Reflections on a Spiritual Journey

It is amazing how time flies. I evidently wrote this as I was beginning to put together some reflections of my spiritual journey. Here is what I said:

My spiritual journey has been a long and circuitous one. My spirituality was nurtured early in life through my Baptist upbringing, influenced by my mother’s Southern roots. My mother was a Preacher’s Kid (PK), and so my ten siblings and I had a very religious upbringing facilitated by Greater St. Stephens Missionary Baptist Church. Shortly after I began college I went through my “God is Dead” period. I became a Marxist-Leninist and traveled to Cuba for three months. My sense of social justice as a change agent was being nurtured but I was still spiritually restless. So I continued my journey.

Soon afterward I became a practicing Muslim for ten years. First in the Nation of Islam, then the American Muslim Mission, then the Sunni community and finally, Sufism. Christianity gave me my religious foundation including Jesus, and sacraments such as prayer, worship, and giving. Islam gave me the discipline of praying five times a day, piety and sisterhood. Separation of sexes, that is, purdah, provided a strong compulsion toward the embrace of sisterhood since it was almost the sole social outlet. Sufism and Islam, in general, deepened my spirituality through spiritual practices unique to Islam. And when the prohibitions as a woman and mother became too restrictive and no longer allowed me to express fully who I was, then I moved on.

Qiyamah Rahman, MDiv 2008, Meadville Lombard Theological School (MLTS)

I had the honor of bestowing on the visiting minister from Transylvania the stole she is wearing as a gift from Meadville Lombard Theological School.

My next phase in my spiritual journey I identified as “non-denominational.” Theologically, the church I was affiliated with was non-denominational within Christianity, but not interfaith or ecumenical. So I continued my spiritual journey. Then I found UUism. I knew absolutely nothing about UUism. I had seen flyers over a period of time and they were always connected with social justice issues. As an activist, looking for a new church home I was initially attracted to the strong social justice orientation. But what has kept me UU is the theological diversity. It allows me to bring all of who I am theologically, and the best of each faith tradition I have experienced. UUism encourages me to build my own theology and allows me to reflect on who I am in the world and what kind of world I want to live in. UUism trusts us to build our own theology and to be proactive in learning and growing.
My religious upbringing, my blue-collar background, and experiences with racism, sexism and classism have informed my values and who I am. I have developed a great sensitivity for those less fortunate and I believe we as a community have an obligation to others and to creating a world of justice. So here I am, on the journey toward ministry. And it feels so right. The space and freedom to create a theology that reflects my values and resonates with me are stronger than the challenges of race and class. And so here I am!

March 16, 2013 – Arriving in St. Croix

One of the first things I did upon arriving in St. Croix was to rejoin the Writer’s Circle. Much of my writing is research based. However, I had the opportunity to use a “stream of consciousness” technique that is sometimes referred to as “automatic writing” where you put pen to paper and do not lift it until a designated time has transpired. Ours was one hour. This is what I wrote March 18, 2013 in that one hour:

I Remember the Time

I remember the time when I decided to magically love myself to paradise.

It was February, 2012 and I was two weeks into my visit as guest minister at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of St. Croix. I knew in the second week that I wanted to live and work in St. Croix. It felt so natural and I felt at home. It felt like a place that I could make a life. It took me five months, but I returned for good with my cat, my car, my clothes and some of my books.

I remember the time when I decided to magically love myself to paradise.

The plane landed and Will Franks was waiting to pick me up and help me begin my new life in his apartment in the LaGrange Community. Settling in, my black-southern-work-ethic kicked into gear and my euro-centric task-oriented get-the-job-done me was at the Labor Department that first week talking with my job counselor who I had corresponded with over the summer.

And I was job hunting and apartment hunting like there was no tomorrow.

Meditating and visualizing and engaging my spirit so I would not get anxious and afraid.

I have friends; I have a life with a growing garden, a quirky landlord and a lovely duplex unit…

I have attended birthday parties, and reggae fests and Hanukkah celebrations and carnivals.

I have watched sunsets and a few sunrises, walked along the beach in my bare feet and played tag with ocean waves at tide.

I have sat with dying patients and comforted family members and endured endless staff meetings and created a violence-free workplace for myself.

I have watched the ocean waves roll in and laid listening to the soft and quiet sounds of the night ocean and heard gun shots and sirens.

I remember the time when I magically loved myself to paradise.

And found a Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists that appreciate me and might even love me a little bit.

A small Fellowship filled with individuals that have hopes and dreams that some share twice a month in Joys and Concerns that we say mostly in silence, but I speak aloud the name of my granddaughter, Malia, and my sister, Betty, and my soon-to-be ninety-year-old mother’s name, and my patients’ names.

