A look at Jeanne Pupke's ministry with
First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond
Rev. Jeanne Pupke was called to be the Senior Minister of First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond, VA (UURVA), in the Spring of 2006. Between 2006 and today, the congregation has grown by over 70% from 410 to over 700 members. This phenomenal growth is because Jeanne cultivates leaders, who in turn, create a culture of radical hospitality and possibility. Under her leadership, UURVA has, among many other things:
- Become a robust teaching congregation for student ministers. several of whom have been called to serve other congregations;
- Grew and developed a spiritually-grounded pastoral care program with lay leadership who have, subsequently, trained teams in other congregations to implement their own programs;
- Increased its stewardship giving by over 200%;
- Completed a capital campaign that raised over $1.3 million dollars for a major building renovation to meet the needs of a growing congregation;
- Instigated a weekly share-the-plate giving program, which raises thousands of dollars each year to support community organizations and initiatives;
- Established an ongoing partnership with the Rev. D.K. Logan and the Nu Beginning Experience Ministry to broaden the congregation's musical offerings and intercultural connections;
- Developed an anti-racism leadership development program called the Pledge to End Racism, which has now been adopted by congregations around the country.
Staff and members of UURVA are proud to endorse their senior minister, Jeanne Pupke, for President of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Here's what some of them have to say about her:
Some words from former First UU ministerial interns:
Rev. Patricia Owen
Unitarian Universalist Church of Tampa, FL
I am so excited that in June 2017, we will elect a woman president of the UUA.
Today want to talk to you about why I put my whole heart into endorsing Jeanne Pupke for president. I have known Jeanne in four capacities: as her congregant, employee, intern minister/student minister who she guided through ministry, and now my beloved colleague.
I believe it is time to elect a president of UUA who has a bridge between ministerial depth and business understanding. Jeanne is without question that candidate.
Jeanne is also a leader of leaders. She invites people to be more than they are. Jeanne is a woman who casts vision and allows those around to make that vision come to life.
I look forward to dialoging with you, answering your questions, and I look forward to saying congratulations to my beloved colleague Jeanne Pupke next June as she becomes –rightly so - our next UUA president.
Rev. Tandy Scheffler
Minister of Faith Formation
Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church
Oak Ridge, TN
Jeanne Pupke is visionary, generous, and savvy leader. She is the leader we need for the Unitarian Universalist Association. We need someone with business management experience and a proven track record. Jeanne's background in the coffee industry as well as the flourishing of the congregation she leads in Richmond VA testify to her financial leadership excellence. We need a visionary, compelling spokesperson for our faith. As a Ministerial Intern at First UU Richmond in 2013/14, I witnessed Jeanne's giftedness in making public statements. She inspires and challenges with clarity and power. Finally, Jeanne is a true minister. Her ministry arises out of her profound spiritual and theological groundedness. Jeanne will minister to all Unitarian Universalists. She will help us navigate the places where we are broken and lead us into deeper, wider covenant with one another and with our world. Jeanne has my vote. I hope you will join me with yours.
Rev. Aija Simpson
Unitarian Universalists of the Cumberland Valley
Boiling Springs, PA
When I arrived at first UU Richmond as their Intern I was scared. I knew that I had a calling to ministry but I couldn’t imagine that I would ever really feel like a minister. Jeanne Pupke was exactly the mentor I needed. Jeanne helped me to discover the minister I knew I could be. Jeanne has an amazing ability to help people uncover and use their own gifts. She makes people better, she calls them to the best versions of themselves. Those of us who count her as a colleague know that she makes our ministries better but we are not the only ones.
I know that everyone who has ever worked with her would say she helped them be better at their jobs and everyone who has ever met her - colleagues, employees, congregants - would say she has helped us lead better lives. Jeanne’s true gift is not her ability to lead - though that gift is enormous - but her ability to teach the rest of us to lead with her. I know she will do the same as president of the UUA.
Endorsements by past and current congregational presidents:
Sharon Amoss, President of First UU Richmond: Jeanne’s commitment to developing leaders is one of the many strengths that would make her an excellent UUA president. In our congregation, she has shared her gifts with a steady stream of intern ministers who have gone on to lead powerful ministries of their own. She also recognizes, cultivates, and challenges lay leaders to find their own ministry.
Whether it’s our monthly Leaders Meeting, a well-timed “suggestion” about what might be possible, or one-on-one mentoring, Jeanne makes time for the leaders around her, building our capacity to live into our mission in ways we never dreamed possible.
Dorothy Hollahan, Past President of First UU Richmond: As a Board member and past President of First UU of Richmond I have seen Jeanne’s leadership in three major areas. Jeanne lead us through a successful transition of governance and leadership, with a vision of strategic thinking and organizational improvement, She provided a strong sense of Faith development, spirituality and caring, both for individuals and our church community She has a vision and focus on the larger community, developing partnerships and relationships for social justice in addition to building community and partnerships with UU churches in our region.
