UCC pastor Willis named Black History Month Civic Honoree
February 15, 2012
The Rev. R. Joaquin Willis, senior pastor of the 300-member Church of the Open Door UCC in Miami, is one of nine leaders recognized as a 2012 Black History Month Civic Honoree by Legacy Magazine.
The magazine is published weekly as part of and in partnership with The Miami Herald.
Willis, a longtime community organizer who has an M.Div. degree and a doctorate in ministry leadership development from UCC-related Howard University, teaches a variety of religious subjects at New Miami Dade College.
Ordained 25 years ago, Willis has served at Church of the Open Door for nine years and provides spiritual insight as a columnist in the South Florida Times newspaper.
“I think this is something that we don’t always do enough of in the church,” said Willis. “We do a lot of social justice and a lot of political justice, but I’m honored that they’re acknowledging my work in economic justice. That’s a very important spin that they put on [the award]. I am humbled and I am grateful.”
As adjunct professor at Florida International University and Howard University, Willis taught Old Testament as canonical writings of Jews and Christians, including history and methods of interpretation of the Bible. He has also been an instructor of Christian steward leadership –– an exploration of leadership theories and how leadership can engage congregations in the church’s overall mission.
In 1998, Willis founded Amistad UCC –– which eventually became Amistad St. Paul UCC –– in Lanham, Md. Amistad UCC and the primarily-European St. Paul UCC combined to become a more racially diverse church with seven distinct ministries.
Willis also served 12 years as assistant minister at Peoples Congregational UCC in Washington, D.C., where in 1985 he initiated the church’s first leadership institute.
As chaplain (captain) in the U.S. Army National Guard for eight years, Willis was called to active duty during Operation Desert Storm in Saudi Arabia. During the conflict, he was awarded the Army’s Commendation Medal.