Sound of the Genuine

Pastor, Coach, Attorney: Finding Home in Purpose

May 20, 2022 FTE Leaders Season 2 Episode 14
Sound of the Genuine
Pastor, Coach, Attorney: Finding Home in Purpose
Show Notes Transcript

Sarah Raquel Gautier is a 2nd-generation Latina who has devoted her life to building people up to live in wholeness with purpose. Sarah serves as the lead Pastor of Living Stones in East Boston, MA. She is also a CrossFit coach, attorney, and the author of Color Me Yellow - Finding Your Voice in the Tension Between God's Promises and their Fulfillment. Sarah co-created the Collab Convo Cards - a conversation starter deck to equip Latinx young people in discerning their identity, calling, and purpose. Sarah believes that through intentional conversation and mentorship, Latinx young people can live their greater stories.

Instagram: @sarahrgautier

Podcast: Alive Living


Music by: @siryalibeats

Portrait Illustration by: Olivia Lim


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Sarah Gautier

Hey, what's going on. It's Dr. Patrick Reyes here and today we have Sarah Gautier. I should say Reverend Sarah Gautier, Esq. because yes, she is a pastor, she is a lawyer, she's a CrossFit instructor. She's an author, a podcaster....She does all the things. Welcome Sarah to the show.

Patrick: All right, Sarah, we are glad that you joined us on the Sound of the Genuine. You are a pastor, a CrossFit instructor, a leader in the community...you podcast. I mean you do it all! You're an author, you literally do it all. How are you doing today? 

Sarah: It's great to be here. Thanks for bringing me on the show. I'm just looking forward to the conversation today. 

Patrick: You do all this stuff and I imagine that hustle came from somewhere. So take me back. Tell me about your people. Where'd you grow up, you know, where did all this kind of imagination about doing everything come from? 

Sarah: I'm a second-generation Puerto Rican. My most formative years were in central Florida, so in Lakeland, Florida. If you throw a dart at the middle of the state, you end up right in Lakeland - about 40 minutes away from Disney World. So grew up in the suburbs really in a predominantly white, middle-class context.

But for me, our anchor was the church and that was where we got the sounds of people speaking Spanish, but speaking English, we got the foods, I went to a very multi-ethnic church. So even though I'm Puerto Rican, I've been eating pupusas, bandeja paisa from a very young age. And so just being able to grow up with the diversity of people around me, diversity of Latinos around me, has really kind of grounded me. It opened my eyes to the opportunities. My dad is a pastor, my parents were also teachers, so education is always something that's been really important in our family.

I think for me, like just being able to have the richness of both a suburban, predominantly white middle-class culture and also the richness of a multiethnic Latino culture with people who were undocumented, but people who were second, third generation as well - just being able to have that both/and, I think for me really opened my eyes to…I can exist in all of these spaces. I don't need to compromise who I am. That was kind of my most formative years, really just awakening to that reality that like it's okay to be in both of these spaces. 

And I think as a second-generation Latina/Puerto Rican, there's that tension, there's always this tension of like I wasn't born on the island, I wasn't raised on the island. My Spanish, when I was growing up, I needed some help, you know, like it wasn't great growing up. But I felt anchored to and tethered to just the like multicultural life, because I had both/and.

Patrick: I mean, as you think about this context, what did the church what did your parents, as you're navigating these things, what was the imagination about what do you want to be when you grow up? What were people speaking over your life? What were your gifts? 

Sarah: Yeah, so I always love to joke with people that I've done, like everything in the church. So when I was seven years old, this old man, he had a big white beard, he looked like Santa Claus and I played the guitar and he was like, hey, come sit next to me in the worship team.

I didn't know how to play chords really. My hands weren't big enough for the guitar. But I'll never forget this old man. It was like one of those first mentors, you know - he took a risk on me. He saw something special in me. And so from there, you know, from playing my guitar as a little kid, keeping up with this old guy and then just navigating all kinds of different roles of the church. I've been mujier, I've been an usher. I played on the worship team, obviously. I was like a Sunday school teacher. I've done a little bit of everything. Youth group leader…just all of these different spaces -  interpreting for my pastor from Spanish to English. So without knowing it, I was being formed to understand all of the different dynamics that go into, how do you care for a community?

