Former Boulder pastor finds new way to shine the light

Friday, Jan. 13, 2023

“For my yoke is light; my burden, easy.” — Matthew 11:30

Four years ago, those words inspired Pedro Silva to pen a song for his church’s youth. Today, he’s hoping it will inspire a movement of people to notice and pursue positive change in the world beyond the four walls of a church.

Silva was previously a pastor at Boulder’s First Congregational UCC, known in the wider community for his anti-racism work and participation in Boulder’s annual homeless memorial. He stepped away from UCC in January 2022.

“I feel like the church makes it safe for people to feel as if they’re doing something,” Silva said. The “immensity of needed social change — most especially as it comes to issues of race in Boulder County and beyond” — made him want to reach people who may never set foot in a place of worship, or involve themselves with institutional religion.

Today, Silva is the engagement director at YOUnify, a nonprofit project focused on reducing “polarization and cultural divisions of all kinds” to make “progress on solutions to the key challenges of our time.”

Silva’s work is still rooted in faith. Make It LIght refers to the words of Matthew 11, spoken by Jesus even as he knew he would die for the world’s sins, Silva explains. That set an example of joyfully doing difficult things to make the world better for everyone, and taking comfort from that.

“The whole idea is to take the heaviness and burden of life and make it light,” Silva said. “If I go through stuff and allow myself to be present with what I’m going through, it gives other people permission to be present.”

It’s also about facing the difficult and dark aspects of life head-on, rather than turning away, he said. That’s not just a lesson for religious people: In the secular world, he sees homelessness and the substance abuse crises as examples of issues where people should lean in to find solutions, rather than reacting with discomfort or fear.

“They’re bearing the sins of the world in their bodies,” he said: childhood trauma, broken health care and housing systems, a mental health crisis and substance use all made manifest. “If more of us stopped ignoring it, they wouldn’t have to bear it.”

The Make It Light challenge is a short video collection of people “using their creativity to expand the world (through) vulnerability, relationships, depth, sense of wonder,” etc. Silva said.

One of Silva’s videos features Patrick Durkin (pen name Boston Bornagain), who wrote “Fire and Ice: The Meth Bible,” detailing his journey into and out of meth addiction. Another stars Sam Sokol, creator of the tabletop game Graticube that “helps you go deeper into authentic relating.”

Silva pulls inspiration from all over the country, but often finds it close to home. Sokol is Denver based, as is Jeff Campbell of Emancipation Theater Co., another Make It Light participant. An upcoming video will highlight YWCA Boulder County’s work on ending racism and empowering women.

Anyone can participate in the Make It Light challenge, using the hashtag and the song Silva wrote for his church’s youth years ago.

“My hope is that other folks will jump on to the cause and start catching good happening,” he said. There’s a lot more good going on in the world than we see.

“It’s about changing our eyes to see instead of closing our eyes to keep from seeing what we’re afraid of.”

Interested? You can watch Make It Light videos on Instagram (@makeitlight_challenge), Facebook Watch, Youtube, Twitter (@noroof) and Silva’s website.

Make your own video, tag it with #makeitlight. The song that inspired Silva is available, too: He recommends starting at the 2:22 mark.

— Shay Castle, @shayshinecastle or on Mastodon at

This isn’t our usual type of story. Like Pedro, we’re trying to find some light and good in 2023. Got a feel-good story you’d like to see? Send your idea(s) to

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