About My Call to Ministry
I began writing many years ago, first as a twelve-year old girl, and even then, I wrote about angels and demons, God and Lucifer, humans and their search for good amid the rocky shoals of evil. I also wrote about politics; in fact, one of my first stories imagined that we lived in a post-apocalyptic world, in which humans had destroyed earth while suffering under the bondage of a police state. In that story, the remaining rebels lived in caves, but they still had hope.
As I grew, I continued to study politics, philosophy, history, theology, and finding the way Home. I think it was my dharma (or duty) to write stories to help people find truth and beauty amid a sometimes dark inner and outer landscape. Or to put it simply, when I chose to incarnate as Elaine, I accepted my mission: write stories and talk about them, and help people with these words. It just took me awhile to remember what I was sent here to do.
My personal journey took me through an undergraduate history degree, followed by a murky detour into the practice of law. I don’t regret the path I took, not truly. As a lawyer, I kept writing. I kept reading. I kept learning and I kept trying to help others. Sometimes I look back wistfully and wonder how different my life would have been had I gone a more direct route into my final path: the ministry. But I couldn’t have done it. I couldn’t have gone into a mainstream Christian seminary. I would have washed out, knocked asunder by the tyrannical forces of modern Evangelical Christianity.
Wow, you might be thinking, you’re not Christian? Gah! You’re hell-bound!
I shake my head here. Am I Christian?
It depends on how you define it I reckon.
I accept Jesus as the Savior and the Son of God; I accept that he died on the cross and was resurrected. I accept his teachings, as they are encapsulated in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, and Hebrews. I do take issue with many of Paul’s teachings. I disagree with Paul’s views, for example, on women and gays. And I think that Paul added rules in derogation of Jesus’s simple commandments: love God, and love one another. I do not, therefore, accept Pauline teachings as truth.
In addition, I do not–nay, I cannot–accept the trinity. I simply cannot wrap my mind around it. Again and again, Jesus himself said he was taking orders from the Father, and that he serving humanity by serving the Father. Jesus himself said he wasn’t the Father. He also didn’t say that the Holy Counselor (or Holy Spirit) was The Father. He didn’t claim that the Father, the son, and the Holy Spirit were co-equal. He taught humans, in fact, to look inward for the map to their own salvation. The trinity was not part of the Way, which is what Jesus called his own movement. The trinity arose hundreds of years after Jesus walked and lived among us, and to me, it confuses more than it enlightens.
Does this make me less of a Christian than any Baptist, Methodist or Catholic? I don’t think the answer this really matters, not in the long run, but I will answer it anyway: no. The Unitarians have been an accepted part of at least American religious life for centuries. At least four American Presidents have been Unitarian: John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Millard Fillmore and William Taft. Several outstanding writers have considered themselves Unitarian or Quaker (generally thought of as similar to or even a part of the Unitarian movement): Louisa May Alcott, Susan B. Anthony, Ray Bradbury, E.E. Cummings, Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Horace Greeley and Herman Melville. So from a historical standpoint, my Unitarian beliefs place me among some pretty good company.
I am not merely a Unitarian, however. After years of searching, I determined that my beliefs place me within the Unitarian Universalist (UU) church, which is undoubtedly among the most welcoming, tolerant, and progressive of modern churches. I didn’t discover the UU church until I had completely formed my own spiritual conclusions, but I was delighted to find an institution that accepts and even embraces all well-intentioned spiritual paths and methods for explaining the universe.
Again, you might say, but Jesus was the last and the best prophet, and if you want to get Home, you must go through the Son. I do not accept the argument that Jesus was the only or the last prophet. He was a great prophet and teacher, and that’s enough for me. It’s not like accepting Jesus means you must reject other teachers, or that accepting Buddha means you must reject Muhammad or Jesus.
