The senior pastor of one of the United Church of Christ's largest congregations is stepping away from her position of leadership after nearly a decade of service to those who joined her in worship. The Rev. Jo Hudson, grateful for the opportunity to minister at the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, a congregation of more than 4,200 members with a primary outreach to LGBT persons, has decided the time has arrived for her to move on.
"After prayerful consideration and conversations with colleagues and friends, some of whom are here today, and visiting with my soon-to-be 91-year-old dad, I am announcing today my resignation as senior pastor of the Cathedral of Hope," Hudson announced on Sunday. "I am asking that you, the people of Cathedral of Hope who have elected me, will accept my resignation to be effective on or before Pentecost Sunday, May 19."
A native Texan, Hudson was called by the Cathedral of Hope after pastoring Friends Congregational Church UCC in College Station, Texas, and elected to serve as senior pastor in February 2005. The congregation, in searching for a denomination that aligned with its ideals, joined the UCC in 2006.
"I have prayed for this church just about every day since I became pastor here, but I have prayed for this church for its health, for its life, for its leaders and I will continue to pray as I make this transition," Hudson added. "If you are able, I humbly request your prayers for me, for Stephanie, for Sydney as we transition, too, to a new place in our lives."
This past Sunday – the third in April – was Hudson's final day in the pulpit as she plans to work with the staff and board members of Cathedral of Hope to begin the transition to a new senior pastor. Somewhat fittingly, Hudson delivered her first sermon to the congregation nine years ago – on the third Sunday of April in 2004.
"In these nine years with you, I have sought to serve God and this church faithfully," she told congregation members. "This is all about an opportunity to move forward and into the future both for this church and for me and my family. I love you. I will always love this church."
The Rev. J. Bennett Guess, the UCC's executive minster of Local Church Ministries, who refers to Hudson as both friend and colleague, wishes her well in the future.
"Jo Hudson is not only my good friend, but one of the finest, most gifted pastors I know," he said. "On several occasions over the past nine years, I have had the opportunity to visit the Cathedral of Hope and witness her excellent preaching and pastoral leadership, and her exuberant, warm, out-going personality. Her influence has extended far beyond Dallas, but nationally and globally as well, as a respected leader in both the LGBT and faith communities."
Hudson has helped plant two new parish churches, Cathedral of Hope-Houston and Cathedral of Hope-MidCities. Cathedral of Hope-Houston was recently welcomed as a new congregation in the South Central Conference.
"Certainly, being the senior pastor of the Cathedral of Hope is demanding and exhausting work," Guess added. "I wish Jo all the best, and lots of rest, as she discerns next steps in her ministry."
A native Texan, Hudson was ordained into the UCC in 1997, and has since served the church in numerous settings. She has been the president of the South Central Conference, a member of the board of UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries and the Pension Boards. She also serves on the board of Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis. This summer, Hudson will be one of the featured preachers at the UCC General Synod 2013 in Long Beach, Calif.
Hudson had a few outgoing words for her congregations on Sunday as she urged them to be present next week at worship, since that is the best way to honor her and God. "Keep being this church," she said. "Keep being a church that changes the lives of people who need hope more than anything else."