Namaste! I am the Rev. Abhi Janamanchi, and I welcome you to Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church.
I began serving as Senior Minister of Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church in August 2013. Previously, I served UU congregations in Clearwater, FL, Madison, WI, and Park Forest, IL.
In the larger community, I have been actively involved in interfaith, multicultural, and social justice work for over two decades including serving as President of the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF), as a member of the Executive Team of Montgomery County’s Interfaith Community Working Group, and the Internal Review Board of the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Born in India, I was raised in the Brahmo Samaj, a liberal Hindu movement with close ties to Unitarian Universalism. As a young adult, I became actively involved as a lay-minister in the Brahmo Samaj. Inspired by my experience as a lay-minister, in 1994, I took a ‘leap of faith’ and enrolled in Meadville Lombard Theological School, a Unitarian Universalist seminary in Chicago, to study for the ministry.
When I first started attending a UU congregation in Evanston, Il, I was pleasantly surprised to find not just spiritual communion, but something more. I was elated to discover a community of kindred spirits who engaged with life’s intimate and ultimate questions with openness, honesty, and humility; who challenged and inspired each other to live out their values in the world; and, who taught their children to do the same. I realized that I had found my spiritual home away from home. I decided to pursue my ministry in the United States.
Fundamental to my understanding of ministry is that it is about and through relationships. Ministry is a shared enterprise. I hold to the center that all life is relationship, and that God is in the relationships. A ministry, like a relationship, is more than the sum of its moments. Beyond the ups and downs, the events, life and possibility are created by staying through all that happens. We are forged by who we love and by the loving itself, over time.
That means, the various forms of ministry – preaching, teaching, counseling, facilitating, witnessing – are informed and guided by my relationships with the god of my understanding, the people I serve, my colleagues, and my family, especially my wife, Lalitha.
As a minister, I share my own religious journey, not because it is more important than anyone else’s, but because it is part of building and sustaining relationships. I consider myself a UU-Hindu; flavored by the Islamic heritage of my father, Buddhist spiritual practice, and the study and exploration of other world religious traditions. My Unitarian Universalism helps me be a better Hindu, a better human being. It celebrates my identity as a religious hybrid and a theological crossbreed.
For me, the beauty and power of Unitarian Universalism is in its commitment to diversity and pluralism. It teaches us to move beyond tolerance, to be respectful, accepting, and understanding of difference and diversity. It emphasizes that a beloved community is not built through achieving agreement but through achieving understanding.
I believe that we are “going boldly” where no faith has gone before. I hope you will join us on this shared pilgrimage.