The Rev. Phiwa Langeni is the Founder/Director of Salus Center and the Pastor of Salus Center UCC. After five and a half years as an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ (UCC), Langeni has come to believe that everyone comes from somewhere unique with the diversity in experiences that span across age and various cultures. One ought not to have to diminish any aspect of self for the sake of community. In Langeni’s experience, for example, if they want to be in religious spaces, to keep their queerness intact, they often have to be in primarily white spaces and tone down their blackness. If they want to be unapologetically black in religious spaces, they often have to check their queerness at the door. When they’re in queer spaces, it has become necessary to squelch their religious identity because of the harm and violence done in the name of religion/Christianity.
The space Langeni is creating and cultivating at Salus Center is one in which a person can bring their fullest selves, no matter the combination of their identities. In their own words:
My personal history and faith journey greatly shape my theological identity in a way that allows me to remain open to others’ (non-)beliefs, even if they don’t match mine. Over the course of my life, I’ve had difficulty fitting in because of my gender identity, sexuality, age, ethnicity, race, and even being a young and solo parent. My firsthand experience of such exclusion makes me passionate about creating spaces where folk can gather fully and be in community with other full selves desiring wholeness. I avoid shame and guilt in my dealings with people and instead choose love and compassion to help heal the remnants of theology done badly as seems to be the pattern for many nowadays. As a person of faith and a minister with high integrity, this posture of openness shows up in my preaching, teaching, doing, and being.
A chronic student, Rev. Langeni has earned an Associate’s in Business in Computer Networking & Communications (2000), a Bachelor of Science in Psychology with a minor in Computer Science (2004), a Master of Science in Administration with a concentration in International Administration (2008), a Master of Divinity (2011), a Master of Sacred Theology (2015), and is currently a(n inactive) PhD student at Chicago Theological Seminary. Phiwa is also the solo parent of a young adult daughter, Baphiwe, who is easily their favorite person on the planet. In their free time, Langeni enjoys walking, creating and listening to music, reading, writing, traveling, laughing deeply, and making bowties and other fashion items for their small business.