[Please note: Jess is not one to talk about herself in this way and so this was written by her partner Heather…]
Jess Carter is one of the most open and loving people. Spending even a few minutes with her, one can easily see that her effervescence is contagious. She lives in South Minneapolis with her partner, Heather, her two dogs, and three chickens and is currently a Masters of Divinity student at United Theological Seminary.
Though she is absolutely loving her first term at United, this path was not evident to her until recently. Hailing from Laurel, Maryland she has lived in Knoxville, Seattle, St. Louis, and now Minneapolis. While her geographic journey has been varied, her spiritual journey has also traveled a winding path. Being raised in the Church of Christ (acapella), Jess’s spiritual foundation in the Silver Spring Church of Christ (Washington, D.C.) introduced her to the grace and care of a loving God as reflected by its diverse congregation and its desire to reflect the message of the gospel through various ministries (and, she says, a lot of hymns). The community and connection she felt there led her to Milligan College, a small Christian college in east Tennessee, and a continued exploration of faith as well as a degree in radio and television broadcasting. While there, both as a student and later as a Student Affairs administrator, Jess began to question the veracity of a faith that simultaneously claimed to follow Christ’s teachings while excluding others for who they were. Whether by challenging gendered limitations regarding leadership on campus or advocating for the full acceptance of queer people, Jess’ questions turned to activism and a stepping away from this type of conservative Christian community.
As is often the case, embracing the evolution of one’s faith can be both a liberating and frightening proposition. Moving to Seattle for grad school at a Jesuit university and finding a community of faith at Madrona Grace Presbyterian helped Jess leave the limitations of the religiosity she grew up in and embrace a more liberatory theology and faith. A few years after finishing her Master’s degree, and with a heavy heart, Jess left the Pacific Northwest for a new career opportunity at Washington University in St. Louis. The contrast between her faith community in Seattle and having no community in St Louis was stark but was instrumental in helping Jess understand the place that a faith community and a belief in God has in her life. In 2018 Jess moved to the Twin Cities to be with Heather. Moving to Minneapolis has been a journey indeed (the winters! for real) and in Fall of 2018 Jess attended her first service here at Lyndale. She was drawn to Lyndale because she wanted a church home where she could bring her whole self and could ask and live into her questions about faith and God. She also hoped to find a congregation rooted in justice work with an active presence in the community. “In all the best ways, Lyndale reminds me of the church I grew up in – a small, quirky, disarming, earnest, compassionate group of people that come from all walks of life. That’s what drew me here and what has kept me coming back. It is with an open heart and an open hand that I gratefully join this congregation of folks who like to make good trouble and live the word of a loving God.”