2324 Miller Avenue, Escondido
Pastor: Reverend Thomas Anastasi
Born: Chattanooga, Tennessee
Formation: University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tenn. Starr King School for the Ministry, Berkeley; San Francisco Theological Seminary, Berkeley
Years Ordained: 21
San Diego Reader: How long do you spend writing your sermon?
Pastor Thomas Anastasi: I learned in seminary that each minute of a sermon requires about an hour of preparation. Actually, that is still true, even now. So, a 20-minute sermon is 20 hours of preparation — half of my work week. I tend to pay a lot of attention to what’s going on in the congregation right now. I don’t follow the lectionary the way most Christian ministers do. I also pay attention to what’s happening in the world — such as immigration issues, homophobia, or racism. I tend to incorporate these things into the sermon.
SDR: What is a Unitarian Universalist?
PT: The Unitarian Universalist Congregation came out of the Christian tradition. We’re around 400 years old as a verified denomination. Actually, we’re a confluence of two congregations. We’ve decided that there’s a world beyond Christianity. So we honor our heritage in the Christian traditions and the Jewish traditions, but we also think there are valuable insights that come from other sources. Our most famous minister was Ralph Waldo Emerson. He led a group of people to look beyond Christianity — a group called the Transcendentalists. Their main focus was nature because they believed it had a lot to say about what’s important in the universe. So, being one with nature and the natural forces of the universe can lead us to some important insights and truths about how to live our lives.
SDR: Would you consider yourself post-Christian?
PT: We’re not really post-Christian, but we have moved into another realm, which is to say, there are many pathways to the divine and the truth that are important to our lives. Christianity is certainly one of those pathways, but there are others.
SDR: What is the basic text you use for your sermons?
PT: We use texts from other religions, the Buddhists, the Hindus, parts of the Jewish tradition, and even primal religious groups such as the Native American wisdom and so-called pagan religions that existed prior to organized religion, when for the first time humanity thought about these things. I personally identify myself as a Unitarian Universalist Christian, which means that the Bible is very important to me, but I’m very open to other things. I personally get a lot out of poetry and the words of Walt Whitman and poets of today such as Mary Oliver, May Sarton, David White.… I think the poetry of the day can be so important that I would call it spiritual text.
SDR: What is your main worry as a member of the clergy?
PT: I want to make our lives full of integrity…. One of the sayings we often use about Unitarian-Universalism is that we’re a religion of deeds and not creeds. What people do is more important than what they say.
SDR: Where do you go when you die?
PT: I don’t have a theology about that. There are many different viewpoints on it, and I can honestly say I don’t know what happens…. If there is a heaven, hell, purgatory or whatever it is, that will take care of itself, if we pay attention to how we’re living our lives today.