PASTORS & STAFF
MEET THE PASTORAL TEAM
Rev. Gerald “Jay” Williams, Ph.D.
Hailing from Buffalo, New York, Jay despises the snow and dreams of life in Wakanda. To wit, he is pretty much obsessed with “Black Panther” — as well as the 1980s cartoon series “The Thundercats.”
Rev. Dr. Jay Williams returned to Union as lead pastor on July 1, 2018, having guided this congregation September 2012 – June 2017. An ordained Elder in The United Methodist Church, Pastor Jay has served congregations in New York City, Boston, and San Francisco.
Williams holds a Master of Divinity with highest honors from Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York (2009) and the Bachelor of Arts magna cum laude from Harvard College (2003). In May 2017, Dr. Jay received the Ph.D. in the Study of Religion from the Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Williams’s 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, develops a constructive theology of spirit that rethinks hope, courage, and vitality, premised on insights from W.E.B. Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston, and Howard Thurman. Through his pastoral and academic work, Williams strives to help more disinherited folk find their voices.
Rev. Dr. Jay, a queer cisgender man, lives in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood with his two energetic yorkie-chihuahuas, Bentley and Hurston.
Rev. Kyle Walden
As Union seeks to live out its mission to promote Christ’s gospel of liberation, Kyle brings his creativity and organizational capacity to build sustainable ministries and nurture others’ callings to ministry. He believes that our role as the church is to live into Christ’s vision of the Kin-dom of God, being a place where we practice personal and social holiness and live in radical solidarity with one another across social barriers.
Kyle is an ordained elder in full connection in the North Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church. He graduated from Boston University School of Theology with his Master of Divinity in May 2021. After growing up in Texan suburbs, he completed undergraduate studies at The University of Texas at Austin (B.A. Psychology and Plan II) and served a year with Americorps in Austin.
In his free time, Kyle enjoys playing music, binge-watching “The West Wing,” and spending quality time with his partner, Angie, and family.
Rev. Nikki Young
Rev. Nikki serves as Union’s first Preacher-in-Residence.
She returns to the Union Team while maintaining her full-time position as the Assistant Director of Contextual Education at the Boston University School of Theology.
Rev. Nikki has held previous roles at Union as the Assistant Pastor, the Minister of Worship and Discipleship, and began as a student minister as part of her contextual education.
After studying English Writing and Sociology in Northern Illinois, she made her way to Boston where she earned her Masters of Divinity from Boston University School of Theology.
She is now a PhD candidate in Practical Theology at the same school and incorporates her studies in preaching, trauma, and feminist/womanist theologies into her work at Union.
Rev. Nikki is a provisional member of the New England Conference of The United Methodist Church.
Rev. Ashley Renée Johnson
Minister of Worship & 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.
Rev. Jane Lawrence
Pastor of Congregational Care
Rev. Jane is a retired elder in the New England Conference of The United Methodist Church.
She began her ministry in the summer of 1963 as a youth director at First UMC in Rusk, Texas. Life then brought her to the Boston area where she worked with local community organizations in Dorchester, Roxbury, and Jamaica Plain. After years of volunteering with youth both in the church and through the City Lights program, Rev. Lawrence answered her own call to ministry, being ordained a Deacon in 1993 and an Elder in 1998. She has served appointments at Pentecost UMC (Brockton), First UMC (Greenfield), Taunton Memorial UMC, and retired from Union UMC (Fall River). Since retirement, she has provided pulpit supply and an interim pastorate in Texas, before returning to the Boston area.
J.J. Martinez is a graduate student at the Boston University School of Theology pursuing a Master of Divinity on the pastoral ministry track. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from The University of Texas at El Paso, graduating summa cum laude with honors. He will pursue a Ph.D. after graduating.
J.J. is a declared candidate for ordination in the New England Conference of The United Methodist Church, hoping to pastor once he completes his education.
Solomon Teye Alipoh
Candidate for Ordained Ministry
Solomon Teye Alipoh hails from Ghana, West Africa, and currently lives in the Roxbury area of Boston. He is a third and final year Master of Divinity (MDiv) student at the Boston
University School of Theology (BUSTH) while also pursuing ordination in The United Methodist Church.
Solomon became Lay minister in Christ Apostolic Church (CAC) International after he graduated with a diploma in Theology from Christ Apostolic University College (CAUC), serving in two local
assemblies of the church from 2016 to 2018. (CAC is a Ghanaian Pentecostal and first indigenous church in Ghana and has several branches all over the world.) Being a television and radio panel guest, Solomon featured in theological and pastoral ministry discussions on shows like the “Eti Sen Show” on one of Ghana’s national media stations while in Ghana.
Solomon is the founder of the Teye Alipoh Worldwide Ministries, a non-denominational outreach
ministry started in 2015, geared to preaching Christ and making disciples for Christ through meeting the material and financial needs of the poor and needy in the hinterlands and deprived communities in Ghana. Alipoh has a strong appetite for education through which he seeks to make the world a better place for all.
MEET THE STAFF
Director of Music
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.
Director of Radical Praise