Fricka Raycroft, Past President of First UU Richmond: I have been a member of First UU of Richmond for 28 years and Rev. Jeanne brought us a vision of who we could be as a voice for justice. She helped us put our feelings into concrete action and showed us how to be more welcoming and involved, how to stop talking and start doing. I know she will bring this same vision and action to our entire denomination. Rev. Jeanne's business background was invaluable to us in her ability to manage what is essentially a small business. A larger staff, and consequently a larger budget, enabled us to move beyond our walls and engage in the important work of racial reconciliation so needed in our city and the entire country.
As president of our congregation I worked closely with her and know her to be indefatigable and optimistic. Rev. Jeanne has the skills to lead the UUA and the vision to set us on the path.
Denise Rimes, Vice-Moderator, UUA Board of Trustees; Past President, First UU Richmond: After four years as a Unitarian Universalist, it was time for me to discern how I could fully contribute to my newly-chosen faith. As my leadership journey began, I had the great blessing to serve my congregation alongside our newly called minister, Rev. Jeanne Pupke.
I have learned that Jeanne has an incredibly keen eye for examining systems and matching people and their skills to the needs in those systems. As a leader, her ability to identify opportunities and develop solutions is remarkable, whether it’s in a congregation, RE program, cluster, region or affinity group.
Her business experience provides her with a strong sense of what’s possible, but it’s her faith and spirituality that ultimately help our hopes and dreams materialize into reality.
Her vision for our faith of a “commonwealth of congregations” with vital lay leaders and a sense of abundance is what our Association and our world need.
Now, after twelve years of collegiality with Jeanne, I can say, without hesitation, that she is a leader for our time and for the future of our Unitarian Universalist faith.
Diana Thompson Vincelli, Past Congregational President: In a time that calls for compassionate, inclusive, intelligent leadership, I believe Reverend Jeanne Pupke has the right experiences and qualifications to serve as President of the UUA. I worked closely with her during my years as a board member and president at First UU Church of Richmond, and admired her many abilities in the most complex job of parish minister. I knew then that we were privileged to have such a person in our midst, and I feel she would do extremely well leading the UUA.
Support from representatives of the staff:
The Rev. Sherman Logan, Assistant Minister: Rev. Jeanne is an inspirational and spiritually-grounded leader. I trust her to listen carefully and be accountable to the individuals and groups she’s in relationship with. Because of this and because of her unyielding efforts to make Unitarian Universalism a welcoming and inclusive faith to all who seek our religious community that I wholeheartedly support her candidacy for the Presidency.
David Hicks MacPherson, Minister Emeritus: It is my privilege to urge you, my fellow UUers, to vote for the Rev. Jeanne Pupke in the coming UUA Presidential election.
I’ve known and worked with Rev. Jeanne for eleven years, watching her reach out to our youth and adults in local, regional, and larger settings where her proven business and religious resources enable us to do our part in transforming this world so that peace, liberty, love, and justice shall be the real life for all our siblings in the human family.
Rhonda Wingfield, Director of Religious Education: Rev. Jeanne absolutely values and practices Shared Ministry. Leading a Teaching Congregation, all interns are involved in religious education, carrying Beloved Community forward. Her breadth of experience, spiritual depth, unyielding passion and vision, make her the candidate to receive my vote.
What leaders and members have to say about Jeanne's ministry:
Leon E. Andrews, Ph.D: Due to the exceptional leadership of Dr. Jeanne Pupke over the past decade, I have been inspired, motivated, enlightened and spurred to act in discovering my purpose here on earth. Her knowledge, intelligence and experiences make her an extraordinary communicator and an agent for spiritual and social change. She is very adept at identifying, prioritizing, planning organizational development by utilizing resources, i.e., people, budgetary funds, partnerships, etc. in order to fulfill the mission and vision, to grow the church and expand its outreach and effectiveness. Her compassion, integrity and sense of humor draw people to her.
Anita Lee and Jim Armstrong: With prophetic leadership, Unitarian Universalism can soar and guide us toward a world we only dream about. Rev. Jeanne has demonstrated her capacities to guide us spiritually, to lead us in opposition to systems of oppression, and to raise and husband our resources that are necessary to accomplish lofty goals. She will lead us toward an antiracist, anti-oppressive, multicultural Unitarian Universalist Association that more closely fulfills the promise of our faith. Her proposals will help redeem us from historic wounds. We will vote for Rev. Jeanne Pupke for President to the UUA and we hope that you will join us.
Joel Blum: I have been privileged to experience Rev. Jeanne Pupke's leadership during the entire 10+ years she has been our Senior Minister at the 1st UU Church of Richmond. When she arrived we were struggling to overcome adversity. We are now a thriving Church Community and Rev. Jeanne has played a very large role in our transformation.
