Grace and peace, friends! My name is McKinley Sims, the intern minister at UUCF for the next year. I’m a recent graduate from seminary up in New Jersey, but I live in DC with my partner, Kristen (whom I have always called KP and can’t quite get my mind around calling her anything else). It’s been my honor and privilege to get to know the staff at UUCF for the past few weeks, and I preached for the first time yesterday! I think it’s customary to provide a bio to the congregation from a new minister, so now is my time, and this blog is my platform.
Some background: I grew up outside Lubbock, TX, in a typical West Texas Christian household. I attended both Baptist and Methodist churches as a kid. My extended family is super Catholic, and I attended an Episcopal school in Lubbock for junior high. I worshiped at both Anglican and non-denominational churches as an undergrad at the College of William & Mary. I then worked and lived in an old Catholic convent in New Haven, CT. I graduated from a historically Presbyterian seminary, my mom is a practicing Episcopalian, my sister is Methodist, my brother is Baptist and I’m … somewhat undecided. Perhaps undecided is not quite the right word, as I’m very decided on what I want my faith to be and look like. Perhaps a better term would be uncommitted, because in the past I haven’t had the theological language to describe my beliefs. I haven’t known what to call myself.
I’ve run a summer camp for kids in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia, I’ve taught low-income families how to read and navigate social services paperwork, I’ve mentored young men as part of their incarceration and rehabilitation and I’ve worked as a chaplain at hospice centers and children’s hospitals. I decided a long time ago to commit myself to work for the betterment of others, and that decision has always been an expression of my faith. Committing to a denominational team, however, was a bigger challenge. Until I found Unitarian Universalism. I found my way to a UU congregation in Philadelphia, and I felt like I walked into a theological home. There was stained-glass artwork showing Jesus welcoming people in and bearing the Golden Rule of Mark 12:31 and Matthew 7:12. There were murals with Unitarian virtues and morals, and there was a poster of Dr. King and Ghandi. I felt right in the navel of the world. It was truly beautiful.
Since then, I’ve worked toward calling all people everywhere into relationship with one another and to enjoy the incredible blessing of love and friendship and playing catch in the yard and sharing a meal and jamming on guitars. I look for the depth of being in our world and the ultimate “engine of joy in the universe” (thanks, Rob Bell). I believe that when we feel pulled toward progress and love like an unexplainable gravitational directive, we find our center and our community. I followed that pull to Virginia, to Connecticut, to New Jersey, to Philadelphia, to DC, and here to UUCF. I didn’t always understand where I was headed, and to be sure, I still don’t understand the full mystery of my faith, but I believe in the path. I believe in love and hope and hard work. I believe in the dignity of all people. I believe in acceptance and the inclusion of many paths. I believe in peace and connection. I don’t always understand how to get there, but I believe in those words.
What I like about Unitarian Universalism is that I’m allowed not to fully understand a lot of things I fully and ardently believe in: the power of compassion and grace, the gift of music, the interconnected web of all existence. It’s OK to still be figuring it out. We’re all just figuring it out, in one way or another. I don’t understand how I got from Texas to DC, or met a great girl, or got through grueling educational programs. I don’t understand how I got to a place where I can call myself a Unitarian Universalist. But I believe in those words, and I’m proud to finally have them.