|Rev. Jennifer Gracen, new Tree of Life UU Congregation interim minister.|
The Rev. Jennifer Gracen has begun a two year interim ministry at the Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 5603 West Bull Valley Road in McHenry. As an interim Gracen will lead worship services, tend to pastoral care, be a public face for the Congregation, and help the church to be ready to call a new settled minister.
She takes the pulpit under highly unusual circumstances. Tree of Life canceled all public worship at the church in March due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Following the recommendations of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) it has also closed the building to all meetings, gatherings, and rentals through the end of the 2020-2021 church year next June. In the meantime worship services have been conducted each Sunday on Zoom and other church work and ministries also use the meeting service.
Rev. Gracen said “We are delighted to be in Illinois. My wife calls this a magical land. I look forward to walking with Tree of Life over the next two years as we work together to create a more just and loving world.”
Rev. Jenn, as she refers to herself, earned her Masters of Divinity from Andover-Newton Theological School in Massachusetts. She served as an intern minister with congregations in Napa, California and Ottawa, Ontario. Her first called ministry was in Danville, Indiana. She then went on to serve as a transition minister in DeKalb, Illinois and most recently as interim minister in Clarklake, Michigan.
Tree of Life Board President Leah Mikkelson told members that Gracen was selected because:
Through her written ministerial record, videos of her sermons, and in our interview with her, the team was unanimously impressed by Rev. Jenn’s energy and warmth. She expressed a love of preaching, an understanding of the important work of interim ministry, a commitment to pastoral care, and an eagerness to help the congregation re-examine its mission and vision. Former congregants describe Rev. Jenn as a creative, committed and generous minister who works well across all age groups, and helped prepare their congregations for their next settled ministry.
Rev. Lisa Presley, the UUA MidAmerica Region’s Congregational Life Consultant, enthusiastically endorsed Rev. Jenn, saying, “She is well-respected by her colleagues, and we are a cranky and judgmental lot!”
|Rev. Gracen, left, with her wife Virginia.|
Rev. Gracen and her wife Virginia have moved their two cats and lot of books to a Crystal Lake duplex. She enjoys hiking, story-based games, and reading.
Gracen was born and raised in Topeka, Kansas where her family had deep roots. In high school she was deeply involved with theater and forensics, acting in plays, and also immersed herself in history. After high school, she attended Emporia State University with the initial intention of teaching high school history. Her interests refocused and she earned a degree in Rehabilitation Services, working with people with the differently abled.
After graduating Gracen worked for several years with people with developmental disabilities in workshops and residential living facilities and then worked with the Department of Rehabilitation Services in Child and Adult Protective Services. During that time, she discovered Unitarian Universalism and felt a call to ministry. She left her job after five years and moved to Boston to attend seminary.
For more information contact Rev. Gracen at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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