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In September 2012, Rev. Jay Williams became the lead pastor of Union, a historic and progressive United Methodist faith community in Boston’s South End. Union is an urban, multiethnic, lgbt-affirming church that has been a Christian witness of love and justice for over 200 years. He now provides pastoral leadership to the same congregation that nurtured him as a member during his college days a decade ago.
An ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church, Pastor Jay has served as the pastor of Glendale UMC in Everett, Massachusetts (July 2009 – September 2012) and assistant minister of Metropolitan Community UMC in Harlem, New York (June 2007 – June 2009). Moreover, he has served widely as a board member of denominational, ecumenical, and community agencies. The call to service inspires Jay’s life work “to seek peace, justice, and freedom for all people”, as vowed in ordination.
Pastor Jay is a Ph.D. candidate in the Study of Religion at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, with research interests in theology, social ethics, African American religion, critical theory, and cultural studies. His work explores the meaning of “spirit” in black cultural discourse at the intersection of race, class, gender, and sexuality: particularly how spirit-talk has been a marginalizing language of power. The dissertation, entitled “Unholy Ghosts in the Age of Spirit: Identity, Intersectionality, and the Theological Horizons of Black Progress”, engages W.E.B. Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston, and Howard Thurman in order to develop a constructive theology of spirit that rethinks hope, courage, and vitality. Jay strives for his work to help more disinherited folk find their voices.
Rev. Williams received the Master of Divinity degree with top honors from Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York (2009). Prior to seminary, Jay was an assistant vice president in the private banking division of Merrill Lynch. He earned the Bachelor of Arts magna cum laude in the Comparative Study of Religion from Harvard College (2003). Emerging from his activist work fighting genocide in Sudan, where he twice traveled to help liberate modern-day slaves, Jay wrote his undergraduate thesis on the role of religious rhetoric in Sudan’s civil war.
Pastor Jay loves reading (which is good, considering he’s a doctoral student), running, and working out; his yorkie-chihuahua pups, Hurston and Bentley, like to keep him company while writing. He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and the Ron Brown Scholar Alumni Association. Although he proudly hails from Buffalo, New York, where his family resides, Jay despises the snow. Last but not least, Jay is a colossal fan of the 1980s cartoon “Thundercats”, which has changed his life, and he is strongly considering getting a Thundercats tattoo really soon.
Pastor Jay is a queer cisgender man.