Jeanne views challenges as opportunities and inspires us to live our mission of growing spiritually, caring for our community and acting in the service of justice. She exhibits warmth and caring and repeatedly shows this in the Services she leads. She has a wonderful sense of humor and the capacity not to take herself too seriously, but she is also able to take strong and clear stands for what she believes to be right and important.
I am excited that the UUA has the opportunity to select Rev. Jeanne as its next President and I am very pleased to be able to enthusiastically endorse her for this position.
Kenneth Brown: Jeanne Pupke is my Pastor and as such she I have witnessed her leadership skills. She has a wonderful balance of being empathetic, business minded, and she knows how to motivate individuals for a cause.
Jeffrey Clark: I served as the Chair of the Ministerial Search Committee that brought Jeanne to the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond almost 11 years ago. During her time with us, she has transformed our congregation in ways that many of us would not have thought possible.
Rev. Pupke’s vision, inspiration, and leadership have been the moving force behind these changes. I know that her experience, heart, commitment, and leadership skills will lead to equally transformative results in the UUA.
Ginjer Clarke: Rev. Jeanne is the energizing, empowering, engaging leader our movement needs now in these challenging times. I can attest to this because she has grown and pushed the congregation of First UU of Richmond over the past 10 years to be more civically engaged, community connected, and personally activist. Although we don’t want to lose her leadership, we know that she is the most qualified candidate to lead the UUA.
Paul Dolci: Rev. Jeanne is a thoughtful, insightful and compassionate person who is committed to the Unitarian Universalist faith. She is also an advocate of inclusivity and of ending racism. I believe she is a visionary leader that the Unitarian Universalist Association needs at this time.
Diana Donald: I wholeheartedly support Rev. Jeanne's candidacy for President of UUA. I believe, without hesitation, that she is the best person to guide the UUA in the challenges ahead. Under Rev. Jeanne's guidance, membership at First UU has almost doubled. Our congregation is inclusive, multi-generational, and diverse, and our social justice initiatives are recognized and admired in the greater community. These are core issues for her and are reflected in her Sunday sermons which, as I've said many times, will sometimes make you laugh, or cry, but always make you think. Isn't that what a leader should do? I will miss her.
Joy Duke: Rev. Jeanne has been my minister for 10 years. I know her to be trailblazer who throws herself into her work. She is a woman on fire.
Amanda Dulin: Jeanne Pupke changed my relationship to Unitarian Universalism. I was a member of a UU church for 7 years before coming to the Richmond Congregation, and though I found like-minded people and good friends, I wasn’t engaged. Jeanne inspired me to be more courageous and to find purpose. Her leadership and passion have made all the difference in our congregation and in my life. I will be so sad to see her leave Richmond, but cannot say enough how important it is to have leadership like Jeanne’s right now.
Peter Ericson: I am a lifelong UU who moved to Richmond about six years ago and became a member of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond. I was immediately impressed with the vitality of the congregation and concluded that a significant contributing factor was the minister, Jeanne Pupke. In the ten years she has been the minister here, the congregation has grown from slightly over 400 members to more than 700. In addition, the congregation has become more diverse and includes many more young families with children. I attribute a lot of that growth to Jeanne’s efforts.
She is an able administrator, but also compassionate. Nothing illustrates this better than the actions Jeanne took after the sudden, unexpected death of the minister to the Norfolk congregation. She rushed to provide pastoral services and care and enlisted the aid of others in our congregation, including our Lay Pastoral Care Committee. She traveled to Norfolk several times a week for months and was an invaluable resource as the church dealt with the tragedy. She also has been a leader in developing a UU presence in the legislature and a strong advocate for civil rights in general and LGBTQ rights specifically.
This is the kind of individual that we need to lead our association—an able administrator who will not hesitate to become involved in the many issues we will face in the near future. I wholeheartedly endorse Jeanne Pupke for president of the UUA.
Joe Essid: Recently on a faculty e-list, a colleague broke through the chatter about resisting the rising tide of hatred in our nation. She asked a series of questions, including “who is your hero?” Immediately I thought of Rev. Jeanne Pupke and responded to my colleague with Jeanne’s name. I noted Jeanne’s annual trip to our local courthouse to seek a marriage license, before the Supreme Court of the US legalized marriage equality. I thought of Jeanne’s inspired teaching to our congregation and her upholding the principles of Unitarian-Universalism. I recalled how, over the objections of some humanists in our congregation, she made those walking earth-centered spiritual paths not only welcome, but able to celebrate the Solstices on church property.
A long time ago, I left the Catholic faith for something more inclusive and bound by principles I share. In UU I found that, but I’d not have stayed but for Rev. Jeanne’s leadership. I’m honored to endorse her for the UU Presidency. She remains my hero, and I hope her message of hope and resistance to injustice will reach an even larger audience.
Candice and Ryan Evans: Rev. Jeanne has been at the crux of our spiritual journey as UUs. The church has been a source of inspiration, hope, learning and fellowship for years and Jeanne has been a large part. Although First UU is a faith grounded in justice for a bevvy of causes.
