AJ Blackwood will be serving Neighborhood Church and the UU Church of the Verdugo Hills as a ministerial intern for the 2016-2017 school year. AJ is a Unitarian Universalist candidate for the ministry and holds a Master of Divinity from Claremont School of Theology where he served on the Worship Council and was the administrator of the Center for Sexuality and Christian Life. Additionally, AJ holds a Bachelor of Art in Philosophy with a specialization in Comparative Religions from the University of California, Irvine.
AJ is looking forward to building strong relationships with members of both Neighborhood and Verdugo Hills. One of his educational goals is to learn about the inner workings of a large church. During his time with us at Neighborhood, he will be focusing on worship and preaching, social justice, adult education, and pastoral care. His vision of ministry includes a strong call to social justice that is tempered with compassion and love – his ministry calls him to develop interfaith dialogue that provides intersections for diverse groups to come together in faith to work toward justice, equity, and compassion for all. He is looking forward to working and learning from the leadership of the congregation. Most importantly, AJ is excited to get to know and learn from the members of our two UU congregations as he continues his journey to becoming an ordained UU minister.
AJ was raised in a Roman Catholic home with a strong Baptist influence in Anaheim, California. It is here that he first realized he had a call to ministry. During the late ’80s and ’90s, AJ served several congregations in Orange County by developing high school youth ministry curriculum and programs. He also served several regional ministries in the field of youth and young adult ministry leadership development and Queer outreach ministries.
After struggling with his personal theology, AJ began a formal introspective spiritual search. He explored several faith traditions but it was not until he was in reconciliation with his Roman Catholic upbringing that he was able to fully embrace his new UU spiritual path.
While attending Orange Coast UU Church he was encouraged by the Rev. Dr. Karen Stoyanoff to consider ordained ministry as a Unitarian Universalist minister. During this time, he developed a flourishing young adult community within OCUUC while serving as the Young Adult Coordinator and Student Minister.
In 2008, AJ took up the call to be leader in the No on Prop 8 Campaign and later became a founding board member of the Orange County Equality Coalition. He currently serves as the chair of the Progressive Interfaith Alliance – a social justice-based interfaith organization.
AJ is the proud father of two college students and an avid cyclist. He rides his bike on local trails anytime he can and will ride up to 100 miles in a day. He believes that the key to good physical well-being is having a well-balanced diet and a commitment to exercise.