Home: Letter to Student Community from Executive Director

Beloved friends,

On the evening of Sunday, March 26th during worship I shared with the gathered community my intention to leave my position as Executive Director of The Crossing. Recently I received an invitation to become the Executive Director of the Rainbow Center, an organization that works through education, advocacy, and celebration, to expand resources and safe space for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and allied (LGBTQA) community in Pierce County, in the state of Washington.

I must confess that I was not looking for a new job. Rather, this opportunity came to me through recruitment from talent recruitment agents. However, it came at the right time and from the right location. As many of you know, this past year I faced a cancer diagnosis and also had to face the challenges of federal immigration policies that deeply affect my spouse’s family currently living in Washington State. For Ferneli and I, it was a blessing to know that there was an opportunity for us to be closer to our family. This will offer us the chance to look after our niece and nephew should something were to happen to their parents, and also, to have them close by should my cancer needs more aggressive treatment in the future.

These past three years I have met wonderful human beings. The Crossing has allowed me to work with passionate young people who are committed to the gospel and to the radical love of Christ. This ministry, with its radical inclusion of all of God’s children, offers a glimpse of what the Reign of God looks like – both here on Earth and in the everlasting presence of the Holy One. It has been a blessing to see students grow both spiritually and professionally. I have deeply enjoyed sharing with you in worship, in service projects, in Quest trips, and so many other opportunities. It has also been my privilege to accompany many of you as a pastor and minister. I pray that this ministry continues to offer students at the University of Wisconsin – Madison opportunities where faith meets life. I pray that you continue to pursue your own spiritual paths and to grow in faith, in love for God’s people, and in commitment for justice and reconciliation.

I will continue serving The Crossing for the coming weeks and will stay with you through the last day of the current semester. My last day in the office will be Monday, May 8th. In the meantime, I look forward to sharing more with each one of you. Please feel free to come by the office, to send emails, or texts, and stay in touch. I also invite you to be at the Spring Gala on Sunday, April 30th right here at The Crossing. The Gala will be a wonderful time to connect with the larger community of The Crossing, including past students and many of the supporters of this ministry.

Please, keep in mind that my colleague and your pastor, Rev. Karla Schmidt, will continue to provide pastoral support for students. Please feel free to reach out to her with any concern or pastoral need. As you know, both Sam Moritz and Cody Goetz will be with us through mid-summer. Feel free to reach out to Sam with any questions about Quest and the plans of the next year, or with Cody if you are interested in joining next semester’s Music Team. If you have any questions about the building and the many other groups that we host, feel free to reach out to our Administrator & Building Manager, Immer Valle.

Finally, I want to thank all of you, our students, who have made these past few years unforgettable. The Board of Directors – who have been extremely supportive since I shared the news with them – will put in place a search process to find the right person to lead this ministry. This process will certainly involve YOU, the reason for the ministry. I encourage you to be active participants of this process; reach out to the Board with your questions and concerns, share with them your dreams for the future of the ministry, make your voice be heard throughout the process… I trust that the Spirit of God will bring the right person to serve you and those who will come after you to this ministry.

I leave you with some words of advice that the Apostle Paul offered to a young leader of the emerging Church, as found on 1 Timothy 4: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young. Instead, set an example for the believers through your speech, behavior, love, faith, and in purity. […] Do not neglect the gift that is in you…

With Christ’s love,

J. Manny Santiago