The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and the MacLean Award Committee are pleased to announce that Christina Rivera has received the 2020 Angus H. MacLean Award for Excellence in Religious Education. The award was announced at the LREDA Fall Conference 2020 and presented at General Assembly 2022.
From Anna Bethea, UUA Lifespan Faith Engagement Director, Chair of MacLean Award Committee
In a time of pandemic and a time in which centuries-long abuses are crying out to be corrected, religious education takes on a calling for the ages. We’re called to engage questions around how to reinvent our models of caring for each other, reinvest in our values with rigor, and liberate ourselves from familiar patterns of harm. It’s the responsibility of UU religious educators to empower and equip people of all ages to carry out this liberation work in our communities.
That’s why it delights me to honor Christina Rivera with this award for excellence in religious education. She has time and again called Unitarian Universalists to practice our faith in ways that tangibly affirm and promote the lives of those which the dominant society still will not. The legacy of Angus MacLean, for whom this award is named, is encapsulated in the pithy phrase, “the method is the message.” Christina’s work demonstrates the method by which we can truly claim that Unitarian Universalism has a liberating, life-saving theology and message.
And she has done this in the face of threats aimed at both herself and her children. Christina has continued her life-saving calling to religious education ministry while having to balance the safety of her children with her calling to liberation. While the costs of this tenacity have been high with lost employment, health, friends, and colleagues, she has never lost the center of her calling to Unitarian Universalism's foundational tenet of liberatory faith. Indeed, she preaches it is this faith that she hopes will one day be at the center of freedom for not just her children but all our children.
Now, let me tell you about the many locations of Christina’s ministry.
Christina was dedicated in her stewardship of local congregational roles as the Director of Religious Education at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Waynesboro, Virginia and the Director of Administration and Finance at TJ Memorial Church UU in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Alongside Kenny Wiley and Aisha Hauser, Christina was one of the founding religious educators of color who created the unprecedented global UU White Supremacy TeachIn. Building on that success, she then founded the UU TeachIn’s Religious Professionals of Color Support Fund. Recognizing that religious professionals of color have specific needs and moving resources to meet those needs is the Fund’s mission and purpose. To date, the Fund has distributed over five thousand dollars to religious professionals of color.
With an extraordinary depth of wisdom and skill, Christina continues to coach congregations and other organizations through her consulting group, Called to Justice.
Christina is a tireless advocate for UU youth, religious educators, and shared ministry. She has shared that energy in spaces from regional gatherings to General Assembly workshops, webinars, and trainings.
She is the first religious educator, and the first Boricua Chicana religious professional, to serve on the UUA Board, first as Trustee then as Financial Secretary and finally as Secretary of the Association. During her service she was instrumental in bringing about an ethos of shared ministry resulting in first the Co-Presidents and then Co-Moderator models of governance. She was also a driving force behind restoring Board voting status to the Youth Observers (now Trustees) as well as expanding that role from a single Trustee to the current two Youth Trustee model.
Christina elevates the entire profession of religious education through her service as Secretary of the Board of LREDA, the Liberal Religious Educators Association and prior to that was part of the successful lobby for religious educators to have GA delegate voting status similar to their ordained clergy colleagues.
Christina was the organizing Unitarian Universalist presence during the Summer of Hate in Charlottesville 2017. She served as an anchor of connection to local community and faith organizers to counterprotest white supremacists masquerading as political victims.
Christina continues to work for justice in her community during the COVID pandemic, Listening to Black and Latinx communities and then working together with local Mutual Aid and community organizers, she has helped raise and distribute over $3 million for those most impacted by COVID in the Charlottesville community..
Christina recognizes, and actively supports, the importance of a Black Unitarian Universalist theology and serves on the Advisory Team for Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism.
Christina is the 2019 recipient of the The Melvin Hoover "Beloved Community Award" for outstanding service to Communities of Color in Unitarian Universalism, given by DRUUMM Diverse Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries
And one of my favorite ways I continue to experience Christina’s ministry is through her loving, honest, and prophetic commentary as one of the hosts of the VUU, the Church of the Larger Fellowship’s UU Talk Show.
Finally, Christina, your level of commitment to this field and to this faith are truly awe inspiring, and it’s my pleasure to present this award to you on behalf of the Unitarian Universalist Association, the St. Lawrence Theological School Alumni, and the MacLean Award committee.