Rev. Jeanne has made anti-racism a top priority at church and has adopted policies congruent with this mindset. Given the current political, economic and social climate, the general feeling towards my family has been overtly hostile. First UU by contrast has been a safe place to grieve, rejoice and strategize on how best to resist. It is clear the Jeanne is the driving force behind this attitude. We’re confident that as the President of the UUA she will take this attitude to the top of our faith and the results will be revolutionary. We fully support Jeanne in her candidacy knowing that she will be a President who fights for justice for the marginalized groups in our community.
Gloria & Howard Fabry: In November, 2005, our Ministerial Search Committee wrote the following:
“We seek a minister who can develop and deliver Sunday morning services that stimulate us intellectually, that reflect our theological diversity while respecting our humanist history, and that call us to our UU principles. We seek a minister who has the skills and interest in developing a strong team ministry for our church and who has the administrative skills to facilitate a team ministry. Finally, we seek a Minister who has a proven track record of fundraising and congregational growth.”
Rev. Jeanne Pupke answered that call and has been the Senior Minister at First UU of Richmond, VA since 2006. Jeanne has not only met our expectations, but she has exceeded them. Our church has become a force in the community for promoting the Richmond Pledge and in becoming a Welcoming Congregation and a visible supporter of the Black Lives Movement. Our Membership has doubled with a younger, more diverse mix, pledges have increased dramatically, and the staff is truly a ministry team!
We strongly endorse Rev. Jeanne Pupke for President of the UUA. Our whole denomination should be allowed to benefit from Jeanne’s experience and talents!
Jana Frances-Fischer and Carl Fischer: Reverend Jeanne is the best orator we have ever heard in a church. She commands the pulpit with humor, truth, and compassion. She reaches the congregation with a balance of emotional depth, levity, and empathy. Her face, body, and words are expressive. And the messages she imparts for social justice and advocacy are strong, clear, and very engaging. Jeanne is not afraid to share appropriate personal experiences to help elucidate her points. She is motivating and poignant during her sermons. We are so lucky to have Jeanne Pupke's strong leadership guide our congregation.
Kenya Gibson: There is no candidate more qualified to lead our faith at this critical time. Jeanne Pupke is a perceptive leader with a ruthless dedication to social justice.
She quilts the insights she gathers from one-on-ones and group discussions into a vision that challenges the status quo. Our church has grown in the last decade into a community I never imagined being a part of. And on a personal note, I’ve considered leadership roles that I never would have if it were not for her ministry.
Ten years ago, I walked into First UU thinking it would be good for my kids. Little did I know how much this spiritual home would shape me.
Tom Grahek: Jeanne Pupke is a religious leader with the skills needed to lead us at the national level especially at this time of political upheaval.
Ralph H. Graner: I have known the Reverend Jeanne Pupke for the full approximately ten years that she has been Senior Minister at my congregation, the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond (Virginia). My affiliation with Unitarian Universalism began in first grade of church school in 1940 and has continued through leadership in the (then continental) youth group in the 1940’s/50’s, and since then as a member of UU churches in eight cities. That is to say, I have experience of a great many UU ministers. Not one can match Jeanne Pupke in her combination of management experience, leadership ability, dedication, and inspiration.
Immediately upon her arrival in Richmond she asked for briefings on our wider community and how the church can and could provide our unique gifts to Richmond. She quickly involved herself with every element of the church family. She listens, and then ideas cascade from her. Early on she joined a church-related investment club of which I was also a part, and despite the other heavy demands on her time she always “did her homework” and gave helpful advice that only an MBA like herself could give. I am told that we have some 60 or so groups and organizations in our congregation, and I know that Jeanne can be seen at a dizzying number of their meetings. As far as I am aware, that also describes her service to the denomination when she served with distinction on the UUA Board. That said, none of her whirlwind of activities precludes delivering eye-opening sermons on Sundays.
I genuinely believe that the UUA and the denomination as a whole would benefit greatly from having Jeanne Pupke as our President, and I urge a vote in her favor.
Ned Haley: Having served as Chair of the First UU Stewardship Committee for five years, I strongly support Rev. Jeanne Pupke as President of the UUA because she is the only candidate with the proven skills and experience needed to lead our faith movement today.
In her 10+ years as Senior Minister of First UU, she moved our Congregation forward to again being a vibrant community of action for social justice. She significantly increased the size and diversity of our staff and membership. She facilitated growing the capital and operating funds needed to serve the almost 700 members of our church. Rev. Jeanne represented our faith and congregation by advocating for us at the VA state legislature and Richmond City offices, in addition to serving on the UUA Board. She also mentored many UU interns including three who began as members of our Congregation, with five (or more) now serving as ministers with other UU congregations across the country.
Rev. Jeanne will provide the steady hand needed to lead our Faith in significantly growing our active and diverse membership and our collective effectiveness in advocating for our principles. I encourage all to vote for Rev. Jeanne in the upcoming President-of-the-UUA election.
