Pastors & Staff
Rev. Dr. William Bobby McClain
Interim Senior Pastor
In July 2017, Rev. Dr. William Bobby McClain became the Interim Senior Pastor of Union. We are incredibly pleased to welcome the Rev. Dr. William Bobby McClain and his wife Mrs. JoAnn McClain, back home to Union! Union was blessed by Rev. McClain’s prophetic ministry when he served as the Senior Pastor of Union from 1968-1978, and we are so grateful that he is now serving as our new Interim Senior Pastor. Having served various historic United Methodist congregations, he brings with him a wealth of wisdom and experience. Furthermore, his teaching experience and work throughout the United Methodist connection will surely be a blessing as Union is led to higher heights!
Click here to read Rev. Dr. William Bobby McClain's brief biography:
Dr. William Bobby McClain earned his B.A. degree, summa cum laude, at Clark College, Atlanta. His Master’s and doctoral degrees were earned at Boston University School of Theology. He conceived of and chaired the committee which produced the hymnbook, Songs of Zion, which sold more than 2.5 million copies and changed the composition of Christian hymnals of every denomination. He most recently co-chaired the committee for the sequel to Songs of Zion: Zion Still Sings! For Every Generation.
After the publication of Songs of Zion, he wrote Come Sunday: A Liturgical Companion to Songs of Zion, and he is at work completing African American Preaching and the Bible: The Preaching of Zion, the third book in this trilogy.
In 1978, Dr. McClain established and served as the executive director the Multi-Ethnic Center for Ministry at Drew University, Madison, New Jersey. There he wrote Travelling Light: Christian Perspectives on Pluralism. He is also the author of Black People in the Methodist Church: Whither Thou Goest and with the late Dr. Grant Shockley and Dr. Karen Collier, Heritage and Hope: African American Presence in Methodism.
In 1991, his Clark Atlanta University alma mater awarded him the Doctor of Divinity degree in recognition of his achievements in religion and civil rights. In 1999, he was named to the Mary Elizabeth McGehee Joyce Chair in Preaching and Worship at Wesley Theological Seminary, the first fully-endowed chair in the seminary’s history, where he taught preaching and worship for 34 years. He was the commencement speaker for Wesley’s Commencement in 2013, held at Washington National Cathedral on May 13, retired from the seminary on December 31, 2013, and is now Professor Emeritus.
Professor McClain met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Montgomery, Alabama, where Dr. King was pastoring and McClain was a teen-aged preacher in his hometown of Gadsden, Alabama. After completing his seminary degree at Boston University, where King had previously received his doctorate, Reverend McClain returned to Alabama in 1962 to work with King and the civil rights movement and to serve as pastor of Haven Chapel Methodist Church in Anniston, Alabama, where he remained until returning to graduate school at Boston University in the fall of 1964.
From 1968 to 1978, Dr. McClain, an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church, served as senior pastor of the historic Union United Methodist Church in Boston. During that same period he taught at Boston College, Harvard University, Northeastern University and Emerson College. While at Union, he and the Rev. Warner Traynham of St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church in Boston organized the nation’s first Martin Luther King Memorial Breakfast on January 15, 1970.
From 2001-2003 Dr. McClain served as the Senior Pastor of Philadelphia’s Tindley Temple United Methodist Church where the great Charles Albert Tindley served as pastor and wrote many of his famous and beloved Gospel songs.
Called on frequently to lecture and preach in major pulpits and universities throughout this country and abroad, he has preached in Africa, Asia, the West Indies, New Zealand, and Europe. Professor McClain opened the 126th season of the New York Chautauqua Institution in 2000 as Keynote Preacher and Chaplain-in-Residence with thousands in attendance to listen to his preaching each day. In February of 2009, he lectured in Honolulu, Hawaii, as the 30th Annual Britt Lecturer.
Dr. McClain serves as the Advisory Board Chairperson for the Center for Music and Worship in the Black Church Experience, a one-of-a-kind North American institute that provides training in the sacred music of the Black church and beyond to musicians and worship leaders for the enrichment of congregational worship in diverse contexts.
He also serves as Vice President of the United Methodist General Commission on Archives and History, and writes and reviews features in their publications.
In July of 2015, Dr. McClain was awarded the Roger Deschner Award by the Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts. In September of 2015, he was honored as one of the Outstanding Alumni of Boston University School of Theology.
