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.
Pastor Nikki Young
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. Adama Brown-Hathaway, Ph.D.
Minister of Connection and Care
Adama is a sociologist by training and earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Texas at Austin and a PhD in sociology from Iowa State University with an emphasis in medical sociology, research methods and statistics, and social policy. She also earned an MDiv from Iliff School of Theology with a specialization in pastoral counseling and spiritual care.
Adama is a sixth generation Texan who is passionate about genealogy, jazz, and intersectional justice. She currently serves on the board of the Reconciling Ministries Network, an organization dedicated to the full inclusion of LGBTQIA+ persons in the life of UMC congregations. She also loves talking about womanist theology and encouraging people to reimagine sacred texts in ways that embolden us to love, compassion, and justice.
Rev. Kyle Walden
Pastor of Strategic Engagement
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 a commissioned elder in provisional 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.
Having recently relocated to Boston from Lafayette, Indiana to begin her second year of full-time study in Boston University School of Theology’s Master of Divinity program, Abby is serving at Union as student minister during the 2021-22 academic year.
She previously worked as a print journalist, AmeriCorps volunteer, mental health professional, secondary literature and writing teacher and pastor at New Waverly UMC, New Waverly, Indiana. She was most recently appointed to Wabash First UMC in Wabash, Indiana as digital discipleship pastor. Abby spent more than a decade discerning her call to congregational ministry and is now a licensed pastor with the Indiana Conference of the UMC. She is excited to learn from, about and with everyone at Union!
In her spare time Abby can be found exploring Boston and the surrounding areas, hiking, attempting to unravel the mystery that is her cat, Hellen and spending quality time with family and friends!
MEET THE STAFF
Cynthia N. Perry
Cynthia is a Master of Divinity student at Boston University’s School of Theology, focusing on global and community engagement. She grew up in Maryland and lived in Washington, D.C., before moving to Boston. Cynthia worked in high school and college athletics as an athletic trainer for 8 years before transitioning into sports management as an assistant fitness director and membership director. Her volunteer and ministry experience has included feeding the homeless, tutoring students with mental and behavioral challenges, facilitating small discipleship groups, college ministry, sports ministry, and short-term missions trips. Before coming to Union she was the parish administrator at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Cambridge.
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