How do you care for a church community? How do you care for the body of Christ? And not just be, sitting in the pews, but that church is not just somewhere where we come to take up space, but it's somewhere where we can learn. It's like a playground, it's a place where we get the opportunity to try out all kinds of things. And for me, it was okay from that old man who used to let me just play some bad chords on the guitar to other mentors and, just ancianos like the old people, the older people in the church, they would just give me space to make mistakes. They would give me space to ask questions.

They would give me space to explore. And I think because I had that support right? In the context of the church community, that church family, it empowered me to do that in other spaces of my life and to not hold back because I thought like, oh, I couldn't do this and I couldn't do this. cause I knew like, oh, I've, I've practiced that at church.

Or I like experimented with this thing at church. And I think so often we look outside of the church context and we're like, oh, what can I learn and then what can I bring to the church? But for me it was like, this is what I actually got from the church that I'm now bringing into all these different contexts that I was in. But I think it was because I've just felt the safety of being able to explore in a very diverse context.

Patrick: I mean, what's so exciting about this is I know you're not in Florida anymore. 

Sarah: Yeah.

Patrick: So tell me about this move from this, what sounds like such a safe, welcoming, affirming environment for you to really kind of test and explore and play. When do you leave this environment and start testing this somewhere else? 

Sarah: Yes. So, did my undergrad at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. So for undergrad I still, you know, wanted to stay around. I would go back home every weekend to church, cause I had responsibilities. I had family like, I was one of those people that did not stay at school on the weekends. My friends didn't understand me. But then when I was kind of moving towards graduation that senior year, I just felt like, I'm finally ready to explore something new. I always knew that I wanted to be an attorney. 

Like that was something that from a young age, like I really care…again, this care for people, the support of people, and I wanted to do it in the justice space. And so in 2008, I moved to Boston to go to Northeastern, to law school, but my prayer before God was like, I don't want Boston just to be about going to school and putting my head in the books and not actually being with people.

So give me an opportunity to be with people and to like really build roots in this community, because I had, like you said Pat, like I came from such a rich context, a very rooted context. So I didn't want to feel the sense of being uprooted and then not rooted when I moved to Boston. When I came here, I was going to school, but I was also attending a fairly large Latino church in the city.

I remember I sat down with one of the associate pastors, maybe like a month into being there and he was asking me like, what are some things that you might be interested in? Like who are you? What are your skills, talents, et cetera. I told him at that time, I was like, one of the things that I was doing before I left was I was leading the middle school ministry at my church.

And I have such a love for middle schoolers. It's such a weird age. They're going through so much. It's tough. But at that time, they were looking for someone to do something with middle-schoolers. I was like pastor like can you give me like six months just to be in the church, to be with the community, to get to know the people, to see if this is the right fit for me?

Also, by the way, I'm in law school. So, you know, year one is the hardest year of law school and he was like, yeah, yeah, we'll give you time. I'll connect you with some folks. I think it was like two months later, he was like, we really would love to start this semester.

I'm going to put you with another co-leader, we'll give you the curriculum, can you show up? And I was like, Sure. Like I knew that I had the skillset and the passion to do it. so it was just about making sure that, you know, I was balancing school and serving in church and, it ended up being such a meaningful experience.

I started there working with middle schoolers and then I started working with high schoolers. And then by the time I graduated from law school, the youth pastor was retiring. And so they said, would you be interested in potentially stepping on as the youth pastor part-time? I had a legal opportunity through one of my internships to take on a part-time position. So these two part-time...part-time lawyer/part-time pastor, full-time losing my mind. I was young, like I have all the energy in the world for this, let's go! That ended up being a really meaningful experience but it came as a surprise to me in the moment, but then I always replay that prayer and that conversation that I had with God, like make this about more than just going to law school. I want to walk with people. I want to care with people. I want to, I want to learn from people like, I, I want to do this in community and I want to feel a sense of rootedness. And so being able to have, you know, the best of both worlds at the end of graduating felt like a dream. That kind of began that transition.

