“We build on foundations we did not lay.
We warm ourselves at fires we did not light.
We sit in the shade of trees we did not plant.
We drink from wells we did not dig.
We profit from persons we did not know.
We are ever bound in community."

Rev. Peter Raible (paraphrased from Deuteronomy 6:10-12)

Monday, July 18, 2011

A bit about me...

I probably should have started the blog with this post, but seeing as I have no readers yet, and haven't really gone "live" with this - no Tweets about it, no Facebook mentions - no harm done (note: when this was written, this was true - now, a few of you are reading! Welcome!

So here's a quick, highly selective, sketch of who I am: I grew up with a deep connection to the outdoors. In fact, it was outdoors, looking up at the Milky Way in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, that I felt the first stirrings of ministry. Although my father does not consider himself a religious person, he read and was very familiar with Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Muir, and Ghandi. These men spoke to my father about something sacred and holy that they encountered in the valleys, mountaintops, and human heart. Through his actions, my father conveyed this to me, teaching me that there is a transforming, creative, mysterious power at work in the world and in the human spirit. Looking up at the Milky Way that night, I felt the reality of this power, mysteriously twinkling in the sky, and alive in my own beating heart. Lying under the stars those many years ago, I wondered how I might best align my life with the reality of this power. 

Around this time that my family joined Foothills Unitarian Church in Fort Collins, CO, and I became very active in the youth group. 
In college, my interest in religion and the human search for meaning grew. I majored in English and found joy in the words of authors and poets who wrestled with the beauty, joy, complexity, and darkness of life and human yearning. After I graduated, the call to ministry still stirring within me, I was hired as the “Youth Programs Coordinator” at Foothills Unitarian Church.

In 2001, I was hired by All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa to do Young Adult and Campus Ministry work full time. Soon after, I began taking classes at Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago, and Phillips Theological Seminary (Disciples of Christ) in Tulsa. I served at All Souls until 2006.

My partner and I moved to St. Paul in June, 2006, to do an internship at Unity Church Unitarian. After the internship, I stayed on as a staff member, serving as the Director of Congregational Development. In August, 2009, I started as the Senior Minister at First Universalist Church in Minneapolis. It has been an incredible two years. I feel blessed and privileged to serve such a community.  

So that's a quick snapshot - some background story and information.

There are two other very significant things that have shaped me that you should know about. The first is my marriage to J.K. In June, 2007, our closest friends and family blessed our sacred, covenantal promises with one another. But our wedding was about more than us and the gathered community; we were also covenanting with the Holy, promising to be faithful not only to one another, but to that creative spirit which brought us into being, and blessed us with the gift of life. This was reflected in a portion of our vows: “Recognizing that our relationship is nourished by and nourishes the larger community of which we are a part, we vow to extend ourselves outward from our relationship to nurture greater justice and beauty in our community and the world.” (More on marriage, marriage equality, and the joys, challenges, spiritual work, and deep blessings of being married - that's another blog post!)

As many of you might have guessed, the second significant event has been parenthood. Having a son has truly put me in touch with my calling, passion, and motivation for being a minister. Our son reminds me why I am in ministry. He adds fuel to my desire to create a more just, equitable, safe, and sustainable world. This desire is not just for my child, but for all children, and for the most vulnerable among us. I imagine our son growing up in a religious community (and world) where all children are loved and cared for.

A few summers ago, I went camping with my wife on the North Shore of Lake Superior. We were away from the city lights and we had the opportunity to watch the stars come out and twinkle above our heads. It reminded me that it’s been over twenty years since my father and I gazed at the same stars. Now, I feel in my bones that the seeds of this ministry have grown deep roots and that my life is increasingly aligned with and committed to that power I saw and felt as I watched the twinkling stars so many years ago. This commitment continually manifests itself as a growing awareness of the miracle of life and the reality of death. This awareness invites me to truly discover what it means to be a human being: to live knowing I will die, to try to love with all my heart, to serve the world, to work for justice, and to realize as the evangelical evolutionist Michael Dowd has said, "Nothing is itself without everything else."

With this theological perspective, the material world is not a sinful and dangerous place, a world we must spiritually escape from, but rather our true home. Here, we are deeply rooted and defined by our relationships to one another, the environment, and the cosmos. I see that the stardust in my body is the stardust of all creation, of the great blue heron, of the food that nourishes me. Our material commonality speaks to our spiritual interconnectedness.


Justin said...

I'm curious to hear about significant moments in your life? What experiences have shaped you, changed your direction, or fundamentally re-oriented your world view? I'd love to hear from you.

afreefaith said...

I might have more to say to your questions later, but for now, I really resonate with what you said about your wedding. My wife and I were married almost a year ago, and our wedding also was intended to be about far more than just us, also about the community, our world, and our ministry -- she's a minister, I'm getting there, and we see our entire lives as co-ministry, even if we have yet to actually work together.

Justin said...

Afreefaith - blessings on your marriage and co-ministry!

Colleen Ware said...

Hooray! A fellow English major! I would say that some of my moments of deepest introspection were spent under the stars as well. You can spend a whole day under the sky, but it's too easy to be distracted by all the sunlight. The quiet time that happens under the stars is best for thinking about the big questions. Often significant moments also occur on trips--being away from daily life. I have really enjoyed deep conversations with my husband while the miles have rolled by.

Justin Schroeder said...

@Colleen - Thanks for reading and commenting! And yes, there's something about removing yourself from the known "routine" and the known environment that can bring about a kind of deeper awareness/space for reflection and conversation. - Justin