April 28, 2024  — We are delighted to announce the very happy outcome of our search for a new minister. Jill Braithwaite, has accepted our call and will become UUCW’s next settled minister. She begins on August 1st with great support with 98 percent of our members voted to call her.

Now, we start the next phase of our journey together by organizing and planning for a once-in-a-lifetime event — Jill’s ordination — and also her installation as our minister. We are looking forward to a joyous and fruitful time together.

April 9, 2024 — The Ministerial Search Team is thrilled to introduce you to Jill Braithwaite, our wonderful candidate for Minister for Unitarian Universalist Church West. She currently serves as the Minister for the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Duluth.

When the Ministerial Search Team began the process of finding our next settled minister, we sought your input about what UUCW needs from our settled minister.

The Congregation charged us with finding:

  • a prophetic minister who will help us imagine our future and inspire us,
  • a spiritual leader who is engaging, dynamic and visionary,
  • a leader who has a demonstrated commitment to social action and social justice.

We were blessed with many applicants at all phases of their ministry. After deep engagement with the search process, hours of interviews on Zoom and in-person, and the opportunity to watch three pre-candidates in guest pulpits, we are overjoyed to say we found our match!!

You’ll have the opportunity to meet Jill on April 21st when she leads the Sunday worship service to launch Candidating Week! We’re excited for you to meet and experience her joy, energy, and warmth in person. In the gray box below you’ll find a list of opportunities to spend time with her during Candidating Week.

ABOUT JILL       

 Jill believes deeply in the power of Unitarian Universalism’s message of love and justice and our ability to meet our world’s challenges. With a ministry grounded in connection, joy, and love, Jill sees church as a place where we come together, as people of all ages, to remind ourselves of our essential interconnectedness with one another and the natural world. We care for one another in good times and tough times. We companion one another as we seek to live lives of meaning, joy, and fulfillment, and we support one another in working for justice in the world.  

A Unitarian Universalist for 20 years, Jill is a long-time member of First Universalist Church of Minneapolis, one of the largest UU congregations in the US and one with a long-standing commitment to anti-racism and anti-oppression work. While active there, Jill served on the Board of Trustees, the Governance Subcommittee, and the Strategic Planning Team. Jill chaired the Adult Education Committee, taught religious education, served as a mentor in the Coming of Age program, and was part of the Welcome Team. Jill also served as a worship leader and facilitated new member and newcomer classes. 

Jill has served as the Minister at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Duluth since August 2023. She came into a congregation grappling with many changes over a short period of time and missing two key members. She shepherded the congregation through the hiring process for their DRLE and Music Director, brought fresh energy to Sunday mornings, and guided the congregation to a point where they are ready for their next chapter. Before serving in Duluth, she served as Intern Minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Minnetonka in Minnesota. 

Jill comes to ministry following a career in book publishing in the Twin Cities. Most of that work was in children’s books, and she held leadership roles in executive, editorial, product development, and marketing teams, including work as a Vice President and Publisher at 1517 Media. Highlights of that career were developing innovative new lines of books and digital products, including PebbleGo, the research database for K-3 students, which is in the majority of US elementary school libraries.  

Of her publishing career, Jill notes that it serves as a strong foundation for ministry: “Creative collaboration is essential in publishing. It requires intuition, deep listening to colleagues and the culture at large, thoughtful responsiveness, and future-visioning. Publishing endeavors thrive when each person brings themselves wholly to the work, and together we co-create great things.”

Coupled with her church lay leadership, Jill brings to ministry extensive experience in administration, organizational leadership, fiscal management, staff mentoring and management, strategic planning, and facilitating collaborative environments where others can do their best work and bring it out into the world. 

Outside of ministry, Jill’s passions include art, tennis, film, fiction, poetry, the Driftless Area, and walking her little dog, Betsy.  

WORSHIP 

Here is a brief overview of Jill’s approach to worship; we’ll all have the opportunity to experience her live and in person on April 21 and 28. 

“Worship is the beating heart of congregational life, and I love everything about Sunday morning at church. I see worship as its own unique and uniquely collaborative art form. I love collaborating with worship teams to weave together stories, music, preaching, and wisdom from a variety of sources in order to create worship that comforts, engages, invigorates, and inspires. I love designing rituals that offer meaning and connection. 

In my preaching, I balance the pastoral and the prophetic. I name the realities of life’s challenges, injustices, sorrows, and joys, and I offer comfort, hope, and inspiration for both personal transformation and the work of transforming the world. I adore a good metaphor, and I speak from my own direct experience of life, spirituality, and justice-making.  

I love to engage the work of contemporary thinkers and artists, offering fresh perspectives and connecting with the specific gifts of our cherished faith tradition. In the context of congregational ministry, I see preaching as an ongoing conversation with that community.

At my current congregation in Duluth, congregants report that my worship and preaching style have brought fresh warmth and energy to the congregation. It’s been a delight to see our average weekly worship attendance rise to 120 people this year.” 