I did both of those roles for five years. It was a long haul. I was being promoted in the legal space, at the nonprofit that I was working at. And so there was a lot of pressure on me. My boss had transitioned out and so they upgraded me to like interim director of the projects. And there was a season, where I just began to feel like this is not a sustainable way to live.

And it was great while it lasted and I learned a lot but I just felt the holy spirit kind of whispering to me like, is this what you wanna do, you know, for the rest of your life? Do you want to continue to be in both spaces or if you could choose one of these paths, which would you choose and how would you let me use you?

And so I just began to like hear that in my quiet time with the Lord and then a lot of conversations with mentors and asking, and my dad was a pivotal person in my life. Like a lot of conversations with him about it. And then I kind of like put it into the back of my mind, you know, let it recede and just said, okay God, I'm going to let this marinate and we'll see where I feel the discerning of the spirit. And then my dad got really sick and I was back and forth from Boston to Florida. And he was in the hospital for basically 28 days. They couldn't figure out what was wrong with him.

It was just a perfect storm of everything. And I remember I was doing the night shift so that my mom and my brother could be home and rest. And I remember just like having conversations with him in the dead of night when he couldn't sleep. And him just asking me questions about, what do you want your life to look like? We had these conversations at the beginning of the year, now it's November, what are you doing? 

I just remember in those conversations, feeling like his push of the spirit, but also like a feeling like I'm ready to take a next step. He passed away in December of that year - 2014 and about six months after he passed away I ended up leaving my legal career and dedicating myself full-time to youth ministry. And that was like a really meaningful step for me. It was very hard because in our Latino culture, like there are very few lawyers. So I had to die to a lot of the prestige - just to say it that way. I mean it is - to be a lawyer, to have the degree, to have the experience. So I had to die to that role and that title and the prestige of being a formal attorney by really yielding to the Lord and submitting to the Lord and saying, okay God, if this is where you’re leading, if this is where you're guiding, I want to be in the places where you want me to be, not the places where I'm forcing myself to be. And I was at the edge of burnout, so tired - at this point, it was about six years of really intensive doing both things. And so that was a really pivotal step for me. That happened in about 2015 was when I made that transition.

Patrick: Wow, Sarah, as I'm sitting with the death of your father, the transition, these deep conversations over 28 days, the transition you're having in Boston and just recognizing the physical distance from the core of your beginnings in Florida to Boston and trying to think about this…I'm totally projecting, but Boston also is a isolating place because it's so segregated - thinking about like you have a rich Latino community.

I think about where you are in east Boston. The way that Boston is set up, it's built as a transient community for students who are coming and going. So when you're grounded in 2015 and thinking about these changes, you know, what's helping you discern, in addition to this conversation with God, like where's the community kind of bubbling up if at all in Boston? 

Sarah: Yeah, so at the time I was still doing youth ministry at the church and it was a really great experience. I had a lot of really close relationships, like people who were friends and then they became like family to me, right, extension of family, which is what the church is supposed to be!

And so like I was in a space where I had a lot of really good friends, people who were walking with me. That same pastor who like threw me in the trenches, he was a very close mentor at that time. One of the things I'll never forget my dad said to me, like one of his last conversations, he said go home.

And I always thought this is strange. He understood something that I couldn't really understand, like I want you to go home and home meant Boston, because at that point I was very rooted here. And I don't think he wanted me to feel... my mom was in Florida, my brother, like everybody was in Florida. I don't think he wanted me to feel tied back. Even though I was, you know, going back and forth and trying to discern, maybe I should go home. Maybe I should go back to Florida. And I think my dad saying go home, but he meant Boston was one of those really defining moments. And at that point, for me community was the business owners. So I was an attorney working with small business owners and entrepreneurs in the city. So like I know all the little shops and restaurants. I felt this sense of connectedness to the physical community of the business owners that are on the corners and then a real sense of connectedness to my church community at the time. The combination of those two things just made me feel like I think Boston is actually the place where I'm supposed to be in the season of my life.

