"One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight, for a very long time, of the shore." (André Gide)
The Rev. Sarah Stewart has set off on her sabbatical adventure, I'm delighted to be joining you to help "Sail the Ship" (September's worship and stewardship theme) for the next three months. Though it is not a very long time, I hope we might enjoy an opportunity to discover some new metaphorical lands together, even as we celebrate the abiding joys of coming together in community for all of the things this congregation has done well for a very long time.
I will be here as your sabbatical minister through the end of November, serving half-time beginning next week. My priorities in this role are to support your excellent staff team in serving the congregation in all the ways they already do, to provide (roughly) twice-monthly worship leadership, and to be available for pastoral care and rites of passage for members.
I'm eager to get to know you and to worship with you beginning on September 8th!
Here's a brief introduction to me and my background to get us started: I was born in Iran to an Iranian father and American mother, and we moved to the US just after the Islamic Revolution in 1979. As we settled in to life in the US, the question of where to worship arose, and it became clear that the Lutheran church of my mother's upbringing was not going to work for my father who was raised Muslim. We moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1984 and my father made it his mission to find a place for us to worship on Sunday mornings that could embrace our family's religious diversity. He found the Unitarian Universalist congregation there and it became our church and social home for the next several years. I became very involved in the youth group, which had just officially become known as YRUU, and served in district and national leadership roles through high school and college, including serving as a Youth Programs Specialist in the UUA's youth office for a year while I took a break from university.
While the idea of attending seminary had been in the background for me throughout college, it wasn't until I found myself working by day in an abortion clinic and evenings as a bartender that it became clear that I wanted to pursue formal theological education. The questions I heard people asking and exploring in both places were profound, had deep and lasting consequences for their lives, and no one seemed to know the liberal theology or range of approaches to theological questions I took for granted as an engaged UU. So I wanted to do more formal study of theology to understand why, and how I could help to bring theological thinking to life in places where people most needed, and felt most distant from formal "church." I enrolled at Harvard Divinity School thinking I might pursue a doctorate, but an internship at the UU Urban Ministry solidified my commitment to taking theology to places where people were living the questions. I was ordained as a community minister by 20 member congregations of the UU Urban Ministry, and my first ministry was as director of Renewal House, the domestic violence shelter operated by the UUUM.
My career since has spanned both community-based ministries and parish ministry. I served the UU Fellowship of Los Gatos, California for a year, was pastoral care minister at the First UU Church of San Francisco, and served 10 years as senior minister at First Parish in Milton, MA. I also have offered guidance to a group of urban social justice ministries called the Urban Disciples, served with the Faithful Fools Street Ministry in San Francisco, served briefly on the New England Region staff of the UUA, and for the last four and a half years was the Executive Director of Essential Partners, a nonprofit devoted to building constructive conversations where communities are divided by identity, ideology, or worldview. I also have served on several boards locally and nationally, and currently serve as co-chair of the board of Meadville Lombard Theological School (a UU school based in Chicago).
In addition to serving your congregation part-time this fall, I am leading a team at a new nonprofit called Cortico in building a Local Voices Network. We are working to revitalize our democracy by creating a healthier public sphere, amplifying the under-heard voices of local people in conversations to understand each other better, and sharing them via a tech platform that creates transparency and insight into the nation's concerns. It's exciting work and I'll be delighted to share more about it as we get to know each other this fall!
I live in Arlington, Massachusetts, just north and west of Boston, with my husband Enrique Silva and our two sons Kian (16) and Darius (10), whom you'll certainly meet on a Sunday morning soon. As a family we enjoy music, movies, and (very amateur) kayaking, and both of our boys are avid soccer fans and players.
I'm eager to meet you all on Sunday September 8th for our Ingathering service, and will be available in Bancroft Hall after worship for more conversation and fellowship. I'll be in the office every Tuesday and on most Thursdays, and am happy to be contacted by email to schedule appointments for visits or meetings at .
Rev. Parisa Parsa