~Meniscus Archives~
Spring 2005
Issue #7
The Mojo Issue

Issue #7 Home


A Spiritual Autobiography
Annie Rigo
Somewhere during the four years of high school, I had a strong sense inside of me that said I would be a minister one day. At first, I realized the desire of so many of my friends to talk about God and talk about problems, and just be in open conversations about it. I didn't feel any pressure to find out more about how to become a minister—I just left an opening for God's Spirit.

The Writing Instructor
Dan Berthiaume
As a forty-second birthday resolution, Ted had sworn off undergraduates. He had honored that pledge in the two years since, until he met Rachel.

Lock-less Gumuchian
Photography by Jon Heinrich
Derek Gumuchian sheds his dreds on the first day of Spring. See the step-by-step transformation as Derek reflects upon the symbolism, meaning, and motivation for the makeover.


A Spiritual

Annie Rigo

Published 3/31/05


The first place I remember encountering faith, or perhaps, Christianity was in 6th grade Confirmation, when we went downtown to make sandwiches and hand them out to the homeless population of Denver. It was in a conversation I had with one man—he is still clearly painted in my head—mid-thirties, Hispanic, long dark hair, and a weather-worn face. He approached me to comment on my UCLA T-shirt. He was from California and asked if I wanted to go there. I said I did, hardly even knowing what college was at that point. In that small moment of opening up our humanity to each other, I saw the Divine. It was this man, not homeless, and this girl, not 12 years old, but two people sharing a moment of life on a city street corner.

Since I'd been raised in the church, Hope United Methodist Church to be precise, it seemed natural that I would participate in it's youth group. I did, and I found the most unlikely group of friends who became my most formative and lasting community. Typically, youth groups tend to attract people on the edges—those from broken homes, outcasts at school, eccentric types, and then the occasional straight-laced kids who've been raised in the church. And, sometimes, all that is rolled-up into each person! I participated in Hope's youth groups for six years and in those years, I met a new group of people each Fall. Since one group graduated and another group came to the appropriate age, I saw many different group identities in the youth group. During my freshman year in high school, I met a bunch of older kids who drank, smoked, had sex, stayed out late, and didn't care much about the church. It was my first taste of rebelling! These kids were not trying to fit any molds of the perfect teenager, and they accepted me as the young and naïve newcomer. By the end of the year, I wanted my brother to come to this great youth group that wasn't "churchy" and was really fun. That summer, he came. These times were spiritual for me because of the acceptance I saw between the many different personalities and backgrounds within the group. We talked about our parents, our dreams, funny stories, and our schools. It was a true Christian community.

Somewhere during the four years of high school, I had a strong sense inside of me that said I would be a minister one day. At first, I realized the desire of so many of my friends to talk about God and talk about problems, and just be in open conversations about it. I didn't feel any pressure to find out more about how to become a minister—I just left an opening for God's Spirit. Even my parents were shocked that this is a career path I would choose. I remember starting college at Colorado State University and thinking I better get a business degree because there's no way God's going to point me into ministry while I'm not seeking out any information about it.

I sought out to find a church or a Christian group while I was at college and never found anything that fit me. Most of the groups on campus were very conservative, to the point of being offensive. The churches had older congregations and did not offer a community of people my age. I opted for some of the more conservative groups and found a lot of spiritual connection in the music (usually played by a band). I didn't yet know about liberal or progressive Christianity, but I did know that I didn't feel comfortable with the theology that was being handed out.

Here's an example of the way I've experienced God working in my life: I applied to four graduate schools—all United Methodist Schools of Theology—all outside of Colorado. I was accepted and begin to think about my options. I hadn't even visited the United Methodist School of Theology in Denver. In a matter of minutes, the school in Denver came into my mind and I knew I needed to apply there. I was still living in Fort Collins, so I had the information mailed, and without even visiting, I applied, was accepted, and decided to attend Iliff School of Theology. I thought I needed to live farther from home to capture what I needed to learn next. I had no idea why I was going to move back to Denver. God knew what I needed to learn next, and Iliff School of Theology had a whole lot of it!

Iliff has been known to be radical in its thinking, or at least far ahead of most United Methodist congregations. The Baptist-based seminary down the street feels that Iliff is helping religion go to hell in a handbasket. Iliff strives to have a diverse faculty—not only racially, but religiously, and personally. They want gay/lesbian, Buddhist, Muslim, Agnostic, American Indian, Asian, African, Anglican, Lutheran, American Baptist, United Methodist, United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalist, Ordained, non-Ordained, and more! They want this in their faculty and in their student body. Classes range from "The History of Colonization" to "The Spiritual Journey". Every belief I stated must be backed up with my critical insights of it, and why I espouse it today. There is a common pattern when attending this school: the first year deconstructs everything you know, the second year allows for new knowledge and a whole lot of questions, and the third year allows you to construct your new theology.

During my time at Iliff, I had every opportunity to "quit" Christianity—it was kind of the trendy thing to do! Fortunately, I had some professors who showed me why they were still part of the Christian body. One of them, a civil rights leader, spoke slowly and talked about standing up for justice and seeking God's truth through Jesus' struggle. Another, a United Methodist historian, told stories of the people who struggled hundreds of years ago to come to America and begin a new church that wouldn't be compromised like those in England. A third professor asked us to image ourselves held in God's hand: How does God see you? What does God want for you? We read about unbelievable oppression in the name of religion, we studied theology from the Reformation, we looked at Liberation Theology and Feminist Theology. We were asked what the church needs now.

During these three years, I thought about the easier choice of moving to a denomination I believed in more fully: the United Church of Christ. They are split, like many denominations, but more of their churches are ordaining gay and lesbian pastors, they are more willing to be political, and more willing to challenge outdated views of the Bible. But, when I prayed for my place, for my call to ministry, I kept getting that it's in the United Methodist Church. Even when I attended a world-event called General Conference in 2004 with United Methodist's from around the world and they upheld the rule that says, "...we do not ordain practicing homosexuals", I still felt called to this church. I felt a stronger call to be a United Methodist pastor because of the work we need to do. I will fight for the causes I believe to be true so that my gay and lesbian friends can be my ordained colleagues. I will not become disheartened for the sake of the youth group I now lead! There is a brighter future for the church and there is a great need for the community it provides.

One more thought on other religions: all the professors I had who were not Christian would laugh when some of us would say, "we want to become Muslim (fill in the blank)." They would say that the tenants of all religions are great, but almost every religious community has it's major flaws. You just have to choose to be devoted to one, and then truly be married to it. Be the best you can be, and constantly be helping the community be the best it can be!


Annie Rigo


Meniscus Magazine © 2005. All material is property of respective artists.