The choir sings hymns, some familiar and some not so familiar, and the musician plays the preludes and postludes and offertory hymns mostly from the classical tradition and each week I pray for inspiration and the right mood and tone to guide the prevailing Spirit amongst us.

That someone who came wondering if their life was making a difference — leaves knowing it is, if to no one but them — and that’s all right.

That someone who came hoping to be inspired leaves with a growing glimmer that their life is good and their hope is renewed.

That someone finds a kind face, a gentle smile, a reassuring hug or a shoulder to lean into.

I remember the time when I magically loved myself driving down the “superhighway” that I take twice a day from Frederiksted to Christiansted and at the end of each day my cat, Ms. Lili greets me: How was your day and can you get my food — pronto!

Ms. Lili is now an outdoor cat that is mastering her environment including the visiting cat that thinks it’s alright to steal her food and drink her water. She is not her friend and she and Ms. Lili fight. The visitor is lean like most Crucian cats and Ms. Lili is fat and well-fed like most stateside pets.

I remember the time when I magically loved myself as I garden year round and tend my house and sit quietly on my porch swing and wonder at my good fortune and…

I remember the time when I magically loved myself to St. Croix!


When I became a UU in 1992, twenty-nine years ago, I had just entered a doctoral program at Clark Atlanta University in Africana Women’s Studies, a research-focused program. I was able to direct some of my UU interest and passion to the research skills I was acquiring. I soon discovered there was little information on Black UU women. Twenty-nine years later there is still no intentional body of scholarship devoted to Black UU women. That has to change. We can do more collectively about the invisibility of UUs of color in the UU narrative than we can individually. I consider our work of research and publication as a critical part of decentering whiteness in shifting UUs of color from the margins to the center and creating a more accurate narrative.

Assembling the Myriad Bits

Lots of essays in my computer waiting to edit for the website. I welcome being able to share them on the website with others. Today began with a worship service at All Souls in DC, followed by a Re-evaluation Counseling session, a quick lunch and then another zoom call. A Come to the Table is The Anthology on Black UU clergy women and it is on the editor’s desk, Mary Benard, at Skinner House Books.

I have to blame it on Mark Morrison-Reed’s book, Black Pioneers in a White Denomination that was published in 1980. The book was released a year before the first Black woman, Rev. Yvonne Seon was ordained and fellowshipped. I am always intrigued by the fact that Black males were welcomed as clergy into Unitarians and Universalists almost one hundred years before Black women. Nevertheless, that was the motivating factor for my interest because I wondered where and who were the Black UU women? My efforts began, to initiate and assemble ideas, research and create something that would be inviting.

During the pandemic I began to think about all this and how to assemble all the myriad bits and pieces of information and how to be in conversation with other writers, researchers, academicians, etc. that were actively writing and researching UU women. I also realized very recently that if there was almost no information on Black UU women, then there was even less, if non-existent, on Black UU girls.

As the Fall, 2020 Minn’s Lecturer I presented a series of three lectures at General Assembly, First Unitarian Church in Chicago and the UU Congregation of Atlanta. In addition, I have done several homilies that allowed me to continue to hone my research. One lecture and panel discussion, titled “Racial Justice & Unitarianism from Reconstruction to WW I,” really pushed me to more deeply explore Black Unitarian women’s roles in the suffragette and temperance movements.

Aha, so much to do and so little time!

Black Women in Chicago

On May 23, 2019 I met via telephone from Detroit, MI with thirteen Black women from First Unitarian Church in Chicago, IL. They had been meeting for a number of years. At one point we counted thirty (30) active Black UU women in that one congregation. In this particular gathering there were thirteen (13). In their check-ins and over food, they talked about what was going on in their lives and sometimes some of the things they were doing to cope.

Since that time, several have died, several have moved away. At one point in their history they were informed that they could not meet at the church as an exclusively Black women’s group and that it had to be open to all women. There was a men’s group and a “women over fifty group” but Black women for some reason could not meet exclusively. Instead of creating a scene they merely moved their meetings outside of the Church.

Noam Chomsky stated, “The future of humanity is at stake…We have to get rid of this malignancy and therefore, everything else pales in the face of it.” The “it” that he was referring to was racism – white supremacy – systemic racism, the kind we witnessed on January 6, 2021 and the kind that kidnapped Africans, crossed the Atlantic with them; stopped off in the West Indies, leaving some to work in the sugar plantations and the remaining enslaved peoples were carried to the Colonies where many toiled for generations before freedom was declared.