SELECTED SERMONS 

“Lessons from Seeds: Transformation and New Life” 
Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Duluth – March 31, 2024
Sermon begins at 30:51. 

 “Rest as Resistance”
Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Duluth – February 11, 2024
Sermon begins at 30:17. 

 “The Liberating Love of Self” 
Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Duluth – January 21, 2024
Sermon begins at 27:23. 

Meet the Candidate

If you haven’t already, mark your calendars for Candidating Week April 20 – 28th.  

There will be multiple opportunities to meet Jill during Candidating Week, some in-person and some by Zoom, some for the full congregation and some for specific committees and groups.   

Congregation-wide opportunities are as follows:  

Sunday, April 21st 10 am
Candidate Jill Braithwaite Leads Sunday Service followed by coffee hour.
Potluck lunch from 12:00 – 2:00 RSVP here 

Tuesday, April 23rd 12 Noon
Meet the Candidate Zoom
RSVP here to receive the link  

Wednesday, April 24th at 7 pm
Meet the Candidate Open House at UUCW
RSVP requested though not required 

Thursday, April 25th at 6 pm
Meet the Candidate Zoom
RSVP here to receive the link 

Saturday, April 27th at 12 noon
Gather Together Potluck Lunch at UUCW
RSVP here 

Saturday, April 27th at 7 pm
Rainbow Connections
Drop-in; RSVP requested but not required

Sunday, April 28th at 10 am
Candidate Jill Braithwaite Leads Sunday Service  

 Sunday, April 28th at 12 noon
Congregational Meeting to affirm the call of the candidate, Jill Braithwaite, as Settled Minister for Unitarian Universalist Church West. 

SOCIAL JUSTICE   

Jill’s social justice experience includes work as both a lay leader and as a minister. She served on the Board of Trustees at First Universalist Church of Minneapolis as the congregation leaned into their commitment to being an actively anti-racist church. The Board modeled concrete changes to advance racial equity, such as re-vamping the vendor selection policy and developing community partnerships to listen, learn, and stop minimizing racism.

“One of the greatest insights I gained was about the importance of accepting that this shift to being a truly anti-racist and multicultural church requires a patient, long-term commitment. Resistance will continually show itself in challenging ways. Staying at the table in covenant and beginning again in love is everything.”

As UUs, it is our honor and charge to work to build a world in which all people—no exceptions—can flourish. As a minister, I support social justice ministries in many ways. I preach prophetically in support of liberation. I offer public witness, whether that’s at the state capitol in a committee hearing, or advocating with a legislator, or doing a benediction at a candidate forum.

Social justice work is both urgent and also requires patience and resilience for the long haul. Social justice work can be joyful, challenging, enraging, and deeply satisfying. We must care well for ourselves, stay at the table, support one another, and model in our faith communities a world in which truths are told, marginalized voices are centered, and we commit to building power for the purpose of creating justice.” 

Jill’s other experience in social justice includes a Trans Refuge Bill letter-writing campaign, reinvigorating her church’s partnership with OutFront Minnesota (the state’s largest LGBTQ+ advocacy group), organizing groups to attend rallies and working in housing justice. During my ministerial internship, I was asked by our housing justice community partner, Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative, to provide a testimonial about why I support rental assistance legislation in Minnesota:” 

Housing Justice Testimonial Video 

THEOLOGY 

About her theological grounding for ministry, Jill says: “I am a pluralist in my bones and cherish the diversity of beliefs, sources, and practices in our congregations. My personal theology is grounded in deep reverence for and curiosity about this gorgeous and broken world of ours, with astonished gratitude that we are here at all and in possession of some freedom to choose how we respond to that fact. I believe in Love as the powerful force we must choose as our response to our essential interconnectedness. Love is how we honor and serve one another, the natural world, and the social systems that we seek to make just. I believe that Love (the way author bell hooks defines it, as being made up of care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect, and trust) is our guide for transforming ourselves and the world.” 

 

ACADEMICS 

Jill earned a Master of Arts degree in theology and the arts from United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities in 2015. She returned to seminary full-time in January 2021 to complete her Master of Divinity degree in December 2022. 

The seminary faculty awarded Jill the following honors: the Donald R. White Prize in Theological Interpretation of Culture, the Merrill Memorial Award for Outstanding Integration of the MDiv Curriculum, and the Lydia Myrl Kapp Memorial Award for Outstanding Work in Preaching.

 

ORDINATION 

The UUA’s Ministerial Fellowship Committee welcomed Jill into preliminary fellowship on December 1, 2023 and fully cleared her for both ordination and the search process. Ordination in the UU church is not simply a credential bestowed by the UUA; the ordination ceremony is a ritual celebration honoring the minister’s established credentials, and it is often completed as part of a minister’s first call to ministry. UUCW will have the honor and the privilege to ordain Jill through a combined ordination and installation ceremony should we call her as our settled minister.