Reginald Henderson: When I began attending First UU Richmond Church in 2008 it quickly became clear to me that Reverend Jeanne possessed an affinity for connecting to people that was genuine and endearing. Over the years, I have known her to be a person who can relate to anyone, from the homeless man huddling up to our church building for at least some shelter from the elements at night, to the most sophisticated intellectual.
Reverend Jeanne is a person of courage who stands up for people whether they be people of color, LGBTQ people, the struggling poor, conservative, liberal-- whoever. Reverend Jeanne is tolerant, but she will not yield to the ugliness of discrimination. She has earned the respect of those who come in contact with her.
She executes her responsibilities with an effective management style, properly delegating for operational efficiency and still maintaining a personal touch and approachability. The UUA is in need of exactly what Reverend Jeanne is prepared to provide at this time. We must not miss this opportunity.
Barbara Henderson: It is with great enthusiasm that I support the candidacy of Reverend Jeanne Pupke as the next UUA President. She has demonstrated that she is highly qualified to be our leader at this critical time in the history of our faith and of our nation.
I have known Reverend Jeanne for eight years. I am impressed with her unique ability to bring together our diverse membership to accomplish significant goals such as the renovation of our church building, social justice awareness, and community outreach. She is also a good listener and can be bold when necessary.
As a person of color I know that Reverend Jeanne Pupke is the type of leader who will advocate for me, and for everyone.
Suzanne Jenkins: Our church’s membership, diversity, activities, community outreach, and reputation as a welcoming and socially active congregation have grown dramatically since Jeanne became our minister. She has the experience, vision and energy to be a great leader for the UUA.
Billie T. Kelley: I am an elderly person and cannot participate as often as I would like to, but I do attend church services regularly and have become friends with Jeanne. She is thoughtful and kind, with a good sense of humor. Jeanne quickly became a community citizen, attending City Council meetings to advocate on social justice issues.
Jeanne helped us to find ways to finance an expensive renovation. She studied the building, talked to our Board, and showed us ways to update and enlarge the church to meet our needs. We have grown in membership and increased our activities. We have made progress with willing intern ministers who learn as they take on church responsibilities. We endorse a great person!
Patty Knight: I whole heartily support Rev. Jeanne’s candidacy for President. She has done a fabulous job as senior minister of our church and will bring a wealth of passion, skill and leadership to our national organization.
Samuel Kutscha: Our society and the world at large is facing a challenging time and I feel that Rev. Jeanne is the right person to help our faith meet these challenges. In the City of Richmond, she has helped out Church rise to meet the challenges of a racially divided city. She has inspired us to become the beacon of liberal religion in the former capital of the confederacy. She brings out the best in people, lovingly challenging each of us to be the best person we can be. Rev. Jeanne brings years of executive professional experience to take care of the nitty gritty work required to make change happen. I strongly and fully endorse Rev. Jeanne for President of the UUA.
George Love: I have always heard in churches talk of compassion, but I never really experienced it until I first came to First UU and met Rev. Jeanne Pupke. I was looking for a church where I could hear the sermon, for I am profoundly deaf and wear cochlear implants. Most ministers that I have met have avoided me, for it is so hard to communicate with me. It takes effort, too much effort for most. Jeanne, on the other hand, saw in me an opportunity to connect with the forgotten. She reached out to me and made sure that I felt part of the community and was always in a position where I could hear best. For the first time in many, many years I began to understand the Church service and what was going on in meetings within the Church.
I remember once, in a class of Jeanne’s, she was reading from a book, turning the pages one by one and holding a microphone in the other hand, just so I could hear. This was not needed for the rest of the group. I felt very loved that evening.
Everyone sees in Jeanne what they love and admire about her most--her organizational skills, business skills and warmth. For me, it is her compassion, how she never forgets the forgotten.
Dianna MacPherson: Prior to her call to ministry, Rev. Jeanne worked in both the automotive and coffee industries. She led these companies through periods of growth with a focus on teamwork, quality of product, and staff development. Rev. Jeanne's business experience carried over into her work as minister at First UU of Richmond and as Finance Chair while serving on the UUA Board of Trustees. Rev. Jeanne promotes collaboration to further the good of all people while providing support and education. She truly cares, and that deep caring translates into every decision she makes.
This is the kind of person that I want to lead the UUA into the future, one who can combine a strong background in both business and theology with the ability to make thoughtful, caring decisions, working towards the betterment of all. I am excited to see how she can help us carry Unitarian Universalism to the world.
Annette Marquis, Former District Executive, Southeast District of the UUA; Former Regional Lead, Southern Region of the UUA: First UU’s growth was the result of a key characteristic that plays itself out over and over again in Jeanne’s ministry. The characteristic is her ability to nurture.
