GLIDE’s new Lead Pastor
Reverend Dr. Jay Williams became GLIDE’s lead pastor on July 1, 2017. When he delivered a guest sermon back in March, Rev. Williams received spontaneous standing ovations at both the 9:00 and 11:00 am Celebrations—and no one even knew then he would be coming back! His first sermon as GLIDE’s new lead pastor will be this Sunday, July 23.
Before coming to GLIDE, Rev. Williams served as lead pastor of Union United Methodist Church in Boston’s South End. He also recently received a Ph.D. from Harvard in the Study of Religion, where his interests centered on African American religious thought and theologies of spirit, liberation and social justice. Rev. Williams (who is not related to Rev. Cecil Williams–except in spirit!) takes over from Bishop Warner Brown, who had served as interim senior pastor after Rev. Karen Oliveto was elected to the bishopric in July 2016. Recently, in anticipation of his arrival, we asked Rev. Williams a few questions by email.
Can you describe your call to the ministry?
In a way, I have been called to ministry all my life. I’ve been passionate about church since I first joined my late Granny in worship on Easter Sunday 1985, when I was four years old—I’ve been going ever since. Two decades later, while working on Wall Street in private banking following college, I finally answered my call to ordained ministry. While I really enjoyed my job, I experienced exceeding joy serving in my congregation’s youth ministry—that’s when I realized I had found my vocation and started seminary. And now, I’ve never been happier.
Who are your inspirations?
My family—biological and spiritual—has been my greatest inspiration and influence. My Granny nurtured me in faith at a young age, encouraging me to dream big and to always remain in love with God. I’ve been blessed with extraordinary parents who have always shown me unconditional love. Their struggle against working class poverty to “make ends meet” was an early inspiration for social justice for all. Over the years, I’ve been surrounded by teachers and professors, church mothers and fathers, mentors and friends who have pushed me ministerially and academically.
When did you first become aware of GLIDE?
I visited GLIDE 20 years ago while attending the Youth Harambee conference of national Black Methodists for Church Renewal (in fact, Bishop Brown was the local host at the time!). My youth group joined Sunday Celebration and my life has not been the same. I had never been in such an exuberant and inclusive place. As a young person struggling with my sexuality, GLIDE was a breath of fresh air. GLIDE was one of the first places where I experienced the harmony of being gay and Christian.
What is your vision for GLIDE as its new lead pastor?
I am over-the-moon thrilled to be called to GLIDE. My vision is simple: to imagine and write GLIDE’s next chapter of growth together. Our nation and the world really need GLIDE, perhaps now more than ever. I’m excited to partner with the GLIDE community, congregational leaders, and Foundation staff to dream and to make real our shared vision. It’s an honor to join Rev. Cecil, Jan, Karen, Rita, Rev. Theon, Rev. Angela, Rabbi Michael, and so many others in this sacred work.