I was drawn to what we might call the "free and responsible search for truth and meaning." My parents came from Catholic and Methodist roots but were not involved in church when I was born. My sister and I experienced a variety of Christian churches with family and friends, including my grandmother’s Methodist church, the neighborhood Southern Baptist church, and an African Methodist Episcopal church of a family friend. When my parents divorced during my 11th year, my father began frequenting a conservative Christian church. I attended with him, and I asked a lot of questions. Some of these questions made members there uncomfortable, and I eventually left Christianity. I briefly studied Wicca, and this allowed me to reconnect with a spiritual identity, but I had not quite found my place. It wasn’t until adulthood, when I attended my first Unitarian Universalist church in Topeka, that I found my home.
The UUs in Kansas taught me how to put my values and beliefs into action, and I quickly joined the social justice committee. Our congregation was regularly protested by the Westboro Baptist Church, an infamous anti-gay church based in Topeka. We supported same-sex marriage and had a female minister. (Our minister at the time was incredibly proud to be on their "roster of the damned.") One Sunday, I watched and provided support as our youth made lemonade and cookie trays to take out to the protesters. I found people in this church living their faith outside the walls in powerful and life-affirming ways.
I joined the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Topeka on my birthday several months later. I joined the worship team and the Board of Trustees, and in early 2008, I volunteered to chair the social justice committee. The committee voted to sponsor my attendance at General Assembly. There, I attended worship on a large scale and took workshops that offered new insights into how I might guide the social justice committee over the next year.
One afternoon at General Assembly, I was walking down the hall, the banners of the attending congregations lining the walls around me, and I had the surprising and consuming thought: "I want to do this all the time. I want to devote my life to this faith. I want to be a minister." When I returned to my home congregation, I talked to my minister, and she told me she had been waiting for this conversation. The next fall, I started moved to the Boston area to begin my seminary education at Andover Newton.
My time at Andover Newton placed me in the middle of one of the most historic cities in the United States, provided a strong community of Unitarian Universalists, and, as a progressive Christian school, allowed me to heal from some experiences I had in religion as a child. My time there also gave me experience in leadership, as I created a labyrinth ministry, helped lead the UU student group on campus, and served as treasurer of the Student Association. My final year, I led the Student Association and received an award for campus leadership upon my graduation. These experiences of leadership and the education I received at Andover Newton reinforced and refined my understanding of my call, preparing me to move on into active parish ministry positions.