Rev. Eugene Dyszlewski, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, was recently installed as minister of social justice at First Unitarian Church of Providence. Dyszlewski, an advocate of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights, is the chair of the Rhode Island Religious Coalition for Marriage Equality and has served on the board of directors of Marriage Equality Rhode Island. He is also the founding coordinator of East Bay PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), and is the recipient of the Rhode Island Pride Committee’s 2008 Pyramid of Pride Award for outstanding contribution to the GLBT community.
PBN: Tell us a little bit about your role.
DYSZLEWSKI: As community minister for social justice, I am charged with taking action in addressing social issues. For Unitarians, church is more than just a meeting on Sunday morning; I provide a pastoral presence in our outreach and advocacy efforts. My approach is to engage in dialogue on social justice concerns with various groups in the community.
PBN: In addition to serving First Unitarian Church of Providence, you’re also the chair of the Rhode Island Religious Coalition for Marriage Equality. Why is this cause important to you?
DYSZLEWSKI: The children in my Sunday school with two mommies or two daddies are no less precious to me than the children with a mom and a dad, and a mom or a dad. There are no substandard church families. I believe in the value and the sanctity of marriage. Gay and lesbian couples want to marry for the same reasons straight couples do – to show their love and commitment to each other and to nurture and protect their family.
PBN: Before you became a minister, you spent 25 years in the behavioral health care field. How has that experience informed your work?
DYSZLEWSKI: Being a therapist offers valuable insight into the inner workings of the human soul. After listening to people struggling with problems and issues in their lives, I have grown in admiration for their courage and perseverance. Suffering happens but healing is possible. I have also come to believe very convincingly that it really does take a village to raise a child. Resilient children are children who are loved and cared for by the many adults in their lives. •