In November 1992 the United Church of Christ sponsored a meeting in Charlottesville to determine if there might be interest in starting a UCC congregation. By early January 1993 a small group began to meet weekly, using space at Christ Episcopal Church on West High Street.
During that winter, a vision for the future was shaped. In addition to seeking people familiar with the UCC, this small group sought others from the Charlottesville community who were seeking a religious experience open to diversity. With the group growing, a mission statement was written in the summer of 1993 and work on a constitution and bylaws began.
Under the part-time leadership of the Reverend Lee Walters, Sunday morning services were initiated in September 1993, meeting at the Park Street Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) sanctuary from 8:30 to 9:30 am. Members and friends took turns providing the music, scripture readings, prayers and activities for the children. This set a precedent for the congregation to take an active part in the worship services.
In February 1994, the formal process began for the congregation to become a United Church of Christ congregation. The need for a permanent pastor was soon felt, and with the encouragement of the denomination, leadership grant money was applied for and approved.
First Full-time Pastor
In March 1995, the Search committee selected the Reverend Marie LaMarre Ford as its nominee to the congregation. Following her participation in worship on April 30 and a weekend of opportunities to get to know her and her family, the congregation issued its call. She began her ministry in Charlottesville in early August 1995.
Feeling the need for greater flexibility in scheduling and use of space, the congregation moved to the clubhouse of the Fry’s Spring Beach Club in December 1995. The worship service time was then changed to 9:00 am.
Marie’s time at Sojourners saw much growth and joy as a church family. During her three-month leave of absence, the congregation was blessed by the ministering of temporary pastor, the Rev. Kathleen Ennis-Durstine. When Marie’s husband, Bob, was offered a job in the north, she and her family moved to Connecticut in June 1998.
Move to JABA Building
In September of 1998, the Rev. Jack Smith joined us as interim pastor. His arrival into the church family coincided with our move to a new worship space. Sojourners began meeting at the Jefferson Area Board for Aging (JABA) building. While the Pastor Search committee sought to fill our vacancy, Jack shepherded us through some exciting times, receiving new members, and guiding the congregation through the transitional phase. Renewing his tenure with us for another six months, Jack stayed with us until August 1999.
On August 29, 1999, the congregation called the Rev. Diann Johnston to serve as our temporary pastor, in the final months before the arrival of our permanent pastor. Diann brought warmth and enthusiasm to what she called the “liveliness” of our worship services.
The Rev. Jim Bundy joined us in February 2000, and his Installation Service was held on June 11, a joyful day in the life of Sojourners. He served the congregation well and faithfully for ten years retiring January 31, 2010.
The Rev. Patricia Barth began as our interim pastor February 1, 2010.
Sojourners Calls Melanie Miller
On Sunday, September 4, 2011 after a brief congregational meeting, the Rev. Dr. Melanie Dawn Miller was elected by unanimous vote to be the new called pastor of Sojourners United Church of Christ, bringing to a close the diligent work of the Pastor Search committee over many months.
Two months later, November 13, we bid the Rev. Barth farewell and November 20 we received the Rev. Dr. Miller as a new member. She began her call November 21, 2011. Almost exactly four years later, on November 22, 2015 Melanie resigned to return home to Nebraska to be close to family and to take over her father’s cattle operation as he retires.
Susan Minasian Becomes Sojourners Pastor
The Rev. Dr. Susan A. Minasian was called as Sojourners pastor January 15, 2017, joined the church March 5, 2017 and began as our pastor the following week. She came to us from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA, where she was the College Chaplain for ten years.
With more than 100 adults and children in attendance on Sundays, Sojourners continues to grow in numbers and in spirit. We remain committed to involvement in social justice work, service, and missions in our community and abroad. Our calling is best summed up in our congregation’s covenant, which reads: “We are a community of faith called and empowered by the Holy Spirit to walk in the way of Jesus, by including all peoples in all walks and ways of life, in our life of worship and celebration, nurture and growth, love and service.”