“Spirit of life, come unto me. Move in my heart, all the stirrings of compassion. Blow in the wind, rise in the sea, move in the hand-giving life the shape of justice. Roots hold me close, wings set me free. Spirit of life, come to me. Come, to me.” So goes humn 123, in Signing the Living Tradition affectionately known as the ‘Grey Hymnal’ in Unitarian Universalist congregations. This hymn, my favorite, and a quintessential ‘UU’ hymn, has defined my life from birth, and ultimately will sustain me through death.
I was born a Unitarian Univeralist. There is no other way to explain my life and the way it has unfolded. In Unitarian Universalism, we have seven principles to guide our lives by, and six sources from which we draw our spiritual inspiration. My parents met while playing soccer outside the First Unitarian Church of Cleveland, and while they didn’t know it then-(they married in a Presbyterian Church known as ‘Old Stone’ in Cleveland, Ohio). Both my parents would later take me and my sisters as children to the First Unitarian Church of Cleveland, Ohio. I remember the smells, of rosin from music lessons, and dust from the old books in the library. I participated in two of my favorite musicals, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Jesus Christ Superstar.
I loved the story of Joseph, as an autistic child. I also related to his coat of many dreams, because I was often a creative child who enjoyed helping others. I also loved the story of Jesus as told in Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s amazing musical, as a radical seeker of justice and peace, and ultimate martyr for a cause most of his compatriots did not understand. What I also loved most about the story of Jesus, especially in the way the Musical presented it, was the lingering questions. Who was this man? Was he a man, or the son of god? How did he change our society and culture as we know it? Later, when I would read the Old Testament and New Testament in College, this furthered my faith as a Unitarian Universalist. How can we live our lives according to who Jesus was as a human being? What does that say about our nature? And how, like Joseph, can we bring dreams of hope, justice, peace, and love to our future, even if our peers do not understand it at the time? As it says in Joseph, “Go go, go Joseph, you know what they say, go go, go Joseph you’ll make it someday, Sha-la-la Joseph, you’re doing fine. You and your dreamcoat, ahead of your time.”
I’ve always been a creative and artistic soul, with a heart towards service and helping others. I’ve always been intensely spiritual, bordering near religious. This has put me at odds in some spots, as I feel I think, see, and perceive the world differently than most as a disabled person. I’ve been best friends with an orthodox Jewish girl, who later become non-binary as an adult. I’ve also been best friends with a Lutheran woman, who grew up in the Evangelical Lutheran Church but whose parents chose to join the NLCA split, due to their homophobia and misunderstanding of LGBTQ+ community. I’ve always been fascinated by the dynamics of these religious denominations, and have learned greatly from them. From my Jewish friend, I learned the value of Shabbat. From my Lutheran friend, a deeper love of Christ, and peace. Both of my friends also taught me not to hate those who don’t understand ‘liberal values’. People are people, and recognizing the ‘Inherent Worth and Dignity of all persons’ is our first principle in Unitarian Universalism. These experiences truly taught me to genuinely “Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your G-d.” Micah 6:8.
I have worked in wonderful places and met such beautiful people. Missing my church when I first went off to College, I started a Unitarian Universalist Campus Ministry. I enjoyed sharing my faith with others, some of which are still attending UU congregations today. I also served as Co-Chair for the former Ohio Meadville District Unitarian Universalist Young Adult group. I became trained in ‘Our Whole Lives’ for Youth and Young Adults, and trained as a peer chaplain for Young Adults ages 18-35. I also volunteered for a year as a worship associate, taught Sunday school in Unitarian Universalist churches, and served my denomination as a delegate for two years. I worked in education, serving as an ambassador for Cuyahoga Community College. I worked in hospitality, acting as a host for guests at a downtown hotel in Cleveland. Later, I would go on to serve as an AmeriCorps Member, serving high school youth on the east side of Cleveland helping them apply to college, submit FAFSA applications, and see their potential as children of G-d.
Serving others has always been a deeply held passion. My love of theatre and writing has also served me well and blessed me with talents that, I hope, are suitable for a ministerial vocation. I enjoy helping my friends on their own spiritual paths, and have often served as a voice of counsel and healing when my friends need it most. Perhaps, most especially, my identity as a disabled person growing up in the ADA generation, has suited me for a time and place where disabled people can take their place amongst the able bodied community side by side, in love and justice. “One day, disabled people will live lives neither heroic nor tragic,” says E. Clare. I believe, G-d willing. That day is now. “I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.” says Unitarian Rev. Theordore Parker. After my term of study, I hope in whatever small way I can, to refract the light further towards the side of love and of justice. Amein.