Words of Appreciation

“The committee found you deeply integrated, engaging, well-prepared, and a holy breath of fresh air with a transformative presence.”

Ministerial Fellowship Committee (MFC)


“In the fourteen years I have been teaching at Meadville, I consider Mariela one of the top 3 ministry students I’ve had the privilege to work with. It’s hard to convey all that Mariela brings to ministry, because what she brings is about so much more than skills, knowledge, and dispositions—with which she is abundantly gifted. It’s about more than charisma, too, of which she has plenty. Mariela is one of those people that it is hard to believe truly exists, especially once you know her story…

Mariela is a gifted minister, an inspiring spiritual leader, an attentive pastoral presence, and a radiant human being. You’ll see what I mean when you meet her.”

Dr. Mike Hogue

Professor of Theology, Ethics and Philosophy of Religion , Meadville Lombard

“I believe that Mariela will have a hand in changing the complex world of Unitarian Universalism in a deep and life-giving way.

She consistently models, and teaches about, spiritual hospitality that crosses generational and cultural/racial lines.

It is refreshing to work with a young minister of such deep emotional and spiritual grounding.

Mariela is joyous… and very self-aware, neither swayed by abundant praise nor unduly stung by occasional criticism. Her interpersonal and social skills are second to none – she is authentically charming, curious about others, and open to new ideas. She’s been able to connect very deeply to many members of the congregation, while maintaining impeccable boundaries.

All of these skills, passions, and commitment to personal growth combine to give Mariela a powerful presence in ministry.”

Rev. Lisa Schwartz

UU Fellowship of Winston Salem

“I saw Mariela as a catalyst … a passionate, nurturing, driving, force… Mariela’s strengths are passion, curiosity, and boldness to seek connection, try new things, and let go of old patterns.

It is my pleasure to recommend the artful, loving ministry of Mariela Perez-Simons… as I know her joy, passion, and love lead her to be creative in her ministry and open to learning about and meeting the needs of others. Thank you for considering her work and bright spirit.”

Rev. Erin W. Lysse

Clinical Pastoral Educator at Wake Forest Medical Center

“As Associate/Executive Minister at All Souls Unitarian Church, I have been serving as Mariela’s supervisor since August 1. Although that is a short time, the power of Mariela’s ministry has already made a deep and lasting impression on our ministerial team, our staff, our congregation and on me. Mariela brings her whole self to meetings, to pastoral care, to teaching and to preaching. Her warmth and wisdom win hearts and minds. Her analysis and honesty deepen our decision making. I am inspired to be a better minister in relationship with Mariela and am grateful to witness her influence on our staff and members.

Mariela is a gift to our movement and the world, and she will be a gift to any congregation that is lucky enough to have her.”

Rev. Barbara Prose

Executive Minister, All Souls Unitarian Church

“Working alongside Mariela Pérez-Simons has not only been a joy, but our collaborative work has modeled shared ministry for me in my role as a membership professional.

In all her endeavors to build beloved community, Mariela beautifully balances the need for intellect and reason with the heart’s call for spiritual connection.

She lives her life with curiosity and wonder, and she inspires these qualities in others.”

Caron Armstrong

Membership Manager

Feedback on Worship and Rites of Passage

Mariela is energetic and engaging as a speaker and worship leader. Her services are clearly focused, and she has a gift for using visual props and multisensory elements to enliven and underscore the theme for different learning styles.

She is deeply present when leading both a solemn memorial ritual and a joyous child dedication ceremony. Her sense of the holy is palpable to the congregation. She crafts inclusive liturgy and demonstrates a deep multicultural sensitivity.

She researches her topics, but doesn’t get bogged down in professorial relating of details – her services aim to be transformational, not simply informative. She adapts her style to accommodate different ages in the room.

Rev. Lisa Schwartz

UU Fellowship Winston Salem

Mariela shows an innate gift when crafting worship services. All of them always include visually stimulating pageantry that dazzles and draws everyone in. Members of the congregation have commented on her ability to be imaginative, thoughtful, inspirational, and energizing, sharing her message of finding, savoring and focusing on joy as the means to live fully.

Internship Committee

All Souls Unitarian Church (Tulsa)

Mariela brings her body, soul, and spirit into worship and all of life – she has created a more embodied worship.  She preaches wonderful sermons filled with passion and might.

She exudes an assuredness of the knowledge she shares and is remarkable in how she intertwines it with personal testimony. Her presence in the pulpit is warm, inviting and reverent… Mariela’s sermons are engaging and spiritually fulfilling.

Mariela prepares beautiful decorations and props for every service she leads (decorated cardboard boxes representing the building blocks of her faith, carefully constructed yellow submarines), and presented information that both informed and inspired the congregation, drawing upon sources from multiple cultures and traditions as well as her own life experience.

Mariela never fails to provide fascinating and challenging services that are embellished with visually interesting elements… She is able to adeptly dance between science/knowledge/research and the deeply spiritual.

She includes the children in the story for all ages – they are usually both rapt and enthusiastic.  Often uses object/pictures/map/song to begin engagement and gifts them with related concrete memorabilia to take with them (seed, stone, etc.).  She also recently arranged a young children’s activity table within our sanctuary – not usual for our congregation – but reflective of her commitment to “oneness” of community.

Internship Committee

UU Fellowship Winston Salem

Feedback on Pastoral Care

Mariela is a compassionate, present companion to people who are ill, aged, or just in need of support. She has always responded in a timely manner to requests for pastoral care, and is also skilled at making small but significant contacts with people in a less formal way.  Her CPE internship in a large teaching hospital clearly sharpened her skills and deepened her understanding of how differences in race and class affect one’s health in a holistic way.

Rev. Lisa Schwartz

UU Fellowship Winston Salem

If designing worship is clearly one of the ways in which Mariela finds her ministry, talking to the congregants after services, and seeing the impact her multisensory sermons have had on each one, offers her an opportunity for reflection and pastoral care. Mariela is always present, inclusive and personal to all. Thanks to the work she did to include the Tulsa Latinx community in two special services, she has enabled All Souls to offer more broadly meaningful pastoral care to one of Tulsa’s largest and fastest growing minority communities.

Internship Committee

All Souls Unitarian Church (Tulsa)

Feedback on Spiritual Development for Self and Others

A great gift that an extrovert offers a congregation is a front-row seat to her own growth and development. It’s been a boundless blessing to the congregation that Mariela is willing to share her own journey, to be visibly vulnerable within excellent boundaries.  The congregation has responded with great openness, learning new skills in savoring life and building their own capacity for staying engaged in beloved community.

The Winston-Salem Fellowship is predominantly white, though we have willingly engaged in the work of de-centering whiteness and dismantling white supremacy. Mariela moves with grace and determination into these fraught areas, allowing the joyous colors and rhythms of her Caribbean roots to help us unlock the joy along this journey.

I have worked with Mariela for two years (first as a mentor during her community studies year, and then during the first year of her congregational studies) and I have witnessed her commitment to practices of self-care. She clearly developed these skills of mature groundedness during her life as a creative entrepreneur, and she has learned to take exquisite care of herself. Though she is clearly interested in and passionate about many things, she has above-average skills at saying “no” gracefully.

She follows through with commitments and collaborates with others in order to share the work load and the joy in the completed project.

Rev. Lisa Schwartz

UU Fellowship Winston Salem