Atlanta FEMA veteran, California pastor join UCC national staff
The United Church of Christ has named new ministers for disaster recovery and volunteer work.
Lesli Remaly began work Feb. 1 as minister for disaster response and recovery. Based in Atlanta, she brings more than 20 years of professional experience with:
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency. There she worked with voluntary agencies and “mass care” situations in eight southeastern states and six federally recognized tribes
- The American Red Cross and its Coordinated Assistance Network
- FRIEND, a Miami-based, long-term recovery group
- Church World Service
She has also worked for UCC, Methodist and Presbyterian congregations in preschool, family life, youth, religious education, and arts programs.
Prepare, respond, recover
“Lesli brings a breadth of experience that will enable her to connect the UCC, its congregations and its Conferences with a rich array of partners and service providers,” said the Rev. Joshua Baird, team leader of Global H.O.P.E.
“She also brings a depth of experience from which to further strengthen the work of our Conference Disaster Coordinators and Disaster Chaplains. Most importantly, she brings a heart for individuals and communities who have been through disaster and a commitment to building support for them as they direct their own recovery.”
“Disaster Ministries is a critical part of the community of faith — preparing for, responding to and recovering from all types of emergencies and disasters,” Remaly said. “The opportunity to build on strong foundations with talented staff and volunteers is an exciting privilege.”
The Rev. Elena Larssen
The Rev. Elena Larssen will start work May 1 as minister for volunteer engagement. April 11 will be her last day at First Congregational Church, UCC, Long Beach, Calif. She has been senior minister there since 2013.
Ordained in 2004, she has also served as:
- Campus minister at Stanford University
- Associate minister at First Congregational UCC, Palo Alto, Calif.
- Associate minister at First Congregational UCC, La Grange, Ill.
- Associate Conference minister, Minnesota Conference, UCC
Over those years she staffed volunteer mission trips for those and other congregations in California and Illinois. As a young person, she herself volunteered extensively in the outdoor ministries of the Northern California Nevada Conference and in youth ministry at what is now Peace UCC, Santa Cruz.
What volunteers do
Larssen will oversee a menu of volunteer opportunities for UCC members. Among them are Partners in Service, Summer Communities of Service, Young Adult Service Communities and U.S. mission trips. Volunteers also rebuild homes as part of Global H.O.P.E.’s disaster recovery work.
Baird noted Larssen’s “wealth of gifts and experiences” and her “breadth of service across the life of the United Church of Christ.” He said she is “positioned to build connections that strengthen volunteer programs. Through her pastoral gifts and commitment to mission, Elena will add to the depth of the volunteer experiences through which people put their gifts into service with neighbor and stranger alike.”
“I deeply believe that the church is a leadership engine in our world, and much of its energy comes from volunteers,” Larssen said. “In all of the ministry settings where I have served, volunteer leaders are essential to ministry. Our churches are full of wonderful people who give their gifts of time and talent as an act of love and justice.
“I am so excited to join the national setting. I hope to be part of the church of the future and see individual spiritual journeys become service through leadership development. Volunteerism connects the energy of the church with the needs of the world.”
In other national staff news:
- In the Office of the General Minister and President, Charlotte McGhee begins as an assistant in the Office of Human Resources on Feb. 16.
- At The Pilgrim Press, Georgetta Thomas transitioned from temporary to full-time program assistant on Jan. 19.
- In Wider Church Ministries, Phyllis Richards, previously acting team leader of Humanitarian and Development Ministries, became minister for offering developments and grants on Jan. 1.
- In Justice and Local Church Ministries, Jennifer White, previously a program assistant, was promoted to project coordinator for digital events with the Faith Education, Innovation and Formation team on Sept. 16.
Carol Fouke-Mpoyo, communications specialist with Wider Church Ministries, contributed to this article.
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