As a child and adolescent, Renée thought her commitment to following Jesus would lead her to become a missionary. Not only did that seem to be the only accepted ministry where women could be strong and gifted leaders, but at a young age she had already cultivated a love for travel and experiencing other cultures—she had been an exchange student in Moscow and spent time at a missionary school in South Africa.
Instead, her experiences as an Anthropology major in college led her to earn a Master’s in Social Work in Chicago before moving to Virginia so she and her husband Jubal could study at Eastern Mennonite Seminary. After a year, in 1998, they felt called to move back to Champaign to be a part of New Covenant Fellowship, which had been Jubal’s church as an undergraduate at UIUC. Renée then spent over 16 years as a K-8 guidance counselor in public schools before she felt God calling her in a different, surprising direction: to apply for the open co-pastor position at NCF.
Renée says that what began as “stepping into the pulpit to help out” during the transition when the second of NCF’s founding pastors retired, became “a consuming passion as God continued to open the scriptures, and the Holy Spirit gave me words and ideas and a pastor’s heart for our congregation.” In the summer of 2016 the NCF community confirmed that calling, and Renée stepped out in faith, resigning from her school counseling position and accepting the call to full-time pastoring work at NCF.
In her studying of the Bible, Renée is particularly interested in ways the Hebrew Bible and Jewish spiritual practices inform and expand our understanding of Christian scriptures and further illuminate God’s revelation of self to humanity in the person of Jesus the Messiah. In her work with the youth group, which began at NCF years before she became a pastor, Renée loves “taking them to different places to expose them to God’s people and work and expand their experiences of who they are in God’s vastly varied world.” She believes that New Covenant’s Intergenerational emphasis, involving people of all ages in worship and ministries, makes NCF unique and contributes to resilient and growing faith in all age groups.
To relax, Renée enjoys playing pool, jogging, cooking and sharing meals with friends and family, beer-and-darts dates with her husband Jubal, and watching her two teenagers discover their passions. She also likes to win at cribbage, lose at backgammon, and be cajoled into hiking and experiencing nature.