I’ve been on a path far from the circles of Unitarian Universalists the past 3 years. Today I was out and about wearing a T-Shirts I bought off a C*UUYAN (young adult ministry) Steering Committee member at ConCentric (the annual leadership & business conference for young adult ministry since 1998) in 2007. It has that wonderful quote from J.R.R Tolkein – “Not all who wander are lost.”. I had two folks come up and ask me about it today at the garden store and Trader Joe’s!
My community ministry has me deep in relationship with low-income, communities of color, specifically through transit and economic justice work with OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, and with the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon. In both circles, I meet the occasional UU, usually folks of color who have had some experience in a UU congregations or with Liberal Religous Youth. I think I’ve met over 15 folks of color right here in Portland, OR who identify to some extent with our faith, a great number for a potluck!
Still, there is a deep dissonance from my previous ministry with the UUA’s Young Adult and Campus Ministry, People of Color (DRUUMM and otherwise), and various congregational efforts I was engaged in. Those experiences were powerful, and I am glad for the opportunity to serve the UU communities. I imagined myself staying deeply involved professionally with the UU, however my aspirations diverged, and today I feel as far from the mainstream of UUism as I did when I was an undergraduate at the University of Oregon. What is strange, is both of these times in my life where my distance was greatest, are also some of the most meaningful.
My time after YRUU (youth ministry) leadership, which was intense from high school through early college, was a place where I explored and lived at the intersection of my identity, the suffering of the world, and grew in my ability to serve. Now in my time after C*UUYAN and the UUA, I’ve come full circle and am immersed in communities on the margin of our mainstream society, and by some logical extension the margin of Unitarian Universalism.
Through all this, I have a deep appreciation for the training and mentorship I received through lay and ordained leadership. For the most part I worked with amazing high functioning colleagues, was compensated generously, and was able to work with an amazing diversity of grassroots UU’s for a decade. Now, I’m happily connected with the “big church” in Portland, which I’ve been around since I was a child growing up at the wonderful hippie fellowship in the rural suburbs.
Being back in Portland now 3 years, life is great and grounded. Emerging also from that period of time with lots of really little kids, hard to believe that our 3 total 18 years in age already!