Hello, I'm Willow.
I'm not very good at this kind of writing, to be honest. I'm free-spirited and born rebel on the one hand, but on the other hand, I suppose my sense of self is kind of elusive maybe because I had to be a chameleon to survive. Or, because the concept of "self" is quite different among autistics compared to that of neurotypicals.
I remember being a religion geek since I was a little kid. I was fascinated by learning about how other people believe and practice their faith traditions. I wasn't raised religious; my parents were atheists for all practical purposes. In my teenage years, I became a Christian. I was baptized at a fundamental Baptist church at age 15, after three years of exploring different denominations of Christianity, including the Christian Reformed Church and the Jehovah's Witnesses.
Since then, I joined a Pentecostal church during my high school senior year (after I heard a Baptist preacher spending an hour telling people how the Salvation Army was evil because it was feeding the "bums" instead of "soulwinning" and I was thoroughly disgusted with that statement), seriously considered converting to Judaism in my college years, spent a year as a member of a Unitarian Universalist church, and joined Neo-Pagan communities, until I rediscovered Christianity by way of its liturgical and sacramental expressions. Between 2005 and 2007, I was a minister/priest and church planter affiliated with a now-defunct Reformed Catholic Church of America.
After I left RCCA, disillusioned, I found myself again in the Neo-Pagan scene. I went back to school to study feminist theology. Ten years ago, at the emergence of the Occupy movement, I threw myself into the activist scene and became a dedicated community organizer for several years. I founded a local chapter of the Protest Chaplains organization and became the quasi-official chaplain of our Occupy encampment. At that time I thought that I was looking in churches for friendship, opportunities for meaningful contributions, and a sense of community (until then, my life mostly revolved around one faith community or another), and have found them in Occupy, I became for the first time in my adult life increasingly non-religious (or more accurately, Occupy became my "church" during those years).
I became "religious" again in 2015 after I was thoroughly burned out of the activist scene. It wasn't until the spring of 2019 that I made peace with my Christian faith, which shaped me during my adolescent and young adult years.
As you can see, I am made of many things when it comes to theology and spirituality, and I come with unique perspectives because of this -- in addition to my neurodivergent approaches to faith. I think I am most comfortable calling myself "nondenominational" since I am not beholden to any particular ecclesiastical hierarchy at this time. My theology can be characterized as "Metacostal" -- a term coined by Pastor D.E. Paulk and better represented by Bishop Carlton Pearson -- the theology of Christian Universalism and New Thought, spiritual expressions of Pentecostal/Charismatic movement, and temperament and outlook of low-church Evangelicals. But I also think that all the other traditions I familiarized myself with, especially Baptist, Anglican, and Jewish ones, are integral parts of my religious DNA and I hold them in high regard.
I founded Mind Geographic in September 2019 to become a solution to some of the frustrations I had faced in churches. Most of what I set out to do, however, had been upended due to COVID-19. During the COVID years, I decided to reinvest myself in ministry and theological education by going back to school. My learning experiences have given me deeper insights and new ideas about this ministry, so everything is now in flux. But the fundamentals of my vision remain the same.
Just for fun
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A botanist, a linguist, a newspaper reporter, or a geologist... or a CIA agent. When I became a Baptist at age 15, I wanted to become an evangelist or missionary.
Can you speak more than one language?
I used to. In the past I had picked up (at varying degrees of proficiency) Hebrew, French, Portuguese, Esperanto, Interlingua, Elefen, Korean, Chinese, and Japanese. I'm learning Spanish of late. It's easy to lose a language!
What was your favorite subject in school?
Social studies in elementary and middle school. In middle school I also enjoyed home ec (one of the last classes to have this) and computer science (the first-ever class to take this class). Humanities (a combined-credit class of civics, history, writing, and literature, two hours every day!) and visual art in high school.
Are you able to keep a secret?
Yes, I am practically a vault.
Which historical figure would you most like to meet?
What’s your favorite season?
May and June.
What’s your favorite movie?
What was your first paying job?
At an office moving company. $80 a day and free lunch. I was barely 16. A few weeks later the company decided to hire only 18 and older.
Who inspires you?
What’s the best place you’ve traveled to?
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Kind of split. I'm usually the most energetic, creative, and productive between 1 and 7 p.m. as well as between 11 p.m. and 3:30 a.m. I get most of my work done within these time slots.
Are you a coffee or tea person?
Coffee. I was hooked on Starbucks and Seattle's Best Coffee (as well as my favorite independent hangout at the time, Bauhaus) when they were still strictly local Pacific Northwest businesses.
Do you like traveling?
Not much any more. I can physically only handle up to two hours of travel.
Some of the stuff I have done
These are some of the relevant life experiences.
2005-2007: An attempt at church planting
An alternative, emergent community inspired by the Catholic Worker ethos. I started out with hosting a monthly "theology in films" discussion group. While the event drew some people regularly, it did not translate to a more committed group of people who shared common values or interests.
2005-2006: Collective member position at a nonprofit community center
The community center operated as a consensus-based collective, in the traditions of anarchist, DIY and punk cultures. As a member I was in charge of the day-to-day operation of the center, including marketing and reservations. In a couple of months I brought the organization from chronic red ink to having a financial surplus.
2011-2013: Founded and organized a local Protest Chaplains chapter
During the first week of the Occupy encampment I organized a Protest Chaplains chapter there. Over the 39 days, we held weekly interfaith worship services as well as several faith-specific events such as meditation workshops, Sukkot, and Samhain, over 20 such events in total. In addition, we invited a local Roman Catholic priest for a Mass at the encampment. Post-encampment, the group continued with other activities, including a large outdoor Thanksgiving Day dinner in solidarity with people experiencing houselessness and to support a continuous prayer vigil outside the city hall between December 2011 and July 2012 in protest of the city policies that criminalized unhoused people for their acts of survival.
2012-2015: Post-Occupy community organizing
I served on the board of a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization founded for the purpose of supporting a variety of initiatives that began in Occupy, and managed its day-to-day operations until May 2015, earning a distinction of being one of the "last Occupiers." During this time I worked (rather unsuccessfully) to bridge the gap between various factions of the movement and between increasingly polarizing ideological trends.
Certificate of Chaplaincy (47 credit hours), Christian Leaders Institute, completed Oct. 1, 2023
Frankly, I was a serial dropout. I make no secret of this. Higher education remains a guarded privilege that excludes many people. Most universities, colleges, and seminaries are not a welcoming place for the neurodivergent, LGBTQ+ people, people of color, and low-income people.
However, I am always open to any educational opportunity that comes my way.
Presently, I am enrolled in Christian Leaders Institute pursuing a three-year diploma.
In the past, I studied at Warner Pacific University (religion and ministry), Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (certificate program), and Ocean Seminary College (feminist theology), and the Prophetic Voice Institute. In addition, I studied computer programming at Code Oregon (a partnership between Worksource Oregon and Treehouse), and liberal arts and journalism at South Seattle College in the past.
I am a lifelong theology geek, and my future goal is to work on two research projects: (1) a comparative history of women's leadership in Pentecostal and New Thought churches; and (2) an autistic missiology and ecclesiology.