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Theological Context of my Call to Ministry Let me keep the doors of my mind open for the possible knock of some

vagrant truth. Let me swing wide the shuttered windows of my heart that perchance some winged messenger of love light upon my sill. Clinton Lee Scott, Universalist minister, 1887-1985

This is beautiful poetry for what I shorten down as my basic call to ministry, to bring a balance of the head and the heart. When I found my way to Unitarian Universalism fourteen years ago, I was attracted to the intellectualism and humanism I heard in that first ministers sermons. She often crafted in a theology of afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted. I found myself often moved to tears, so I realized my emotions and heart were fully engaged also. This heart connection is what makes our congregations different than a university lecture. We have to make room for what some experience as the mystical, the unknowable, what some would call god or goddess, while accepting we all are deeply grounded in humanism. The first adult education class I led was a book study of Proverbs of Ashes by Rebecca Parker and Rita Nakashima Brock. I was captured by their theology, expanding on my existing understanding of God as a loving parent, wanting only the best for Gods children. I use God for shorthand of that majestic mystery, that universal energy that connects us all. I had long ago stopped considering God in the anthropomorphic sense, yet the personifying made this huge concept easier to grasp. In that book, I learned more about Hosea Ballou, and his 1805 Treatise on Atonement, that showed his offense at God being cruel, and setting cruelty as an example for Christians. Proverbs made explicit that this cruelty led to much suffering of women and children, in their attempts to be obedient, especially in this passage: A god who punishes disobedience will teach us to obey and endure when it would be holy to protest and righteous to refuse to cooperate. (p31)
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This holy protest comes alive for me in the Social Gospel Movement, and Clarence Skinners ideas of understanding Jesus as teaching "the active and socially effective virtues of love, cooperation and brotherhood as the true redemptive forces." His theology was centered on the mystical "creative power at the center of the whole universe evolving law and order on a majestic scale," a power which could lead men and women to "transform this old earth into the Kingdom of Heaven." Sophia Fahs is most known as an educator, yet her theology being developed at the same time as Skinners definitely took a feminist perspective. In A Feminist Look at the Theology of Sophia Lyon Fahs, Shirley Ranck wrote:
Fahs saw that the authoritarian structures that pervade our society and dominate our thinking are rooted in biblical cosmology and morality (p. 32). *It+ is striking that a woman theologian, simply by trusting her own judgment and experience, developed a theology which is in many ways a radical challenge to patriarchal religion (p. 40).

The final theologian I draw from is Thandeka, her theology of personal experience. When I first heard her speak at GA in 2002, I did not understand her at all. Since then, I have had the opportunity to understand her theology more fully at a Star Island RE Week, a LREDA fall conference, and now in her online Tapestry curriculum. Personal experience is foremost for Unitarian Universalists as was discovered in the 1995 Commission on Appraisal Engaging our Theological Diversity; it does bring about a change of heart and a way to love beyond belief, and to integrate the mind, body and spirit in our theology. Meaningful worship services and small group ministry can be the ways that we love beyond belief, where we create the emotional bonds that make our congregations a religious community of individuals who may hold different beliefs. The personal experiences of my call to ministry have been visceral and emotional, and yet not with the suddenness and clarity of Saul on the road to Damascus. One very strong one

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happened at sunset on my drive back to NJ from my work in NY. I was upset, crying, knowing that I had to leave the toy business, that I could no longer contribute to the overconsumption and materialism raping the earth. Id just heard from my Hong Kong manager, that I needed to just accept the color variations on my products packaging from Taiwan. He told me each change meant more chemical dye washed out onto the streets and into the water supply. I could not continue to personally be a part of this destruction. I knew I had a call to healing work, and didnt know what that would look like, or how to get there. Just then two very different churches were illuminated by the golden sunset, the only two buildings illuminated in that part of Newark. A feeling, a spirit, a deep knowing came to me, that the healing work I sought was combining two churches. At that time, I thought that meant bringing the Unity Church and the Unitarian Universalist Church together. I was attending both Unity and UU then; Unity for the deep healing connections with other members, UU for the preaching. As I got more involved in UU, I came to realize the healing work I was called to do was there, that I could be a bridge between the head and the heart. Becoming part of an interracial interfaith dance ministry helped me to know a different way of accessing healing and the holy, and how hearts were touched by the spirit moving between the dancers and congregants. Another experience I recognize now as leading me to this path was an answered prayer, an intense longing for wholeness, authenticity and right direction for myself and my family in a very difficult time, that I literally felt come out of my heart and burst into the cosmos, leaving me with a transcendent feeling of such deep peace. One of my hesitations in leaving the Unity Church was rarely having anything about Jesus in UU services and classes. I still very much held to the Unity idea of Jesus as elder brother and wayshow-er. In seminary, one of my professors, Obery Hendricks, used his book
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The Politics of Jesus to help us see another way to interpret the Second Testament, the Christian Scriptures, to see Jesus as a social and political revolutionary. His exegeses of the Lords prayer revolutionized and crystallized my thinking, and gave me a home for the idealism I felt from the Social Gospel movement, the strident call for social justice and social action. Up to that time, my personal commitment to social action was being involved in New Jersey in the struggle for marriage equity. I had participated from its earliest days, going to Town Hall meetings, given testimony as a Religious Professional at those and eventually at legislative hearings. At one of those town hall meetings, I had another experience of a building being lit up. This was at a synagogue in North Jersey that was hosting the Town Hall meeting for Garden State Equality. On the front of the building the words of Micah 6:8 were illuminated by a spotlight, spelled out in large individual gold letters What does the Lord require of you, but to love justice, do mercy, and walk humbly with your God. This passage, and Jesuss two commandments, form the basis for my call to ministry. I could be flippant, and quote various Mary Oliver and Rumi poems that offer me a theological context to ministry, as Unitarian Universalist scriptures. I do draw great inspiration from them. I realize that a big part of my ministry is making peace myself with my faith of origin, and helping others to do that as well. My naming that, and my pastoral presence, invite the 90% of our congregants into making peace with their religions of origin. When I, we, they, have that peace, we can more fully embrace the religious pluralism that enriches and ennobles our faith, and calls us to our own unique ministry, our own paths to building the beloved communities we dream about, inside and outside of our congregational walls.

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