Queer, Wanderer, Minister, Activist, Writer… you say.
January 11, 2017 – Submitted to the LGBTQ Religious Archives Network – Link
I grew up in The Bronx, New York. I was born there in November of 1951, into an Italian-Irish family, and not surprisingly raised as a Roman Catholic. I attended Roman Catholic schools until my Junior year in college, when I transferred to C.W. Post College, Long Island University in Brookville, Long Island. I finished those studies in 1973 with a B.A. in Spanish.
Upon graduation, I thought I would teach – or even enter into the religious life – but it was not to be. As a gay man there were many conflicts with that direction, conflicts that wereinsurmountable for me and would ultimately push me away from formal religion for several years. Instead, I decided to continue my part-time work in sales and marketing on a full-time basis, a career that would last over twenty years!
In 1989, my early desire to teach took hold again. Sixteen years after graduating college, I left my sales and marketing job and returned to graduate school, earning a Masters in Arts Teaching for Elementary and Special Education. By 2009, when I retired from teaching, I had worked forseventeen years in the Ossining Public Schools, in Ossining, New York. While there, I taught students in grades 5 – 12, regular and special education, as well as several other teaching assignments including G.E.D instructor and as a graduate level Adjunct Professor at Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY.
In 1995, I unexpectedly met a group of Presbyterians working for full-inclusion of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer community (LGBTQ) in the PC(USA). I was encouraged by their faithful achievements and their vision of the prospects for just and loving change in their denomination. I was especially attracted by the way in which they knew God and God’s love for all. My time away from the church had ended. That “chance” encounter began a new path for me, and yet a familiar one, building on my early sense of call to ministry many years before.
By 2003, I had completed seminary, interim training and Clinical Pastoral Education (chaplaincy training) in a Trauma One hospital setting.
In 2005, I was ordained as Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA), as an openly gay man. I was called to serve my first congregation as part-time interim pastor while continuing to teach high school special education. After three years as interim, it was clear to me that this was the path I was called to follow and retired early from teaching in 2009 at the age of 57.
During those years of preparation and candidacy, I faced many of the same struggles that folk who were called and Queer experienced. There were times, in the midst of some of the ugliest attempts to keep us out of the church, that I wondered what I was doing – feeling as though I was back in those days of marginalization from my early church experiences. If it were not for thefaithful and determined allies, colleagues and friends who stood with me and others during those years and beyond, I expect it would have been a different path for me, for sure, but more – forthe ultimate stunning changes in the denomination during the 2010’s.
From 2009 until early 2013, I served an inner city congregation in New York City, with a large outreach to folks living in homeless conditions. Along with ministry to sisters and brothers withmuch less than anyone should ever have, we provided a welcoming for all – including space for 52 twelve step meetings that continue to gather each week in that church. Out slogan was, “You were welcome here long before you arrived.” I “borrowed” that from South Church in Dobbs Ferry, NY, where I first learned about the love and justice of welcoming congregation.
In those days, installed (permanent) positions for openly Queer ministers were few and far between. To this day, I have yet to have a permanent installed position as a pastor in the PC(USA). So, as I finished my temporary call as Stated Supply Pastor in 2013, I accepted a full-time leadership role for That All May Freely Serve, a national grass roots organization that is committed to prayer, presence and advocacy in making the Presbyterian Church (USA) a more welcoming denomination to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ) community. Today, That All May Freely Serve functions as an all-volunteer organization, taking advantage of social media and networking practices to provide a national network of helpers around the country, available to support the LGBTQ community and friends. With that transitional work completed, I began a process of discernment in seeking a congregation to serve.
In December of 2016, I was called to serve a welcoming and affirming congregation in the United Church of Christ – as an installed pastor! [Note: I began my sixth year with this wonderful congregation on January 17, 2022 – today!]
The journey continues to unfold for us all, especially as God continues to reveal Godself in the world. Surely, that is the Good News – especially for a time such as this.