As Muhammad points out in the Qur’an, God sends different prophets to all the peoples throughout the world, so over time, Buddha appears in India; Jacob, Elijah, Elisha, and Jesus appear in the Middle East; Muhammad appears in Arabia; Arjuna and Krishna appear in India (presumably near Delhi) . . . and in the subsequent time since these figures lived on earth, great religious leaders like Martin Luther (Germany) and Martin Luther King (USA), as well as spiritual poets like Rumi (Turkey) and the Transcendentalists Emerson, Thoreau and Whitman (USA) have appeared to guide us in how we live our lives. Great political leaders like Joan of Arc, William Wilberforce, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln and Susan B. Anthony also took on the mantle of service while working to achieve freedom, justice and equality here on earth. To my way of thinking, whether or not Rumi and MLK, Emerson or Whitman, Susan B. or William Wilberforce call themselves prophets or merely servants of humanity is irrelevant: each of these souls delivered truth that had godly origins.
We have had prophets and servants of humanity throughout all of human history. We’ve had people here on earth who were able to tune into the right heavenly frequencies, and who could then fashion what they heard into a coherent message that they then delivered to their fellow humans. The message changed depending on the messenger.
God’s central message, however, was mostly the same each time it was delivered to different prophets. Apparent differences and varying tones arose from the listener rather than the speaker; in other words, God’s Word didn’t change, but the times, the society, the mindset of the prophet taking the message all varied, and this is what made the Word sound so disparate.
Sometimes, God gave very simple rules and instructions, like in the Old Testament or in the Qur’an. This reflected the fact that the message given was given to souls living in a tribal, agrarian society, an antediluvian world rebuilding from a pole shift (and resulting great flood) that occurred a bit earlier than Genesis originally set forth.
So what was said to a prophet like Jacob, Abraham or Muhammad was necessarily less complex, less intellectually rich, and yet more rule-based, more specific, more concrete, than what was delivered to prophets like Jesus and Rumi, who both lived in much more advanced societies. Teachers like Jesus and Rumi were already familiar with structure and rules, for both Judaism and Islam feature a great deal of both. Jesus’ teachings changed the Jewish faith by simplifying compliance with rules. In place of more than six hundred and twenty rules were a few simple ones: love God, love your neighbor like you love yourself. But Jesus walked and taught amid a rigid and authoritarian atmosphere, and he tailored his message to fit the needs of his listeners. His teachings, his deeper ones, in many cases didn’t make it into mainstream Christianity.
Much of what Jesus taught was a way of thinking, a way of looking at the world, a way of seeing hidden meanings and a way of controlling the world you saw by controlling how you saw it. Change the seer, change what’s seen, was one of Jesus’ deeper teachings. And if that sounds a lot like Buddha, there’s good reason for it. Buddha, like Jesus, was a very advanced soul. Both Buddha and Jesus lived at Home before they lived among us, and both learned and then taught similar principles while they walked and talked among humans on earth.
Thanks to recent digs in Egypt, some of Jesus’ lost gospels, as well as the lost gospels of other teachers of the Way, have come to light, and we’ve been able to learn more about The Way. More gospels will probably come to light in the next few decades as more archeological discoveries are made, and what these digs will show is that there is much more in common between the teachings of the Savior and the teachings of Buddha, Rumi, Lao-Tze, and the great writers of Indian spiritual classics like the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. Jesus studied the eastern classics in Egypt and was heavily influenced by these studies. Jesus was indeed a revolutionary, but he also got his ideas from many different sources: His Father; priests and teachers at the Hall of Learning in Egypt; the prophet and great teacher John the Baptist, who was a fellow servant of the Lord; the Essene monks in the Dead Sea region of Israel; and most likely from prior prophet-teacher lifetimes.
How does this tie into my work? I find truth in all these disparate and sometimes conflicting teachings. I’m convinced that most of the apparent conflicts among and between not only prior prophets but among us now, us ordinary humans, arise from misunderstanding. Teachings are limited by time, filter, and context. Each teaching, though, emerges from the same root: love. From that root, comes a diverse and beautiful variety of branches, or spiritual traditions. There is commonality amid all this diversity. God’s DNA beats inside all of His creations; a spark of divinity resides in each human soul. The key is knowing how to find that divine spark, and we all learn at our own rate of speed and in our own way.