Jeanne has a lot of skills and experience but it is her innate ability to nurture -- to identify what it is people and organizations have to offer, and through her caring, clarity, and commitment, help them to see it, too, that impresses me the most. With Jeanne’s guidance, they find strengths that they didn't know they had and a way to live into and share those strengths for the benefit of all.
I've watched this gift play itself out with new members of the congregation, with student ministers and interns, even the church business manager who is now serving as assistant minister, a talented African-American minister who now has dual fellowship in his Baptist faith and Unitarian Universalism.
Jeanne has a gift for seeing deep inside and helping others believe in themselves in a way that few others can.
I endorse Jeanne Pupke for UUA President because I know that, under Jeanne’s leadership, the UUA will find its purpose, will clarify its identity, and will truly understand, maybe for the first time, what we have to offer this hurting world demands that we work together, that we support each other, and that we become stronger together.
Alice Marshall: It is with mixed motivations that we endorse Reverend Jeanne Pupke’s candidacy for the office of UUA President. As a same-sex blend of an a religiously raised Jew and a non-practicing Catholic, my wife and I have found a fulfilling spiritual home at the first UU Church of Richmond. We attribute this comfort in no small part to the leadership of Reverend Jeanne. To us, she is the embodiment of what we seek in finding a place in which we feel both welcome and spiritually uplifted.
Reverend Jeanne’s sermons, delivered in equal parts humor and pathos, always bring us to a higher level of sensitivity to the issues that threaten to diminish our humanity. We leave with renewed commitment to living the Unitarian creed which carries us through the week in enhanced participation in social justice actions. We have no doubt that Reverend Jeanne’s remarkable skills in leadership will accomplish for our nation what they have for the UU Church of Richmond. We applaud and celebrate her candidacy for this positon. We will just miss seeing her at our pulpit when Sunday rolls around.
Christine Mathews: I have personally experienced Rev. Jeanne's ability to listen in a way that has the potential to be transformative for the person speaking. She offers respect and understanding and also speaks the truth in a way that demonstrates that respect and understanding even when it can be challenging to hear. It is clear to me from hearing her sermons and watching her leadership in our church that she excels in so many ways, from effective organizational operation to social justice to personal growth. She is a remarkable person, and I believe she is eminently qualified and in fact the best person to lead the UUA.
Phyllis McCafferty: I had the privilege of serving on the Ministerial Search Committee that brought Rev. Pupke to First UU. As a former Board Member and President, I have admired her ability to build leadership skills within the congregation, to encourage us to be our best selves. Her depth of spirituality and acceptance of others has helped us become more diverse and accepting. Her courage to face difficult issues within our congregation, our community, and beyond has shown her resolve to live her UU Principles through action. She has worked with other faith leaders in our community to stand as one. With her strong history of effective managerial and organizational skills, I recommend her for the Presidency of the UUA with no reservations.
Anne-Marie McCartan: As an 8-year member of First UU Church of Richmond, let me add my endorsement to the long list of those supporting Rev. Jeanne Pupke. Much has been written already about her fine administrative and leadership skills, commitment to social justice, ability to compromise to reach consensus, spiritual insights, and so on. But let me add another important aspect she brings to any leadership role: her sense of humor. In the new "Book of Joy," the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu discuss how to find lasting happiness in a changing world. One of the pillars of joy is "laughing at ourselves to develop humor." They say, in part ,"Next time . . . something does not go your way, try being amused by the situation rather than getting angry or outraged. You will notice how your amusement puts others at ease and can often smooth the situation." I find this is truly the case with Rev. Jeanne -- she is quick to poke fun at herself and to find humor in the many challenges of our contemporary world. This buoys us as a congregation and sets the tone for how we should interact with each other. Such a characteristic will be even more important in the national role she would play as UUA president. I urge your support of her candidacy.
Cathy Merchut: Rev. Jeanne Pupke was one of the welcoming forces at First UU that encouraged me to learn about and finally join the church. Rev. Jeanne’s honesty and integrity have opened my eyes to who I am and how much better I want to be.
Jay McNeal: I’m a liberal Baptist minister and when I heard the messages from Rev. Jeanne’s pulpit I got inspired! I thought, “I could work here!” The gospel of others is preached in Jeanne’s church. The gospel of justice is preached in Jeanne’s church! The gospel of radical welcome is preached in Jeanne’s church!! The gospel of showing up for others is preached in Jeanne’s church!!! The Baptists are looking for Jesus and Jesus is at Jeanne’s church!
I’m just one many stories of joining the church that Jeanne built over the last ten years. She didn’t do it alone and she didn’t do it fast; She did it right. As an old minister who joined the congregation in 2016 while my wife was the social justice intern, I’ve had one foot behind the scenes with the staff and one foot experiencing membership.
Despite all of the coming and going with running a national campaign for the UUA presidency, Rev. Jeanne has been tuned into my own needs and future, and my wife’s, well beyond what we could have seen for ourselves. It’s with enormous pride and rare unselfishness that I urge UU’s to raise up our beloved Jeanne and join her as she moves us all forward nationally with the skill and inspiration we’ve seen in Virginia.