This work of centering Black UU Women and Girls is about decentering whiteness. It is about breaking down old paradigms and building up a new world. Not only are we targeting Black UU women and girls but those 26% in 2017 who the Pew Research Center identified in their survey as spiritual and not religious. In 2012 19% identified as spiritual. Some of those individuals are UUs that have not yet discovered they are UUs. Among that number that identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) it is important that we clean up our act so that UUism is more embracing to BIPOC. I wonder what it will take to get us there!

Answering the Question

Hi Joseph, Mark, Mark, Takiya and Michelle:

I trust each of you is well and safe. I have chosen each of you very carefully because of who you are and because I admire how you show up in the world.

I would like to pick your brains about an idea that I have had for some time. It is a website devoted to Black UU women’s artistic and scholarly pursuits. It would be a “gathering” place for their/our voices and works. I see it as the premier location that would draw UUs and others that want to contribute to the small but growing body of works by/for/about Black UU women and girls. It would become a place that would include: research and funding sources, interviews, advice column, music, art, a roving camera, blogs, and different genres of Black women and girls’ expressive works that provide a glimpse into our lives.

My question is, at this point and time in UU history, should I restrict it to Black UU women and girls or should I create a website for UUs of Color and Latinx women and girls?

I need to pose this question before I get ready to hit the go button. I am actually “interviewing” freelancers to build the website. But I decided to pause because I realize this is bigger than me and I do not want to look back years from now and regret having claimed too small or too large a vision. It never occurred to me to do a personal website because that is too small and I want to gather Black UU women’s and girls’ voices.

It is time. It is past time. I cannot tell you what it felt like to research white women’s entry into UU ministry and to find so much history they have documented and books they have produced about their journey. The envy I felt as a writer and researcher, knowing how I had to scrape to find the smallest bit of info about Black clergy women. And not even having benefit of basic information like how many of us there are. And finally realizing that we would have to create what I was looking for because it did not exist.

Even as I am writing and reflecting I am getting clearer that I must devote this website strictly to Black UU women (femme, transgender, womxn, non-binary) otherwise, the tendency is to go broad and compromise the depth and richness. And that is not what I want. I want deep, deep, rich, rich conversations and research and thoughtful analyses. Going broad will not produce that.

When I say this is my legacy work I am not just saying some words. This is what I am creating and leaving as a representation of my life. Besides my three children, the work I am doing as a writer, griot and researcher is my next most important contribution. Just as I am reading and poring over others’ works I know one day others will discover my words and read, reflect and form an opinion of who I was and what I attempted to do. I want to know I left something of quality. I want others to feel what I feel when I discover information that broadens my understanding and awareness about Black UUs and their presence. I want them to feel that pride and connection that I feel when I read about the champions and superstars and everyday individuals that came before me.

Another practical reason to restrict and narrow the focus on Black UU women and girls is the data base in my brain and on my laptop is becoming so extensive that I cannot stay on top of it. I cannot manage it. I must organize all this information while the neurons are still firing. I was going to share the basic “proposal” I had put together but I cannot find it. None of the possibilities that come to mind have caused it to surface. Right now this is a matter of having too much info in my head and needing to empty some of it out. The website allows for that. But I have been around long enough to speak to elders that I interviewed in the early 2000s who now have some memory loss due to the natural aging process or are suffering from dementia. I do not want to leave it to chance that my efforts will be catalogued.

I should probably delete this email because I have answered the question for myself that I originally posed to each of you. But sharing my thoughts helps me stay connected to each of you in ways that this pandemic seeks to sever.

Qiyamah A. Rahman

Rev Qiyamah Rahman in St Croix


Q’s Blogs highlight reflections about my life and my work. And so I begin.

I am the third oldest of ten siblings. Two of my older siblings (Betty and Freddie) and I were born in Hawkinsville, Georgia in the same house that our mother was raised with her parents and siblings. We were all delivered by our Aunt Judy Bell, who was the local midwife. Our amazing mother managed to hold onto 31 acres of that same land which she has now passed on to her children.

I am a Unitarian Universalist minister and social worker and teacher (graduate of University of Michigan) and research activist (Clark Atlanta University). Over the course of my life, I have had many jobs. I worked at Meadville Lombard Theological School as the Director of Contextual Ministry and Senior Lecturer. At that time, I lived in Chicago, Illinois where I resided from 2007-2012. Previously I lived in Charlotte, North Carolina for seven years and prior to that in Atlanta, Georgia for thirty five years, on and off. I grew up in Detroit, Michigan. I expect to retire some day. At one point I was thinking about our ancestral land in Hawkinsville and possibly building a home for myself. I have three adult children, Libra, Kaleema, and Muhammad, one grandson, Brandon, and a granddaughter named Malia. I used to have a cat named Lili until she died suddenly.