UCC honors leading clergywomen, activists
As it does every two years, the United Church of Christ honored trailblazing clergywomen and leaders in justice work during its 2021 General Synod.
Winners of the Antoinette Brown Society and Movement Makers awards were named during the closing plenary July 18.
And as with so many things during the UCC’s first-ever virtual Synod, video tributes took the place of in-person presentations.
Antoinette Brown Society Awards
The Brown awards are named for a 19th-century minister in one of the UCC’s predecessor traditions — the first woman ordained to the Christian ministry since biblical times. They’ve been presented at Synods since 1975 and are now curated by the Antoinette Brown Society, formed in 2015. Awardees are leaders who have “carved a path for other women to follow,” said this year’s presenter, the Rev. Tara Barber of Justice and Local Church Ministries.
The 2021 award video named three women:
- Bishop Yvette Flunder was honored as a “Catalyst” for her “lifelong call to blend proclamation, worship, service and advocacy on behalf of those most marginalized in church and in society.” She is founder and senior pastor of City of Refuge UCC, Oakland, Calif., and the leader of the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries.
- The Rev. Linda Jaramillo received “Trailblazer” honors. Her ministry — “bridging justice work with advocacy and empowering women’s ministry throughout our denomination — has included leadership in several settings, including 10 years as a national UCC executive officer.
- Also named a “Trailblazer” was Chicago Theological Seminary President Emerita and Professor Emerita Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite. Minister, theologian, teacher, author of widely used scholarly texts and a respected media commentator, she was honored for “often asking ‘Who is left out here?’ or ‘How would this impact women?'”
Movement Makers Awards
The biennial “Movement Makers” Awards go to people who, in the words of the UCC’s mission statement, “seek justice for all” as they live out their faith. The 2021 honorees are:
- Executive Director Elaina Ramsey of the Ohio Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, a member of St. John’s UCC, Columbus, and a leader in “pro-faith, pro-family and pro-choice” Christianity.
- Executive Director Vivian Lucas of UCC-related Franklinton Center at Bricks, Whitakers, N.C. She led the social-justice center in becoming “a beacon of hope to one of the poorest rural communities of North Carolina” by meeting urgent needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The Rev. Jamesetta Ferguson, pastor of St. Peter’s UCC, Louisville, Ky, whose “compelling holy vision and passion for mission” created the $7.5 million Village at West Jefferson project, providing economic uplift to an entire neighborhood.
- The Rev. Rebecca Turner, pastor of Christ Church UCC, Maplewood, Mo., whose “bold, prophetic and faithful voice” and commitment to the value of “extravagant welcome” were visible recently in the congregation’s five-plus years of keeping a family together by offering sanctuary and preventing Alex Garcia from being deported.
“We honor and celebrate these four Movement Makers today, and we honor and celebrate all of you,” said the Rev. Traci Blackmon, UCC associate general minister. “You — those who are working on the front lines to make a difference in this world. You, who connect the gospel of Jesus with the justice movement of our feet and our hands. Thank you. Together we indeed can move towards a just world for all.”
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