mandi huizenga (she/her)
I was born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a third generation white Dutch immigrant, where my extended family still live. I was raised in the Dutch Calvinist tradition which played an important role in helping me make sense of my mother’s traumatic passing when I was five years old. Yet, as I grew older, Calvinism’s answers to the big questions of life fell short. For a time, I rejected not only the Christianity of my childhood but also the idea of any religion.
During the summer after my first year of college, I met my partner, Elías Ortega, an Afro-Latino Puerto Rican, when we were summer camp counselors. We married a year later and moved to Princeton, New Jersey, for his graduate work. Shortly after our oldest child, Luna Inés (they/them) was born, we found ourselves looking for a religious community which shared our values and would support us as parents. We began searching for the right community and became Unitarian Universalists at the Princeton UU Congregation. There we found a foundation for our spiritual lives, faith formation for us and our children, and a community that acted on its beliefs. Our second child, Lucien Marcel (he/him, they/them) was born shortly after our first and we then found ourselves moving to North Jersey, after nine years in Princeton, when my partner became a professor at Drew University Theological School. We became members at Morristown UU Fellowship in Morristown, New Jersey.
When the position of Congregational Administrator opened at the Fellowship, I jumped at the opportunity to use my organizational and administrative skills towards furthering my faith community. My work was gratifying and fulfilling. In this position, I found my faith and talents align. I found my love of working in congregational life. I remained in that position for four and a half years before receiving my call to ministry. I began attending Drew University Theological School in the spring of 2018. Throughout seminary, my call to ministry was constantly reaffirmed and I was transformed as a person and into a Unitarian Universalist minister.
In June of 2019, after eight years in North Jersey our family moved to Illinois when my partner became the president of Meadville Lombard Theological School. I transferred from Drew to Chicago Theological Seminary, where I graduated in May of 2022 with a Master of Divinity degree.
In May of 2022, DuPage Unitarian Universalist Church in Naperville, IL called me to be their settled minister. I began my time with them in August 2022.
When I am not in school or at my internship, I am often busy in my garden which is a spiritual practice that reflects my theological values, including earth-based ritual, and a source of food for my family. I also practice a form of qi gong called Pangu and find the focus of handwork, specifically embroidery and cross-stitch, to be helpful for both my mind and spirit. Our family loves the outdoors, traveling, food, and is always up for a new adventure or eating our way through a new city. We have a small grey cat, Calliope and a cat-dog, Tuck.
Note: As a practice to honor the interconnected web of all creation, I do not capitalize my name. First suggested by Robin Wall Kimmerer in her book Braiding Sweetgrass, this practice is a reminder that humanity is a part of the natural world and does not hold dominion or importance over it.