In the early days of Sojourners (long before that name was adopted) members and friends took turns providing the music, scripture readings, prayers and activities for the children. This precedent lead to an ongoing tradition of active participation on the part of the congregation in the development and leadership of our common worship life. There are no strictly rhetorical questions from the pulpit at Sojourners because many members of the congregation are very comfortable answering them out loud (it’s encouraged!). So, “leadership” comes from all levels of the Sojourners community. But here are the more-or-less official ones:
Susan Minasian, 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. Previous to her time at Franklin & Marshall, Rev. Susan held several positions throughout Pennsylvania, including Pastor, Adjunct Professor and Campus Minister. Rev. Susan hails from Richmond, VA and attended college at Virginia Commonwealth University. She received both her M.Div. and D.Min. from Lancaster Theological Seminary. To continue her education, Rev. Susan completed Racial Justice Institutes and a training with Rev. Jeremiah Wright. She was the recipient of the Lancaster Women’s Alliance Jean Royer Kohr Award in 2008, the Lancaster YWCA Racial Justice Award in 2005, and the Virginia Commonwealth University Star Alumni Award in 1992. Some highlights from Rev. Susan’s pastoral career included planting a new church in Lancaster, which was the first Open and Affirming congregation in the Penn Central Conference, and developing mindfulness practices, interfaith cooperation and a weekly radio show called REV’d while at Franklin & Marshall.
Ava Baum, Co-moderator
I grew up going to different churches with my neighbors by standing next to their respective cars on Sunday, waiting for them to come out of the house. I settled on South Baptist in my teen years and quit church after graduating from high school. I remained unchurched for 20 years and then found a neighborhood church in Chicago that I loved that was Methodist and UCC. I was quite active in that church for 10 years in all kinds of leadership roles. In moving to Charlottesville, Sojourners became my home and I’ve been here ever since. Since I was married to the pastor upon my arrival here, I kept a low profile and shied away from leadership positions. Time has passed and I felt it was now incumbent upon me to serve Sojourners as so many others have done. Thank you for giving me the opportunity.
Seth Wispelwey, Co-moderator
Seth grew up in Charlottesville, graduated from The University of Virginia, and moved back with his wife (an ordained UCC pastor) and daughter in 2013 after several years in Texas and Massachusetts. He has been a grassroots organizer and educator for over a decade, working to mobilize people of faith and conscience to advocate our elected leaders to prioritize policies and funding serving the oppressed, impoverished and marginalized. He was Executive Director of a small aftercare facility for survivors of human trafficking, and is currently a Strategic Consultant with Restoration Village Arts. Additionally, Seth has a Master’s degree in Pastoral Ministry with a concentration in Pastoral Care and Counseling, and has spent time serving as both a college and hospital chaplain. He was ordained in the UCC in April 2017. Any free time is spent gardening, walking his two large dogs, running and reading. “I’m beyond grateful for how Sojourners provides both safe and challenging space to our community. I look forward to walking with the congregation in this year of big transitions for both the church and our country, and extending our welcome to even more in the Charlottesville area.”
Millie Fife, Church administrator
Millie was born and raised in Charlottesville. She graduated from Piedmont Virginia Community College and the University of Virginia with a BA in English. Over the years, she has been a bartender, restaurant owner, and researcher for a special project at UVa. Raised an Episcopalian, she found her way to Sojourners in 2001, became a member in 2004, and has been on staff since early 2005. Millie feels blessed to be part of such a diverse and supportive faith community as both a church member and employee.