Monday, March 4, 2013

Originally this blog was intended to explore the experience of being a Latino minister in the Unitarian Universalist faith. Unfortunately I did not contribute much over the years. However since I have decided to retire from ministry I find I have the time and the need to document my experiences and observations. For those of us in ministry we have ample opportunity to share our thoughts, experiences and opinions. But if one does this too often in sermons, congregations think you are too wrapped up in yourself. Ministers can relate their stories to their colleagues through the practice of The Odyssey. But since I have not really made strong connections with most of my colleagues I doubt any local ministerial chapters would be interested in my odyssey. Finally there is the ultimate opportunity of delivering the sermon at the annual Service of the Living Tradition. Again highly doubtful since the last time I delivered a sermon to a national gathering of UU ministers, I was going through a personal crisis and I believe it was visited upon my colleagues. So I doubt anyone would trust me to contain myself so the only avenue left is this blog. If I cross the line too often, you can always stop reading.

First, a brief summation: 29 years of ordained ministry; I served 9 congregations (2 as a settled pastor and 7 as an interim minister); 7 years were spent as the director of the JustWorks volunteer social justice service learning program for the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC). In those 29 years I have been in 45 US States, 4 Canadian Provinces, 3 Mexican States and 7 Native American Reservations. In addition to the usual ministerial duties (preacher, pastor, teacher) my ministry included working with at-risk-teens, some who were still active in urban gangs; providing resources to migrant farm workers; organizing volunteer response to disaster situations (hurricanes Andrew, Katrina, Rita, Midwest floods, fire-bombed Black Churches, urban riots), organizing volunteers to provide infrastructure to communities suffering under social injustice and documenting abuse in the American and Mexican communities along the Rio Grande.

Most clergy will say they were called to ministry; it is my belief that I was condemned to ministry. My careers prior to ordination proved I could be successful in other fields, but they were not satisfying. Furthermore I believe I was marked for what lay ahead. Some years back I had a disagreement with a housecat. Our little scuffle established that I was going to be the “top cat” in our household. The cost was some deep ugly scars on my right forearm.
When we began working with the urban gangs for the UUSC, some of the members of a west coast gang were suspicious of this East Coast liberal group. At the time I was the only “non-white” from UUSC working with them. But even that did not gain me acceptance since I was Puerto Rican, not African American and I was from New York City not LA. It was at that point that the leader of the group noticed the scars on my forearm. “Bet the guy that did that paid for it” he said, thinking the scars were from a knife fight. Thinking about my then nicely domesticated pet cat I replied. “Yea, now he does whatever I tell him.”