Dr. McClain is the father of two sons: William Bobby McClain, Jr. and David Wilson McClain. He and his wife, the former Jo Ann Mattos, who was the executive administrator of the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church for more than 12 years, make their home in Fort Washington, Maryland.
Min. Jordan Harris
Jordan Harris is serving as the Assistant Pastor here at Union Church. Currently he is working towards ordination as an Elder in the United Methodist Church. Jordan earned his bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies at Eastern University outside of Philadelphia and earned his Master of Divinity degree at Boston University School of Theology. Jordan’s passions include preaching, studying the Bible, and using storytelling as a spiritual discipline. He is excited to be at Union and always up for exploring new and different ways to serve God and God’s people.
Min. Ashley Johnson
Minister of Worship & Faith Formation
Ashley is a recent graduate of Boston University School of Theology where she earned a Master of Theological Studies degree. Prior to her current role at Union, Ashley also served as Union’s Director of Christian Education for several years and Union’s Minister of Worship and Faith Formation.
Ashley attended Spelman College in Atlanta, GA where she studied Psychology and Child Development. Upon Graduation in 2007, she entered the Department of Education at Brown University. She received her Master of Arts in Teaching from Brown and has had the pleasure of serving as an elementary school teacher for seven years.
Ashley’s mission in life is to help young people, especially children of color, to flourish and to encourage them to listen for and respond to the voice of the Divine as we all work towards greater peace and justice in our communities and in the world.
Min. Nikki Young
Minister of Worship and Discipleship
Nikki currently serves at Union’s Minister of Worship and Discipleship. Previously, Nikki was also the ministerial intern here at Union as part of her contextual education. After studying English Writing and Sociology in Northern Illinois, she made her way to Boston where she is earning her Masters of Divinity from Boston University School of Theology. Nikki is currently pursuing ordination as an Elder in the United Methodist Church. When she’s at the church, you can find her writing a never-ending stream of papers and drinking excessive amounts of coffee. Nikki is thrilled for the opportunity to serve in such a unique and dynamic place like Union!
Ms. Amber Youhouse
Amber Youhouse is currently pursuing her master of theological studies at Harvard Divinity school, where she is concentrating in women, gender, sexuality, and religion. She focuses on feminist theology in the Christian tradition and religion’s impact on women and lgbtq persons in politics and society. Amber is a proud alumna of Wellesley College where she studied political science and religion. Amber is grateful to have found her Union family, and enjoys bringing both feminist theology and her Sunday school pet project, Bible journaling, to Union.
Mr. Plamen Karadonev
Director of Music
Born in Stara Zagora, Bulgaria, Plamen Karadonev comes from a musical family. His father Dinko Karadonev was a choir director, educator, and accordionist. Plamen started playing the accordion at age five. He later fell in love with Bulgarian folk music and soon began playing the piano.
A Berklee College of Music Scholarship brought Plamen to Boston in January 2001 where he found a whole new world of musical adventures. In the United States he has performed with some of the most respected jazz musicians currently on the scene including Randy Brecker, Gene Perla, George Garzone, Hal Crook, Dave Liebman, Jimmy Cobb, Richie Barshay and many more.
Mr. Willie Jones Jr.
Associate Director of Music
Willie Jones Jr. joined Union in February 2016 as our Associate Director of Music. As a child, Willie was both heavily influenced by gospel music and classically trained while playing euphonium in his middle and high school bands. He studied jazz piano under Dr. Keith Javors in Jacksonville, Florida before making his way to Boston. During the past 10 years, Willie has served as a consistent musician for the Harvard Kuumba Singers, toured with jazz saxophonist Kelly Shepherd, and served as pianist and vocalist for various churches. A current full-time public school music teacher, Willie holds a Bachelor of Music Education from The University of Massachusetts-Boston.
Ms. Angela Nelson Whetstone
Director of Radical Praise
Mr. Fabio Pirozzolo
Fabio Pirozzolo is an Italian drummer, multi-percussionist and singer. Originally from Terracina, Italy, he started his career as a folk percussionist, playing Italian frame drums tamburello and tammorra, in one of the most famous folk groups in his area. This experience gave him the opportunity to travel throughout Europe, playing concerts and giving lectures on regional Italian frame drum techniques. A summa cum laude Berklee College of Music graduated, he performs in virtually any genre of music from jazz to world music to rock.