Pastor AJ Blackwood, MDiv recently completed a 2 year contract ministry at Prairie UU Church in Parker, Colorado. During his time at PrairieUU he established himself as a leader in the Colorado UU racial justice community as a founding steering team member of and currently serving The Mountain Top: A BIPOC UU Community as a volunteer chaplain. He continues to serve as a member of Colorado UU’s United for Racial Justice religious professionals team.
Previous to his ministry in Colorado, AJ has served as a consulting minister of Sepulveda UU Society, in North Hills, CA and the UU Fellowship of Kern County in Bakersfield, CA and the ministerial intern at Neighborhood UU Church in Pasadena, CA and UU Church of the Verdugo Hills in La Crescenta, CA, through a dual-site internship.
AJ is a Southern California native and holds a Master of Divinity from Claremont School of Theology and a Bachelor of Art in Philosophy with a minor in Comparative Religions from the University of California, Irvine.
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. At the age of 15, AJ delivered his first interfaith prayer for the Orange County Parish Organizing Committee (now the OC Congregation Community Organization) in response to gang violence and economic injustice in the City of Anaheim.
During the late 80’s and ’90s, AJ served several congregations in Orange County, CA, in developing high school youth and young adult ministry programs as a consultant and as congregational staff. He also served several regional ministries in the field of Youth and Young Adult Ministry leadership development and Queer (LGBTQ+) Ministry.
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.
In 2005, while attending Orange Coast Unitarian Universalist Church (OCUUC) in Costa Mesa, CA, he was encouraged by the Rev Dr Karen Stoyanoff to consider ordained ministry as a Unitarian Universalist minister.
In January 2006, AJ entered the seminary at Claremont School of Theology. While in seminary he served on the Worship Council and was the administrator of the Center for Sexuality and Christian Life. During this time he developed a flourishing young adult community within OCUUC where he also served as the student minister.
In 2008, AJ took up the call to be a leader in the No on Prop 8 Campaign, later became a founding board member of the Orange County Equality Coalition and in 2010 developed Progressive Interfaith Alliance, a community organization that works toward justice for underrepresented peoples.
While, AJ has strong skills in worship – working with multimedia and art to develop multi-sensory, spiritually vibrant worship experiences, AJ has centered his ministry in rooting out oppression in all its forms by developing deep and meaningful relationships, collaboration, and coalition building. Outside of ministry, AJ has worked in medical management where he was the president of a small medical billing company in Southern California. He also was the proprietor of a chain of small hotel concierge offices. AJ is an outside-the-box thinker and program developer and is also currently developing Bridges: A UU Network that is aimed at supporting small congregations and emerging ministries.
On a personal side, Pastor AJ is engaged to Denard Thomas, he has two adult children Naomi-Rose and Jon-Luc. Pastor AJ enjoys bicycling, sci-fi and fantasy TV and movies, sewing, and lively debates over politics, theology, and justice. He is looking forward to laying deep roots with each of us.