I grew up in a liberal and rather secular Jewish family in New York. We celebrated Hanukkah (mostly for the presents) and Passover (the celebration of freedom), but we also had a Christmas tree, and Santa came and filled our stockings every year!
I did not take to religion as a young man. Indeed, I was vehemently atheistic and anti-religious. In many ways, I am still anti-religious; at least I am 'anti' the kind of religion that promotes 'us vs. them' thinking, that insists that it knows the right answer - as if there is just one - that tells us what we should think, believe, and do, and dangles rewards and threatens punishment to get us to behave.
I chose to study science, earning a PhD in Biology and a Master's in Business, both at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). I went on to have a rewarding career in the biotechnology industry. As a scientist, I would not entertain any ideas that could not be proven in a well-designed, objective experiment.
So, when I found myself in a Unitarian Universalist congregation in Lexington, Massachusetts, it was a bit surprising to those who knew me, and to me as well! My wife Miriam and I had decided to give it a try, but only for our young son's benefit - or so we thought.
Over the subsequent years, ever so gradually, Unitarianism's freedom of belief and commitment to the sacredness of life softened my opposition to religion. Indeed, I was pulled so strongly towards Unitarianism that I decided to leave biotech and pursue a ministerial vocation.
I began studying for the ministry at Andover Newton Theological School in Massachusetts. The academic training takes several years to complete, then there is a year-long internship under the supervision of an experienced minister. I was in the late stages of setting up my internship at an American church when Miriam gave me the news that she had been offered an exciting job (as the CEO of an internet retail fashion company) that would be a great step forward for her career.
Naturally, I was delighted - until I found out that this new job was based in London. "London! We can't go to London! I'm preparing for the American UU ministry!" I was concerned that transitioning my ministerial preparation to the UK would be impossible. However, the expected barriers fell like dominoes before me. It appeared that the universe had different plans....
I do not fit 'the mould' and I do not think any of us are meant to be shaped and manipulated to fit a mould - of belief, perspective, sexuality, or ability. We are meant to be treasured as the people we are, and to be supported as we embark on the path of our own spiritual growth.
I bring to my ministry an evangelical fervour. I want all people to have the chance to have their lives changed as mine was. I have no patience for anyone who would keep the Unitarian light under a bushel! I have no patience for those who resist change and evolution in our movement, who are not willing to risk trying new paths that may attract more people to our Unitarian values and views about the unchanging truth within - that we are all sacred and connected, that we have a responsibility to each other and our planet to work for justice, peace, and love.