What is your relationship with the Church? Share a little about yourself. How have you ministered in the Church?
I came into The Episcopal Church at 19. I was an undergrad in Monterrey California and I went to this Buddhist group for meditation. There was an Episcopal priest sitting in this circle. I ended up meeting with the priest for about a year before I went to my 1st sermon.
I entered Young Adults Service Corp (YASC) and went to South Africa and the Holy Cross monastery. I worked with the school they have there and loved it. Ii did wonders for my spiritual life and spiritual discipline. I extended my time there and moved to Cape Town to work with the Institute for Healing of Memories. I worked with the reconciliation commission coming out of apartheid. Altogether I was there for a little over 2 years
I came back and moved to Virginia to start seminary. It's a couple of miles away from DC and it was like a whole new world for me. My diocese was mostly homogenous, and I didn't have a sense of community of the black Episcopal community or of the history.
Two events happened for me. I went to my first seminarians of color conference (my junior year in 2016) and my first UBE conference in Philadelphia. I had no idea that there were so many people deeply devoted to Christ deeply devoted to the Episcopal culture and doing lovely things in our communities. There was a sense that when I got plugged into this "wow I found my people". I belonged.
Some major mentors for me are Rev. Yolanda Roll, chaplain at Howard University, Rev. Ron Byrd, Black Ministries, and Father Martini Shaw to name a few. These are just folks that have really embraced me. I can pick up a phone to call them and say Hey I need some advice. They are my elders and they are modeling things for me to aspire to in a way that I've never experienced before in a congregation. To experience that connection 10-fold and in a worship space, it felt possible to truly live my own identity, my own sense of being, and do that comfortably with others who are doing the same from all over the country, and yet who have different backgrounds. We find community in the commonality of our upbringing and our family structures.
How and where does Bless show up in your ministry?
The 1st church that I worked at when I moved to DC was Saint Luke's the 1st independent black church In DC started by Alexander Crummell. It's a wonderful community it's a historic community, in all sense of the word, in a highly gentrified part of DC. I remember talking with the rector that was there and he really framed it around how are you uplifting your own community? What is your ministry doing for the black community? How are you touching lives because if it's not about that, what is it about?
It's through the community. Talking to the people, seeing myself in people, seeing similar interests, and joining in a cause together. It all revolves around community for me. It's been really important for me on campus to organize our small group; to do outings and to create spaces where we can digest with each another.
For the seminarians of color conference, I'm part of the planning team, coming up with the theme (Building Bridges as Episcopalians of Color) the agenda and speakers. It's my favorite thing to do each year just because I know that for a couple of days I'm going to see my people, we’re going have a good time, and worship is going to be good. We are minorities in the Episcopal Church but because we're Episcopalians, we are also minorities in the communities that we come from when. When we talk about evangelism it's not that we need to go to each out to some new community it's more about how do we bring our faith journey back home and bring our families along for the journey?
How did it feel to give Blessing?
It's like a Holy Spirit moment. When I'm preaching, looking out at people, and we're on the same wavelength, the spirit is really palpable and it's kind of like we’re floating together and being cradled in the Spirit's hands and I think the same is true when I'm offering a blessing. It's that Holy Spirit; we are connected and we're doing something right. Also, I've learned that the true blessing is as like a pay it forward kind of thing. That a mentorship goes 2 ways. I've got mentors and I've got people than I'm trying to expose to the spaces. You receive and you also give at the same time. That's the work of the spirit and that's true discipleship.
What gives you hope about the future of your ministry?
I believe that there's still more work to do. Just keep pushing and the hope is that I won't be pushing alone. I'm about community building and the hope is that the community will continue to grow and the Holy Spirit’s inspiration will continue to drive us forward.
The Way of Love is the Presiding Bishop’s vision for The Episcopal Church. What about the presiding bishop gives you hope?
Mentorship had always been so important for me and I'm trying to find my own preaching voice. For me, seeing this vibrant and dynamic Bishop preaching with no notes from the center aisle gave me permission to speak in my own voice. Part of the message that the Presiding Bishop is saying is that the Way of Love is the way forward and that's what we're organizing around. Sometimes there's a struggle to talk to folks about Jesus and he’s just so clear about it. So I can say yeah nana he’s talking about Jesus and this is what I'm doing too.
Are there any other thoughts on the practice of Bless you’d like to share?
My calling is to bring it back home. We talk about community organizing a lot and the church but the community starts at home and where you came from. Developing the a spiritual practice to be morally engaged in the things that are wrong in the world and I think Episcopalians do offer a good witness to that. My talking point is we listen to Jesus. Jesus is always talking about who can be exclude or is Jesus talking about who can me include and love and don't judge my friends Jesus is always hanging out with sinners and tax collectors and he’s always got a party so he likes to have a good time.