The Rev. Daniel Medina feels at home at church and in the classroom.
The clergyman recently became pastor at Miami Lakes Congregational United Church of Christ.
“We’re working together to elevate the entire consciousness of the community,” Medina, 52, said about the church, which he hopes will become a “beacon of Miami Lakes, but in whatever way God reveals that organically without rushed intentions or agendas.”
Medina wants all who walk through the church’s doors to feel welcome.
“We are all, including me, on a journey with God,” Medina said. “I always tell people, ‘Don’t let the collar fool you, I need God as much as everybody else does.’”
He also teaches at South Dade Senior High School near Homestead, and leads classes in philosophy, world religions, world history and psychology.
In November, Medina was nominated teacher of the year at the school. He is among educators who may be considered for the district-wide distinction to be announced in January, a schools spokeswoman said.
“I have found that when students see you in love with what you’re teaching and when you really show joy in what you are teaching, it’s contagious,” Medina said. “Because young lives are hungry.”
Medina is also an instructor at Johnnie Colemon Theological Seminary in Miami Gardens.
Among the lessons he shares with churchgoers: “Faith is not about having the answers, but knowing how to live with the questions,” Medina said.
“God does not see us as sinners,” he said. “He sees us as saints and we need to begin to live into what we really are.
“The moment that we begin to live the way God already sees us, then we will transform ourselves and the world,” Medina said.
He brings extensive life experience to the pulpit and classroom.
Medina served eight years in the U.S. Army, including in Panama, and left in 2001 as a non-commissioned sergeant.
The military galvanized what he already knew should be his path, he said.
“It was very important as part of my spiritual formation,” Medina said. “I realized that the way to really manage conflict is not through the barrel of a gun. It’s through non-violence, through justice.”
Medina grew up in the Little Havana section of Miami where he still lives with his wife Victoria. He has a 22-year-old son and two stepsons.
Medina said his education includes graduating from Miami Senior High School in 1987; Miami Dade College for jazz studies; a Bachelor of Science degree in criminalistics and criminal science from Florida International University and a master’s degree in Education from the University of Oklahoma.
He received a Master of Divinity degree and a Doctorate of Ministry degree from St. Thomas University.
As a child, Medina remembers driving through Miami Lakes with his father, an insurance salesman.
“… I would always drive by that church, never having the slightest, possible idea that I would ever, ever be associated with it,” he said.
Before Sunday services, Medina says he goes to the church early to enjoy how “peacefully quiet” it is.
“The light that just breaks through the steeple just brings light to the entire sanctuary,” he said.
“And that’s my hope,” Medina said. “That while we’re all there together, that we learn to be peaceful, that we learn to be a presence and that we learn that in the midst of darkness, we will always shed light.”