Interim Senior Minister
Rev. Jen says that effective transitional work “creates a solid foundation for a successful new settlement.” Her background in multicultural settings, her sense of adventure, and even her experience with managing conflict all translate well to intentional interim ministry. After an eight-year settled ministry, she says, “I gave in to my yearning to accompany congregations through the challenge and possibility of transition. In this work I find deep joy. It is the outpouring of my love for Life and for my UU people.”
Rev. Jen says: “The tapestry of my life informs and energizes my work as a parish minister. I’ve learned the importance of treating people with respect, listening carefully, and trying to spot the way that different ‘perception filters’ create misunderstanding. The most satisfying moment is when people who see things differently begin to understand one another. It may not cause them to agree, but it keeps them working together, keeps them moving toward compassion. Life is a journey, and we’re all traveling together in our small ‘blue boat’ home.”
Before coming to Des Moines, Rev. Jen served as Interim Senior Minister of the 600-member congregation in Columbus, Ohio. Committed to transition ministry, she is an Accredited Interim Minister (AIM); a member of the interfaith Interim Ministry Network; and she serves on the three-member Steering Committee of the UUA’s Interim Ministry Guild, which is the professional organization for UU ministers committed to intentional, focused, attentive transitional ministry. She has been an intentional interim minister since 2011; previously, she served for eight years in settled ministry on Nantucket Island in Massachusetts. Before entering the ministry, she was a lawyer in international development and a law professor.
Associate Minister of Social Justice
Rev. Erin Gingrich began as our first Associate Minister of Social Justice in August 2014. Her newly created position was charged to organize, nurture, focus, and support our current and future ministries of justice within and outside of the church.
Erin’s commitment to social justice is woven throughout her life. She studied social inequality as an Anthropology and Women’s Studies major at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. While an undergrad, she volunteered at a homeless shelter and a shelter for battered women. In the decade following graduation, Erin worked as a community educator at a rape crisis center, served at-risk youth at an alternative high school, and directed leadership development programs for youth and adults to make desired changes in their communities. These experiences deepened her understanding and questions about social inequality, culminating in her desire to attend seminary.
Upon graduating from Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago, she was called to serve as the minister for the Unitarian Universalist Church in Reston, Virginia, from 2010-2013. During that time, she engaged in congregationally based community organizing through a local affiliate of the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF). While a variety of tools may be used to address social problems — direct service work, education and awareness raising, advocacy and community organizing — Erin learned first-hand how congregations and groups of concerned citizens can organize their power to make difficult and much needed changes in their communities.
Since joining our congregation, Erin has focused on learning more about our congregation’s members, passions, concerns, skills, opportunities and strategies for putting our faith into action. Working with teams of members she is striving to ensure that our social justice ministries are working toward meeting the congregation’s defined ends statements.
Erin lives in Des Moines with her husband Joshua and their son. While she has lived in Illinois, Vermont, California, New York, Washington, Pennsylvania, Florida, Virginia, and Washington, D.C, she was born in Cedar Rapids and is excited to be exploring her home state.