The University UCC Pastor Search Committee is pleased to unanimously recommend Reverend Steve J. Jerbi as our candidate to fill the position left vacant by Rev. Peter Ilgenfritz in December 2018. This position is now titled Minister of Worship and Christian Formation. Rev. Jerbi has indicated that he will joyfully accept this position, pending the official vote of call from our congregation at a congregational meeting to be held on Sunday December 13, 2020 following worship.
Rev. Steve Jerbi was ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in 2006. He has received Privilege of Call in the United Church of Christ and is currently serving as an interim minister in a UCC church in L?na’i, Hawaii. Rev. Jerbi has embraced the United Church of Christ as his denomination of choice for his ministry.
Rev. Jerbi has Northwest connections, having graduated from the University of Montana in Missoula with a degree in English Literature and Environmental Studies before receiving a Master of Divinity with an Environmental Ministry Emphasis from Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago.
He has 14 years of experience pastoring congregations in urban Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Encino, California, and L?na’i, Hawai’i. The majority of these ministries have been in multicultural settings with ethnically diverse congregations.
Rev. Jerbi’s application and references, along with the Search Committee’s multiple interviews and reviews of online sermons, have demonstrated that he is an inspiring preacher with a sound theological foundation and a deep understanding of how scripture speaks to us in light of today’s challenges. Rev. Jerbi embraces the concepts of liberation theology.
The Search Committee was particularly impressed with Rev. Jerbi’s experience and innovative ideas around Christian Education and his pastoral commitment to youth and young adults. The Committee also appreciates his creative approach to worship and dedication to online ministry as authentic for the future as well as today. Rev. Jerbi has an outstanding record of accomplishment in social justice work, including deep expertise in anti-racism and a background in Earth Justice.
Rev. Jerbi has strong experience in senior church leadership and supervision of staff, with a history of and preference for the type of collaborative and collegial approach to ministry so vital to our church’s team ministry.
The Search Committee found him very approachable and his references confirmed his skill as a supportive pastor, helping church community members through difficult and challenging crises.
Rev. Jerbi identifies as white and uses the pronouns he/him/his. He is married to his camp sweetheart Jennifer Jerbi and together they raise their daughters Elle (almost 15) and Annie (almost 13).
From Rev. Jerbi:
Aloha friends and greetings from the pineapple isle – Lãna’i, Hawai’i. I am so excited to begin meeting the community of University Congregational. At my ordination service my pastor from Missoula preached and said I fell in love three times: first with my wife Jen, then with the mountains, and finally with urban ministry. This still rings true today and I’m excited to see all the ways that my family and I will connect with the beauty of the PNW and the call to serve Seattle.
I have a deep passion for youth ministry and believe that young people are not only the future of the church but also the present. I see church as a place that strengthens our spiritual practices and sends us into the world to participate in God’s liberating love. I always preach that we can’t be a disciple on our own, it is a calling we share in community.
I’ve been blessed to join in solidarity movements around racial, economic, and environmental justice and ending gun violence. I helped found the Interfaith Solidarity Network in Los Angeles and often use the skills and art of community organizing. I serve on the Organizing for Mission Network’s shared leadership team, an emerging, national and ecumenical faith-based organizing group.
My family and I love to explore – from camping trips and day hikes to museums and roadside attractions. Jen is a social worker with Holt, International, working with families adopting children from China. Elle is a freshman and loves theater. Annie is in 7th grade and loves books and reading. Our puppy Millie is a Jack Russell mix. She’ll be two on Epiphany.
- The Search Committee will establish opportunities for members of our congregation to get to know Rev. Jerbi in the coming weeks through a series of Zoom discussions. Watch for forthcoming announcements about these.
- Rev. Jerbi will preach during worship on Sunday, December 13. Immediately following worship, a congregational Zoom meeting will be convened to vote on his call to be our Minister of Worship and Christian Formation.
- If approved by the congregation, Rev. Jerbi will start early in 2021 using virtual means of contact and hopes to relocate to the Seattle area soon after.
- Our Bridge Minister of Vision and Stewardship, Rev. Todd Smiedendorf, will begin his transition from our church in early 2021 once Rev. Jerbi has started.
- Rev. Amy Roon will transition from Minister of Worship and Christian Formation to Minister of Vision and Stewardship.
The search process
The Search Committee was appointed by the Church Council and began its work in March 2020. The committee met 35 times on Zoom between April and November of this year, carrying out the following activities:
- Consulted with Mike Denton, our Conference Minister about the recommended search process, including confidentiality requirements.
- Consulted throughout our search with our church’s racial justice advisors Cynthia McLeod and Diane Schmitz regarding how to identify and mitigate implicit bias in our deliberations.
- Developed our Local Church Profile that was posted on our church’s website, the United Church of Christ denominational website and Conference website for potential candidates to study.
- Released information about the opening to church organizations serving people of color prior to our general announcement.
- Advertised in progressive religious online venues.
- Received and reviewed the profiles of many diverse, qualified and experienced candidates with a wide range of backgrounds.
- Conducted initial interviews via Zoom.
- Reviewed written references and criminal background checks.
- Reviewed online sermons including several recommended by each candidate.
- Asked candidates to respond in writing to specific questions.
- Arranged for three candidates to join us for a second Zoom interview and to meet with the Leadership Team via Zoom.
- Conducted phone interviews with additional references.
- Unanimously recommended Rev. Steve Jerbi to serve as our next Minister of Worship and Christian Formation.
Pastoral Search Committee:
Co-Chairs: Tim Croll and Virginia Felton
Members: Fred Heidrich, Cara Helmer, Joyce Jackson, Terry Moore, Emily Morishima, Bob Perkins, Rachel Schmidt, Linda Scott, and Lori VanderBilt.