How I Became A Unitarian Universalist
I grew up in the heartland of the United Kingdom. My family of origin was not religious and I rarely attended religious services during my childhood. When I was in my early 20s I decided to study law with the hope of working in academia. My plans changed after I married an American citizen and moved to the U.S. Instead I took the New York State bar examination and entered the private practice of law.
During the years that I worked as an attorney, I developed many deep relationships with my clients, many of whom became lifelong friendships. Looking back now, I see that my law practice was my first ministry.
About twelve years ago, after much soul searching and therapy, I began my gender transition. This led not only to the end of my marriage but also to the end of many friendships. It was during this period of rejection and transition that I discovered Unitarian Universalism. I was welcomed with open arms by my local UU congregation and soon became involved in all aspects of congregational life. I found a religious and spiritual experience that changed my life forever.
Within a couple of years, I had become one of the lay leaders of the congregation. I was elected to the congregation’s Board of Trustees, taught OWL and Coming of Age, served on the congregation’s Undoing Racism Committee, and developed new relationships and friendships.
My adopted UU congregation stood by my side while I completed the final stages of my gender change. It made a huge difference to me and encouraged me to want to serve the congregation in return in different ways. Thus began my call and my journey to Unitarian Universalist ministry. In 2012 I enrolled in seminary and have not looked back since.
My gender transition was an eye-opener to the reality of oppression experienced by the LGBT community. It was also an opportunity to raise my awareness of the systemic, cultural and institutional racism that is part of the fabric of America.
Prior to going to seminary, I was a member of my congregation’s Undoing Racism Committee. I am firmly committed to working against oppression in all of its forms as part of my ministry. During seminary, I studied the work and philosophy of W.E.B. DuBois with Dr. Cornel West.
I have preached on diversity issues during my time as a ministerial intern at The First Parish in Lincoln, Massachusetts and as the interim minister at Granite Peak Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Prescott, Arizona.
During my internship I in Massachusetts I completed the training required by Massachusetts law to become a qualified domestic violence volunteer.
While I was working in my law practice I successfully acted as pro bono attorney for two transgender individuals who were initially denied coverage for surgery by their health insurers, because the surgery was considered cosmetic in nature.
Our Unitarian Universalist Principles and Sources acknowledge the religious pluralism which enriches and ennobles our faith. I am deeply committed to upholding the principle of pluralism as set forth in the sources of our faith, and I believe that most UU congregations fall short of the mark by following a relativist “anything goes” approach over actual engagement with people who follow different faith traditions. I am committed to deeply pursuing engagement with other faith traditions and to leading a congregation’s interfaith experience at youth and adult levels.
Pastoral care is one of my greatest strengths, and also one of my deepest sources of satisfaction in my work as a minister.
When I began my CPE training at Overlook Hospital in Summit, New Jersey I had no idea that I had such a talent for deep listening, of providing comfort to sick, dying, and bereaved people just by virtue of my presence. Over the course of a year, I ministered to patients and their families from all ages and backgrounds, including all faith traditions, from Roman Catholic to Muslim to Atheist.
The average age of the members of the congregation where I currently serve is above the normal age of retirement. I have had many opportunities to visit with elders in their homes, nursing homes, and in the hospital. My presence has been deeply appreciated, indeed loved, and has helped to cement my relationship as a highly valued and respected minister within the congregation at large. I cannot envision being engaged in any form of ministry that doesn’t include an opportunity to provide pastoral care to seniors and others.
From my previous career as a lawyer, I have extensive experience of running my own business as well as the experience of advising top-level management of other businesses, both large and small, with regard to administrative, financial and planning issues. Many of my former clients were nonprofit organizations.
I was a partner with three law firms going back to January of 2001, with extensive management, administrative, and supervisory responsibilities, including being the principal of my own law firm for over 10 years. As principal of my own firm, I was responsible for all aspects of running a small business, including accounting, financial planning, engagement and supervision of staff, and responding to client needs.
I was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair, New Jersey for a three-year term beginning July 1, 2009. My responsibilities included church finance and stewardship issues, and as one of the leaders of the church, I was involved in identifying potential volunteers for the Religious Education and other programs of the church. In addition, I was involved in the budget process and the process of designing and implementing the annual pledge drive.
During my internship at The First Parish in Lincoln, Massachusetts, and as interim minister at Granite Peak Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Prescott, Arizona I have participated in all aspects of church governance, including stewardship and finance, buildings and grounds, and recruiting and supervising staff.