And there's a lot of work to be done. You're right. Boston is a transient city. It's a cold city temperature wise, but also just like people don't say hi, people don’t look at you. It's a tough place to be. But at the same time, I feel like there are pockets hope here where you get that sense of community.

So I'm in East Boston now - East Boston is 59 % Latino. And so in some ways this community feels like the most like my experience when I was growing up in church, just based on people who are in the space. This has felt like a very connected and a very warm place.

Patrick: So as you go home, take your dad's words - kind of let them wash over you, as your vocation, as your call, you’re home now. What does that look like? What are you doing in the Boston space as you've kind of transitioned away from this legal, trying to climb that ladder, trying to hustle that youth ministry at the same time? Like what does that transition into as you move home? 

Sarah: I stayed with youth ministry, for another few years. So it ended up being like a total of 10 years that I was in youth ministry at this church, which is a long time for a youth pastor. but I'll never forget. I was at a retreat with the kids. a fall retreat, and one of the kids comes up to me and he prays for me. I was blown away. 14-year-old kid, he comes up to me, he prays for me and says, “I know that you have been wondering if it's time to move on. It is time to move on.” And I had been questioning in my heart, like am I going to be a youth pastor forever?

Am I going to do this forever? And this 14-year-old kid tells me it's time to move on from youth ministry. And I’m like oh my God. So I'm like a wreck, crying, you know, just like God speaking through. And like, that's what you want to see. Like you want to see, as a youth pastor, your kids empowered to feel like I could pay for my pastor. I could prophesy over my pastor. 

And so that was in fall, and so maybe like six months later, I transitioned out of my role as the youth pastor of that church. I spent six months kind of winding down from that position. The church that I was at was a very regional church, a very large church, and because I had done all this work in the community, with small business owners and entrepreneurs just very on the ground, like I wanted to be part of a church community that was very neighborhood oriented. God has been stirring up some questions in my heart about like, what does it look like for a faith community to partner with community organizations and businesses for the good of a neighborhood?

And so I already kind of had those thoughts in my mind that church planting was not something I was interested in. It was not something I wanted to do. It was about a two-year time of just kind of discerning like church planting is really hard and launching out and doing a new thing and thinking about new models of the church is a new thing. Like it's hard. And so I told God, I was like, give me some time. And I also needed time to rest, to be honest - 10 years of ministry - I was like, I'm going to take this time. And so good therapy, good pastors, good rest I think helped me to discern in that two-year gap, that I actually want to see what is in store.

So I had a friend of mine who owns a CrossFit gym and we've known each other at this point for like 13 years. I felt just kind of led by the spirit, like go talk to him about this thought or this question that you have of what does it look like for a faith community to partner with organizations, small businesses for the good of the community? So I had the conversation with him. I was like, you know what would it look like to have a church that's partnered with your gym? Or just partnered at all? And like, could you give me some perspective about what that looks like? He's, you know, crazy like me and so we just kind of said, let's figure this out. Like, let's do it.

So that was the end of 2018 when we had that conversation. [In] 2019 we started to like dream and imagine what that would look like to have a church that gathers in a gym, but it's also like partnered with the gym and in various ways to outreach to the community. This gym is very invested in supporting local community efforts, schools, et cetera. So it just felt right for us to partner. We started gathering in 2019 really with this question of like, what can we do for the good of the neighborhood? And so then the pandemic hits in 2020. We were not yet a year old when the pandemic hit, really like six months old. But we have this question, what does this look like and how do we show up and where do we show up? And Boston was shut down for 48 days of quarantine. Like it was a long, long quarantine here. 

And during that time, I felt this push of the spirit say hey, what about being a CrossFit coach? Like that's one way that you can connect with the community. I wasn't doing CrossFit at the time. I had no desire to do CrossFit. So I'm like going through the process of studying for the CrossFit exam and learning and apprenticing at the gym. Through the pandemic I become pastor/coach. Just wild. 

and the athletes know that I'm a pastor. And so sometimes, you know, we'll have conversations that they're looking for pastoral counseling and guidance and it's wild because they might not congregate anywhere, or considered themselves people of faith or Christian or anything, but they'll be like, hey coach/pastor, could I talk to you? And, it's been a really interesting journey of how the spirit has just moved and allowed us to be very present in the neighborhood and be connected to the neighborhood in a time when it's very hard, I think, for churches to be connected, for people to feel connected. But I think because like pastor/coach now - it's been fun. We're always trying to find ways to like reach out to the community.

