Everyone Has Worth and Dignity
Intern Minister in Salem, OR
Theresa Soto knows the exact year when she became a UU. “In 2005” she easily recalls. Although not her first visit to a UU community, in 2005 she was hooked by a social justice fair that blanketed the fellowship hall.
“I dealt with the access issues because I’m a person in a scooter,” she shares. “But I was really interested in the range of social justice issues.” It wasn’t just the social justice fair that caught her attention, both the music and sermon during the service lifted her spirit. “I felt like there was artistic expression in the worship.”
Theresa’s parents are Independent Baptist. “Hard core” she adds with a smile. She remembers having to wear dresses to school “every single day” and not being allowed to talk to boys. Eventually heading to a Christian college with similar restraints on life and living, Theresa remembers using her pillow to cloak the sound of rock music pouring out of her speakers.
“I lived through that.”
As her life unfolded, Theresa began dating and loving women and realized things needed to change. She went to law school hoping to carve out a different path.
“The only reason I went to law school was to make more justice.” She practiced divorce and consumer law. “It was alright. But I was really tired of fighting over 15 minutes of parenting time and who was going to get the cookie sheets. I realized that this isn’t it.”
So Theresa is becoming a minister. With just one more year in her half-time ministerial internship, Theresa will see the Ministerial Fellowship Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Association in September of 2016.
For Theresa, #LivingUU means living into and working toward the fullness of our first principle: “The inherent worth and dignity of every person.”
“We are one of the only organizations and places in the world where we can hear that articulated. Humans are valuable in their state of humanity.” She adds reflecting on a recent conversation with Rev. Walter LeFlore. She points out that even though we do not live up to this first principle fully yet, we still know that it’s at our core.
“When it comes to people with disabilities some of the movement, most of it, is still using the word ‘illness’ when referring to people with disabilities and it’s bad and wrong. But, I have the opportunity to create a conversation around it being natural and one of the legitimate ways to be human. So I work on that all the time.”
“For me, I’m clear, that people with disabilities are dying because they can’t come to community. So we’re working it out, and while we’re working it out it’s still true that all people have inherent worth and dignity.”
Recognizing the work that UUs have done for disability rights, but maintaining a call for more: “I’m here for you, and you still need to get your act together.”
The authors of #Living UU are Beth Neavel-Cortez and Kristen Psaki. Beth is a free-lance journalist based in Austin, Texas. She is a life long Unitarian Universalist who knows that story-telling is what saves us. Kristen is a member of First Unitarian Society of Denver. She is pursuing ministerial ordination with Unitarian Universalist Association. Kristen loves chocolate and coffee, together or separately.