Ted Merriman: Working with Rev. Jeanne as a Lay Pastoral Care Associate and a church board member, I have been repeatedly impressed with her combination of strategic outlook, organizational vision and personal compassion. Her high energy and commitment turn these character traits into actions. Organizational accomplishments both within our church and in the Richmond community — especially in programs for racial justice — demonstrate her determination to bring our faith to real world problems. She has what it takes to be the next president of the UUA.
Peter Mollica: I was privileged to be called to the ministerial search committee that invited Jeanne to become our called minister.
After over ten years of sermons, memorial services, committee meetings, congregational meetings involving Jeanne, yes I have flashbacks. But what I will travel to my life’s end with regarding Reverend Jeanne is the casual, simple, the rock my soul conversations in the lobby, her office, on the slackers’ bench, at her home, and always knowing that her words were her heart.
I have always known that she has accepted me as the incredibly flawed critter of God that I am and will carry the humble embers of the simple conversations that we have shared into the great challenges of our time. Jeanne lives believing that every voice is part of the answer to questions that are asked “Today”. I have felt that in all of my conversations with her, the warmth of compassion transcended the business of “Church” and says we are, and yes we can be!
Thomas Norton: Jeanne is a leader, with strong business acumen from her experience running a company and she is committed to spreading UU principles in the community. I think she would make a great president of the UUA!
Nancy Pratt: I have been impressed with Jeanne Pupke’s organizational skills, her leadership and mentoring of future ministers. Since I returned to Richmond in 2013 and rejoined the congregation, she oversaw a major renovation of the church extremely efficiently. I believe that she is an excellent choice for the next President of the UUA. She is wise, thoughtful and a good leader.
Carolyn Atkinson Raskind: The Rev. Jeanne Pupke would be an outstanding president of the UUA. She has the sound support of her congregation in Richmond, Va., and has a strong and 100% supportive partner and the maturity to take on this ultimate position of our denomination.
She has attracted many new members to our congregation and is clear about our focus on social justice which is in line with our church’s mission and the UUA principles. See has trained a goodly number of ministers-in-training and seemingly enjoys this teaching experience.
I am a lifelong member of the Richmond congregation and have known many ministers to our congregation. I have had as good or better relationship with Jeanne as any of her predecessors and particularly appreciate the time she spent with me in discussion of my final wishes and how our minister and our church can facilitate the carrying out of those wishes. She has carefully put together files on all who seek such advice and consultation.
The Rev. Jeanne Pupke is fearless but respectful and compassionate.
Bob Rogers: It is a privilege to endorse the Reverend Jeanne Pupke as candidate for the presidency of the Unitarian Universalist Association. I have seen our church expand and flourish during her decade as our Senior Minister. Jeanne Pupke is that rare person who blends in winsome fashion the “pastoral” and “prophetic” dimensions of ministry:
A Compassionate Comforter who holds hands with the grieving family as we sing “Spirit of Life” at the bedside of a dying parishioner;
A Powerful Preacher whose sermons attest to the life of authenticity and commitment as we create the “Beloved Community”;
A Public Prophet whose witness in the marketplaces of Richmond and beyond lifts up the rights and needs of the marginalized and demands that justice be served;
An Effective Educator who guides laity to a shared ministry with clergy in our “Teaching Congregation”: mentoring more than a half-dozen future UU ministers, sharing with sister congregations the practices of an effective Lay Pastoral Care program, expanding the “Richmond Pledge” to institutions throughout the metropolis.
The Reverend Pupke is compelling and commanding. Her personal presence, when blended with the maturity and discernment that can only eventuate from many years of successful business and ministerial experience, make her the ideal leader for the UUA at this critical time in our denominational and national history. The challenging times demand a proven ministerial leader of her temperament and capacity.
Carolyn Ross:As I tried to condense into a few words the "big picture" leadership and organizational skills I have observed in Jeanne and which I know will serve her well as UUA President, I found myself thinking of two more focused personal skills I have seen time and again over the last decade.
1. Jeanne has an amazing talent to assess, coax out, and support each person’s interests and strengths.This creates a strong community of individuals, using their personal talents and passion, working together to achieve big common goals.
2. Jeanne is willing to be vulnerable and share her personal feelings and story. This is evident in her sermons, as well as when she is speaking to groups in the community and in her interactions with individuals. To me, this lends authenticity and power to what she does and is able to accomplish.
Kathy Ryan: Jeanne, a woman who exudes compassion, kindness, wisdom and confidence is an amazing leader. She demonstrates this in personal communications and in group settings. I admire her and know that she will be just the kind of leader our UUA needs to function and grow in this complex society.
Sandra Sanroma: As a member of her congregation, I can say that Rev. Jeanne Pupke can give an inspiring sermon. She has the ability to hold the attention of her audience. She speaks clearly, which is especially important to hearing impaired people like me.
