Personal Background

I am a first-generation daughter of Panamanian and Chilean immigrants to the United States. I was raised in Manhattan, New York, and was privileged to spend regular time in Pennsylvania with my parents and with my family in Chile and Panamá. I am proud of my AfroLatine heritage that includes peoples from Cuba, Jamaica, and Barbados, among others, and the many languages that speak to me of home.

My father participated in an extended student exchange program that gave him the opportunity to complete high school in the United States. He lived with the Batchelders, a family of seventh-generation Unitarians, who built their lives primarily in Cape Cod. It was my Grandpa Batchelder who first took me to a UU service as a child, and I went with him periodically when we visited, in part for the ice cream that he always offered me after worship. During college I co-founded an interfaith, earth-centered campus ministry called United Pagan Ministries and served as a university chaplain for a period of three years (both as a student and later as a staff member). When we sought a larger institutional connection for that campus ministry we gravitated to the First Unitarian Society of Ithaca, New York. They had an active CUUPS (Covenant of UU Pagans) chapter and an embrace of the sacrality of the natural world. That connection reminded me of my childhood and I became an active member of the congregation, teaching children’s religious education and assisting with the youth choir.

I had originally intended to pursue a career in international environmental law, but after deferring from law school to gain experience as a paralegal at a law firm and as a volunteer in its pro bono clinic that offered free legal services to survivors of domestic violence, I realized that being a lawyer was not the right fit for my calling. I began working on environmental education with underprivileged youth both at a local nature center and in one of our less resourced school districts in upstate New York. I took my calling to work for justice and to promote our UU values in the world to Starr King School for the Ministry, where I graduated with a masters of divinity degree in 2003. I was ordained in January 2004 by the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Stockton, California, and have since served Unitarian Universalism as a parish minister, a seminary professor, a scholar and public theologian, and in a wide variety of roles at regional and denominational levels. (Learn more about my professional experience.)

Practicing Universalism is at the core of my day-to-day living. While there are many spiritual practices that sustain me, it has been central to my understanding and ministry to realize that the teachings of unearned grace, an all-embracing love, relational accountability, and dignity that surpasses all violent forms of oppression lie at the core of my understanding of life, living, and service in faithful community. I happen to be a theist who experiences the Holy through many forms, metaphors, and traditions, and I seek to live our inherited Unitarian Universalist teachings in the ways that I move through the world.

Family has always been expansive for me, in keeping with the cultures and communities of my ethnic heritage. Today my family includes my parents and extended family in Panamá and Chile; my relatives who have moved to France, Canada, and the United States; my chosen family and longtime housemate the Rev. Devorah Greenstein; and my spouse Sam Ames. It also includes two ornery and beloved cats, Puddle and Jasper. After spending almost a decade in Oakland, California, in 2021 I moved to the Washington DC area, where my partner does world-changing advocacy work and Devorah, who is retired, can be near to her grandchildren. I believe in the practice of beauty as a balm in a troubled world, and so I am a vocalist, fiber artist, poet, and musician in my spare time.