The Story of my calling
I found my calling in a pot of zucchini soup. Cooking is communion for me: the stove my altar; the stockpot my chalice; an embodied experience of interconnection my experience of grace. When I returned home from my food co-op one afternoon, I found myself in my kitchen staring into a box of lovingly grown produce, wondering how to do it justice. Instinct kicked in, and into a pot went fragrant garlic, voluptuous tomatoes, and iridescent zucchini. I tossed in a Parmesan rind, set the pot to simmer, and stood contemplative in the shade on my patio while the soup did its magic on the stovetop. When I opened the door to reenter my kitchen, a great wash of aroma suffused me. I couldn’t quite place it, so I approached the stove, leaned over the pot, closed my eyes, and absorbed the fragrance.
Suddenly, I was a 12-year-old boy walking into my nonna's kitchen with a fistful of basil from the garden. There she was, 4 1/2 foot tall Vincenzina, standing barefoot in her pink salmon housecoat, hovering over a simmering pot of zucchini soup. The emotion was overpowering. The hair on the back of my neck stood up straight, and I felt a rush of energy enter through the crown of my head and enter my core. I opened my watery eyes back in my present day kitchen, staring into the same pot of soup.
Taking in the aroma of that soup for me was like taking in the aroma of the universe. In that pot were the photons of light that grew the zucchini, the droplets of rain that watered their roots, the worms that gave nutrients to the soil, the farmers who sowed the seeds, the community volunteers who packed and handed me my farm share with smiling faces, and my Neapolitan ancestors who have been preparing that soup for generations. That soup connected me across space and time, and allowed me to directly experience the sacred, interconnected web of life that sustains me.
And in that moment, I was called or perhaps, aromaed—or spritzed, not by someone, but by everyone and everything. I knew then that my purpose, my calling, my resolve, was to tend to that interconnected web, to serve that soup at an ever growing communal table of love and inclusion.
My tears were not just a reaction to a profound experience of connection; they were a call to action. If I am one with all, I am beholden to all. Interconnection calls me to set more places at the table, to welcome all so that everyone has the opportunity to find both their true soul food and their soul’s true food. I believe our true nourishment is found at the great communal table of life; this is where I am called to serve.
I was drawn specifically to ministry in Unitarian Universalism because of our movements emphasis on right relationship over right belief. Though I had become disillusioned by organized religion as a queer teen, I eventually came to realize that progressive faith movements like Unitarian Universalism offer invaluable tools for meaning-making and justice-seeking that allow us to name and live into our sacred identities and values. I saw that as a Unitarian Universalist minister, I could nourish people’s spirits as they found their unique paths to understanding the sacred presence of interconnection in their lives. Moreover, I saw in Unitarian Universalism the power of community-building as a path to justice. I realized, as Paulo Freire explains: “Nobody liberates nobody, nobody liberates themselves alone: human beings liberate themselves in communion.”
Where I once saw the role of a minister as one who saves others with power over, and communion was a grace reserved for the elect, I now know that communion is a calling in of all of us to join together to bless ourselves and our world with the power of love. As a Unitarian Universalist minister, I am following that calling to build community, nourish the spirit, and lead with love.