I have a heart for young people because that's the space that I've been in. And so, we have, started a project with the gym and the church where we're offering fitness and like mental health resources for kids in the community because…pandemic. High school/middle school students are really going through it and their mental health and we know that. Our Latino kids, it's not likely that they're going to talk to a therapist, it's very taboo in our communities to even talk about mental health, but we know that fitness can be transformative. And so our church, in partnership with the gym, has been offering resources in that way. 

So one of the things that we had the opportunity to do, actually during the pandemic year so during 2020, we already knew that we wanted to support young people kind of in their journey of discerning vocation and trying to get a sense of like identity, calling, purpose. Who am I, what am I supposed to be doing and we really wanted to do it for, Latino people because Latino young people don't get to have these conversations. This is a luxury to be able to have these conversations. What does this look like to engage in this conversation? 

And we interviewed a bunch young people and one of the things that they said, it's like, I would love to talk to somebody about my vocation, but oftentimes if I have these conversations, it's disconnected from my ethnic and my racial identity. And that kept coming up over and over and over again, as if there's no space to be able to reconcile some of those racial and ethnic pieces of our identity as Latinos to be able to tie that then to how does this connect to my calling, my sense of purpose, like how do these things connect? And so we thought, how can we build a tool, a resource, that connects all of who we are. So it connects all of the different parts of our identity. And the toolkit that we build out, the cards that we build out, it ended up being a card deck which we didn't know at the time, but in conversations like we tested a couple of things with some young people and they were like, oh, this would be so cool if this was an actual card deck that you could sit down with a mentor, or you could sit down with a cohort and just walk through something tangible together. A card deck that's like got conversation starters in it. But we really wanted it to be tied to that ethnic and racial identity that's so often, I think, disconnected from conversations about calling and purpose. 

And so, the way that the card deck is built out, it has three different parts. One is about stewarding the present - those identity questions of like who am I and just the different intersecting parts of our identity. The second part is about honoring the past, because I think so often like we're like, oh I got to forget the past. Oftentimes for our folks, first generation immigrant kids especially, like they're trying to forget the past. They're trying to like not pay attention to any of that trauma. And so we go there, we think it's important, we think that's an important conversation and we think that we need to name the trauma, but we also need to honor the triumphs, right? And so we, talk about honoring the past. And then the third part of the card deck is building the future. And so like now that you've got all these pieces like what is the future that you see and not just what does the future you see for yourself, but also like what is the future that you see for the generations that come after you?

And so there's nine different sessions in the card deck that could be done. We’ve done it one-on-one, so like with a mentor and a mentee. Also we did it this summer cohort style and we did it in context of like fitness, mental health, and calling and identity. So it's a very versatile deck. It's fun to use. We are doing some updates to it right now so that we can start to send it out to other people to use it. Cause people are wondering like how can we get it into our hands? So that's one of the projects for 2022, really getting all the things fine-tuned, packaging it, and then having it available as a resource for other folks use.

And so yeah, it’s not what I thought it was gonna look like, it’s not what I expected. You know, I’m just trying to be a person that like gets caught in the waves of the spirit, and this is where the spirit has me for now, in this season.

Patrick: That's what’s up! I mean, it sounds like such an eclectic journey, but I'm seeing the arc. This rich community and building that, the legal, building home, local network…I have like, you know, legal-pastor-coach. Like, I dunno what order those go in, community development, I mean, you're doing it all.

So tell me a little bit about this vocation. I ask everyone who comes on this show, and this is my last question, the how much of your vocation comes from these conversations with that community back home with your pastors, mentors, coaches, friends, your dad telling you to go home, and how much of it comes from that still small voice in you. You've discussed a lot about prayer, this discussion with God, the divine. How do you balance these things to live out your vocation? 