Margaret Stokely: Jeanne Pupke would be an excellent president for the UUA. I have been a member at First UU of Richmond since 1973. Working with Rev. Jeanne these last ten years has been an exciting time for me. She has energized the congregation in amazing ways. Her energy and tireless dedication to living the UU principles has challenged us all. I have found her to be compassionate and understanding in all our dealings.
Jan Tarasovic: Jeanne Pupke is my minister, my friend, and my hero. She is a visionary who sees the possibilities for individual and church growth, inspires others to dream with her, suggests and models the work that can make the dreams real, and then insists she was just a small part of the change that happens. “You did it,” she says when minorities and younger people enrich our membership; when a long-needed renovation expands our building capacity and accessibility; when another minister-in-training finds a place to work and to learn in our community. Yes, we did, but it is Jeanne’s leadership that keeps moving us forward.
Jeanne is the most buoyant, hopeful person I have ever known; her energy and generosity never flag. The Sunday after the November election, many of us came to church in grief and despair. She acknowledged the pain and disappointment, but she reminded us that the world needs us more than ever, that standing on the side of love can always make a difference. I went home feeling a little less powerless. If she can believe so passionately that we can change the world, so can I.
But Jeanne has taught us by word and example to face the hard truths, to dream big, to share our wealth, to empower each other. I endorse her with love and appreciation.
Ray Tarasovic: While Jeanne Pupke has officially been my minister for only several months, I have in many ways been under her pastoral care for more than eleven years. During that time, Jeanne and I have shared a professional relationship while I was Richmond’s Assistant Chief and later Chief of Police. In that professional role, I have been honored to attend numerous forums where justice, equality, diversity and basic human rights have been sought, demanded, and celebrated.
One constant of these forums was the presence of Reverend Jeanne. I have observed her in many roles: greeter, introducer, prayer, speaker, panelist, and always witness. Jeanne Pupke and the pursuit of justice in the City of Richmond are synonymous.
Jeanne has accomplished all of this while actively, carefully, and gently tending to her own flock at First UU.
My unequivocal endorsement of Jeanne Pupke for UUA President is only tempered by the loss that her elevation will be to the greater Richmond community.
Deborah Trumpet: One of Reverend Jeanne's best characteristics is her ability to remain strong under pressure. Over the past year alone as our nation, cities and neighborhoods faced unspeakable losses & remarkable turmoil of one kind or another these matters were addressed by Reverend Jeanne in a powerful, compassionate and courageous manner. She encouraged us to love, to act, to forgive, and to remember our humanity through it all. Her strength & wisdom under the pressure of leadership during this time has been admirable.
Pat Vaughn: Over the past ten years, Rev. Pupke’s organizational and administrative skills have contributed to the growth of the Richmond UU congregation. Her delivery of thought provoking sermons and dedication to the demands of congregational and community responsibility is exceptional. Her consistent religious leadership and participation in civil issues proceeds from a strong core of responsibility to her congregation and the larger community. I believe that Rev. Pupke is well qualified for the position of President and would be an asset of its future.
Carol Wayne: Our church's Lay Pastoral Care Program was already in place when Jeanne became our minister a decade ago. But it was her vision, confidence, and connections that encouraged us to offer training in the art of compassionate presence to other UU congregations. We have taught workshops at two General Assemblies and over 19 congregations. I am so grateful to Jeanne for helping us develop this shared ministry that is so deeply meaningful to me and to the team of Lay Pastoral Care Associates she has trained.
As President of the UUA, Reverend Jeanne will not be alone. She'll have the support of all who have been encouraged, inspired, and connected by her work.
J. (Ben) Wharton: My wife and I have been members of the First UU Church in Richmond Virginia for four years. We knew nothing of the UU Church when we started attending. We were overcome by the friendliness of the congregation and the message of the services. We became members after six months of attending.
Reverend Jeanne's message of social justice and the active support of the members to the cause was genuine and more than just words. Shortly after our joining, the building underwent a year-long renovation which was the result of the leadership of Reverend Jeanne's leadership. We have both become active volunteers in the many fundraising, social justice, membership, and other causes that this church is known for. None of this happens without organizational management and support from the top.
Reverend Jeanne is uniquely qualified to lead the Unitarian Universalist Association.
Gina Wurfel: I am a new Unitarian Universalist. However, I am a member of Jeanne’s congregation. She is one major reason why my husband and I chose to join the First UU church. Jeanne motivates and inspires everyone she has contact with. Her background and her change of religious involvement from Catholicism to UU speaks volumes about her commitment to the church. Having had the privilege of hearing her give sermons several times now, as well as lead a new member class, I know that she is funny, down to earth, and cares passionately about social justice issues. The UU is known for being a church that cares about social justice, but it seems that at times that can be “lip service”. Jeanne would be a president who changes that and can get things done…and we will want to follow her lead.