In other words, there is truth, but there is not just one way of finding truth. There are different paths Home, and I respect all of them. I see God’s hand everywhere.
As a minister and an author, I’m trying to help synthesize these various teachings by showing how all the past prophets and spiritual movements share common threads and originate from the same starting point: in God, with love (or, in love, with God). We all start out in heaven, and we return to heaven after living on earth. Each spiritual teacher works within his or her society. Prophets, servants of the Lord, and political revolutionaries all start out as human souls living at Home, and they come down on earth and they receive messages that are intended to help humans find their way back Home. There are different paths, but love is the common thread that holds each route to its heaven-bound root.
The UU belief system states:
Our beliefs are diverse and inclusive. We have no shared creed. Our shared covenant (our seven Principles) supports “the free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” Though Unitarianism and Universalism were both liberal Christian traditions, this responsible search has led us to embrace diverse teachings from Eastern and Western religions and philosophies.
Unitarian Universalists believe more than one thing. Members of the UU reflect together on:
- The existence of a Higher Power
- Life and Death
- Sacred Texts
- Inspiration and Guidance
- Prayer and Spiritual Practices.
As the UU website states, “While the UU Church has no creed, its ministers embrace and its followers unite under seven Principles:”
- 1st Principle: The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
- 2nd Principle: Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
- 3rd Principle: Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
- 4th Principle: A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
- 5th Principle: The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
- 6th Principle: The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
- 7th Principle: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
I’m choosing to work within the UU church because I share its seven Principles. UU congregations are tolerant and welcoming to everyone, which is exactly what I believe a church should do. The UU church invites and accepts everyone: Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, pagans, secular humanists, agnostics, and atheists. No matter your creed, you are welcome within its doors.
As I begin the path to UU ministry, I know a few things for certain. I am here to unite, not to divide, as I try to teach the Word. My message will not support hate or discord. Anyone who’s looking for a reason or a justification for hating others because of where they live or what faith they practice, because of who they love and how they express that love, or because of what they believe and how they express those beliefs, will not find fuel for any of that in my work.
I wasn’t called to criticize, condemn, attack, or argue with any other servants or faiths or spiritual teachings. The message I’ve found when I’ve searched within myself is one of unabashed love and acceptance of and for all spiritual teachings and Ways Home. And while I am tolerant of all spiritual paths, I do not include hatred or tyranny among paths that lead us to becoming better souls. I will, therefore, with peace and love in my heart, protest against hate-inspired acts as well as governmental measures that lead to suppression of human rights.
And I will continue to write fictional stories that teach. Funny stories that touch hearts. Action-thrillers with a spiritual flavor. Epic adventures that roam from heaven to earth, country to country, century across century. And stories that make kids and adults alike laugh and find something to feel good about, maybe think about too.
If you’re looking for a C.V., then I’d be happy to oblige:
I graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Maryland, Honors Program, with an Honors Degree in History in 1994.
I obtained my law degree from the College of William and Mary in 1997.
After law school, I practiced civil and criminal litigation, with a focus on antitrust and commercial matters, in DC and Northern Virginia law firms. After seven years of practice, I got pregnant with my first child, and left the practice of law to raise my children and pursue my true passion: writing fiction. It was only after I’d been practicing the art of telling stories that I was called to serve.
Naturally, I was unsure how to answer His call, but I think I figured it out. It’s my job to listen and tell stories based on what I hear.
God bless and thank you for visiting me here.
If you have any questions, please feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I try to answer all correspondence, but hateful stuff does no one any good. If you want to find me on social media, I’ve scaled back how much time I spend online, but I am on Facebook.
Chance Stevens has traveled all over the world since an early age. He studied archeology and the Bible, with an additional focus on geology, at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Chance is currently exploring caves in search of proof of advanced prehistoric civilizations at a remote location in Montana. He is also preparing a geologic survey of rare minerals in the northern part of Wyoming.
Ancient megaliths, Photo Credit: Kevin Connors, Morgue Free Photos
*Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dover_tverya17.jpg#/media/File:Dover_tverya17.jpg