United Church of Christ

New national staff members hope to meet colleagues in person once pandemic abates a bit

The COVID-19 pandemic hasn't stopped three new full-time and two new part-time employees from starting work in the national ministries of the United Church of Christ – even though it will be weeks before they can meet most of their colleagues in person.

Unless otherwise noted in the brief profiles below, each is based in Cleveland – though, for the time being, all staff members who work at the Church House in Cleveland are working remotely until at least June 1. Phone numbers and email addresses for all of them can be The Rev. Jeff Nelsonfound here.

Minister for Ministerial Calls and Transitions: Having served as a pastor in Northeast Ohio for 15 years – most recently at Grace UCC, Uniontown – the Rev. Jeff Nelson (top picture at right) began work April 16 with the Ministerial Excellence, Support and Authorization team. He will focus on resources and support for pastors and other authorized ministers, including the denomination's online portal for ministerial profiles. He said he is intrigued by the challenge of finding ways to support ministers who are making transitions in a time of social distancing. "Many will not immediately meet people in their new ministry settings in person," he said, "and on the other hand not be able to bid farewell in person to the places of ministry they are leaving."

Ambassador for Innovation and Engagement: The Rev. Phiwa Langeni (middle picture at right) began work with the Center for Analytics, Research, Development and Data, deployed in Lansing, Mich., on April 16. The Rev. Phiwa LangeniLangeni will focus on "documenting and communicating innovation that is occurring across the UCC and helping the CARDD team identify potential research and development projects," said CARDD Director Erica Dollhopf. "I am extremely honored and thrilled to be in this role," said Langeni, who will also continue to serve as pastor of Lansing's Salus Center UCC. "I'm very excited to get to listen to the still-speaking God and help discern in this time and place what it is that we as an organization, as a people, as a church, as Christ's body are called to do and be in this world."

Executive Associate, Wider Church Ministries: The Rev. Monica Dawkins-Smith (lower picture at right) joined the staff on April 27, working closely with the Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson, the associate general minister who heads WCM. Dawkins-Smith is a past Conference minister of the UCC Penn Central Conference; has held pastoral positions with UCC churches in Harrisburg and State College, Pa., and The Rev. Monica Dawkins-SmithBloomington, Ind.; and serves on the boards of two UCC-related institutions, the Council for Health and Human Services Ministries and Lancaster Theological Seminary. "I look forward to serving alongside the WCM team and many of the congregations and Conferences nationally, including ecumenical and interfaith partners, bringing global perspectives to our collective work to create a just world for all," she said.

New acting team leader; two new part-timers

Acting Team Leader, Humanitarian and Development Ministries: Phyllis Richards, longtime program associate with WCM, took acting leadership of the team on Feb. 17. She has been with WCM since August 2000, when she was hired as a secretary; she was promoted to program associate in 2003. "My longevity with Humanitarian and Development Ministries has afforded me a lot of connections and relationships," Richards said. "I understand the people and the work, and it's exciting to be doing this ministry, even amid the challenges of COVID-19."

Recently joining the staff in part-time positions were:

  • The Rev. Anissa Glaser-Bacon, program assistant, on March 20. Providing administrative support to the MESA team, she also continues to serve as part-time pastor of New Vision UCC, Canton, Ohio, and as a shift manager at a coffee shop.
  • Barbara Baylor, COVID-19 health liaison, on March 20. Working with WCM's Humanitarian and Development Ministries, she provides daily UCC updates on the pandemic. Read more here.

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