You Are Surrounded by Prayers and Dreams and Witnesses

Rev. Laura Mariko Cheifetz
Name: Rev. Laura Mariko Cheifetz
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers
Ethnic Identity: Multiracial of Japanese American and white Jewish descent
Denomination: Presbyterian Church (USA)
Ministry Role: Assistant Dean of Admissions, Vocation, and Stewardship
Ministry Context: Vanderbilt Divinity School, Nashville, TN
Seminary Attended: McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago, IL

Dear Beloved Siblings,

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, with parents from California, both pastors, the first biracial marriage in their families. I went to seminary on the South Side of Chicago. It was a wilderness for me. But it made me who I am.

Some days it may feel like you are the unicorn, the only one, the first.

Take a deep breath, drop your shoulders away from your ears.

You are not alone. You are probably not even the first. You are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses: queer people, Asian Americans, immigrants, bad-asses who have struggled before, who have had to justify their existences, who have had big questions and scary ideas… because of them, you and I are. We get to be. And I am forever grateful. You are exactly where you belong, and I am so grateful to welcome you as an Asian American/Pacific Islander/Desi American colleague. 

In seminary, I was able to locate the importance of building community across racial lines. While I was very fortunate to attend seminary with several other Asian Americans and Asian international students, we were still very much in the minority. I had always thought I could be in natural solidarity with Latinxs and Black/African American people, but in seminary, it was so different. I was in seminary with Baptists and Pentecostals and congregationalists, so I was traversing relationships across racial lines (not everyone “gets” Asian American identity – that was hard for me to find out and then have to explain) as well as significant theological differences. I could have given up, but instead I leaned in and tried harder – as a result, I think I am better prepared for ministry, and I have life-long colleagues and friends with whom we share and express solidarity.

How might you stay grounded in your faith, identity, and calling? 

Find your “people.” These are the people who treat you as the unique individual you are, and it is mutual. These are the folks who will keep you going when things are hard and will celebrate when times are good.

Read about being Asian American/Desi/Pacific Islander. Reading the stories of us helps us form the story of me, and knowing ourselves is so key to being grounded in ministry, and having the longevity to make it through. Also, there are SO MANY BOOKS and comedy special and poems… it’s so great.

Connect with other Asian Americans/Desis/Pacific Islanders in ministry. We are so glad to welcome you. 

Peace be with you – know that I am praying for you.

Rev. Laura Mariko Cheifetz

Recommended Practices:
  • Find your “people” who treat you as the unique individual you are.
  • Read about being Asian American/Desi/Pacific Islander.
  • Connect with other Asian Americans/Desis/Pacific Islanders in ministry.

Check out all of the seminary resources in our Resource Hub. If you wish to receive letters like this in your email inbox to accompany you on your seminary journey, Subscribe today!

No comments

Comments will be reviewed, and if necessary responded to as soon as possible. Note that pastors who have submitted letters do not receive or are expected to monitor these comments. Feel free to engage in conversation with others who utilize this site.