Sarah: As I've kind of thought about vocation, I think it's this connectiveness between our identity and like, all the parts of our identity, and all the intersecting aspects of our identity. And then it has a lot to do with like connecting that to our sense of purpose. And I think because I'm someone that has had so many roles in different arenas - I think our culture tells us that purpose is the title, purpose is the job, purposes is something out there that I've got to achieve and once I do that, like I'll feel fulfilled in my purpose. And for me, I think about purpose as so much more like, who am I in every single room that I'm in? Like, what role do I play?

What lights me up in those spaces? Community building is something really important to me, but anything that I'm doing where I'm building people up to live their greatest lives, that's where I'm fulfilled. So whether it's as a youth pastor, that is walking alongside young people, whether it's as an attorney working specifically with entrepreneurs and small business owners, but like they've got a dream and I get to walk alongside that. Whether it's the neighborhood, walking alongside the neighborhood right now and the needs - a lot of gentrification happening in this neighborhood. There's food insecurity, displacement, xenophobia, like there's a lot. And for me, trying to find spaces and places where I can walk alongside the neighborhood. Being a coach, I get to hang out with my athletes every week and it's just fun to be able to see their growth in fitness, but also in different parts of their lives.

And so for me when I think about vocation and I think about these pieces, it's like the identity piece, my purpose piece, but it's also like what role do I play in every room that I'm in? And it's to be a builder in these spaces. And like I've been doing that since I was playing the guitar with the little old man and just like building up the music for the worship team and all these just like different things that I've done in my life, it's really been about that. I think that that alleviates the pressure to be like I need this title or I need this thing. Like you said, what's the order: lawyer/pastor/coach – pastor/lawyer/coach? I wrote a book during this time too, as a grieving process, so like author is there. I have a podcast, so podcaster is there. But it's like the core thing is let's build people up. And for me, if I'm doing that…put me in any space - I'm good. 

I'm free do anything that the spirit is inviting me to do in any season. Because I understand this intersection between like, I know who I am, I know the people that I want to serve - which is predominantly Latino people, Latino youth - like I'm really about that. And I want to be in those spaces. And then I just want to build people up. I can do anything and it's freeing to live like that. They don't teach you that in school. They don't teach you that the windy path of vocation is really figuring out who am I, and what do I bring to all the spaces that I'm in? And then how can I just be consistent in every space and bring it?.

Patrick: I mean, if our listeners are as pumped up as I am right now, listening to you talk about all this stuff. If they want to get a workout in, when they're in Boston next time in east Boston, where do we go? Where do we go to find you? 

Sarah: Yup. So I'm a coach at Eastiefit. It's right near the airport. So seriously, even if you just have a long layover, like let me know, we'll get it hooked up for sure. I have a podcast called the Alive Living podcast. You can find that on all the platforms. And then you can find me @sarahrgautier on any of the platforms and I'm happy to walk with you on this journey. That's it. That's all I want to do. I just want to walk with people. Did we encourage people? Do we love people? All right. Let's go!

Patrick: All right, Sarah. I'm in, so you're speaking my language. I'm all for it. 

Sarah: Pat, it’s going to be hard to get you to Boston though. I got a spot for you to work out if you're ever in town. 

Patrick: Good, good, good, good. I'll be out there. Sarah, it's been great having you. Thank you so much for sharing your story and for your journey and for all your work. It's inspired me. And I'm hoping that other folks pick up your podcast, pick up that book, and hopefully pick up a workout when they're rolling through. So thank you pastor/coach! Thanks for being on the Sound of the Genuine.

Sarah: Thanks so much. 

Patrick: I want to thank you for listening to Sarah's story. And if you're inspired by this, FTE’s launching a course in social entrepreneurship and innovation. You can head on over to fteleaders.org or to our socials to get more information about that. If you want to be the next Sarah, run a CrossFit gym, a church, a lawyer, write books, have a podcast, do all the things we got a course to help you do that. I want to thank my team for putting this episode together: Elsie Barnhart, Heather Wallace, Diva Morgan Hicks for putting this out into the world and of course @siryalibeats for his music. We'll see you next time on the Sound of the Genuine.