Ginger E. Gaines-Cirelli is a life-long United Methodist who is passionate about sharing the good news of God’s liberating love in Jesus Christ.
In 2014, she became the first woman to serve as Senior Pastor of historic Foundry UMC in Washington, DC. Since Ginger’s appointment, Foundry has re-energized its work for racial justice, become a founding member of the Sanctuary DMV movement, and created a Sacred Resistance Ministry Team to mobilize consistent action in response to troubling current events.
A graduate of Yale Divinity School, Ginger has served a variety of congregations: small and large, urban and suburban in the Baltimore Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church, in addition to an uptown Manhattan and two-point charge in the New York Annual Conference. Ginger has served the Baltimore Washington Conference as Chair of the Board of Discipleship and currently serves on the Board of Ordained Ministry. In addition, she has served as an elected delegate to the 2016 General Conference and the 2019 Special General Conference of the United Methodist Church.
For over 20 years as a pastor-theologian, her ministry has encouraged spiritual growth and engaged discipleship—emphasizing radical hospitality, shared ministry, spiritual practices, and solidarity with the poor and oppressed. With this focus, she has brought depth, health, and growth to every community she has served. Ginger contributed to and served as a general editor for The CEB Women’s Bible (Abingdon, October 2016). Her book, Sacred Resistance: A Practical Guide to Christian Witness and Dissent, was released in May 2018. Ginger is a sought-after preacher, teacher, and facilitator at local, regional, and international events.
She enjoys gardening, yoga, poetry, art, ice cream, travel, hiking, and is married to Dr. Anthony T. Gaines Cirelli, a Catholic theologian, currently serving the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as a Director in their Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs office. The Gaines-Cirellis live in Washington, DC with their Persian cat Annie Rose & Clumber Spaniels Harvey and Daisy.
How should persons of faith respond when government officials and political leaders behave in ways that contradict values long espoused by Christian tradition? How should churches respond? Sacred Resistance: A Practical Guide to Christian Witness and Dissent provides thoughtful guidance for those pondering their answers to those questions.
Awaken to Peace
A homily preached by Rev. Ginger E. Gaines-Cirelli at Foundry UMC, December 8, 2019, second Sunday of Advent, “Awaken!” series. L’enfence du Christ performances.
Text: Isaiah 11:1-10
I enjoy relative safety and stability in life. Many within the sound of my voice can say the same. It’s important to consider how easy it is to take this reality for granted. I have been thinking about how easy it is to take for granted that I wake up and go to sleep every night in a sheltered place that is clean and secure and comfortable and private, with running water and hygienic facilities; that there is abundant food in my home and ample resources to get more; that my dogs and cat have their own beds and a cabinet full of food.
When I have needed to move from one place to another, it has been because I chose to pursue a new opportunity. The “challenge” involved in the move was all the time it took to sort through, pack, and unpack all my possessions as I transferred them via automobile from one secure place to the next secure place. I have never been denied a place to live or the means to secure housing because of the color of my skin, the language or accent of my voice, or my gender identity or sexual orientation.
And while we are all finite and vulnerable creatures in a world where accidents happen, illness falls, and violence can erupt anywhere and to anyone, I am among those in this country and world who do not daily fear for my life or the life of my loved ones due to an abusive partner or due to stray bullets or bombs or “disappearances.” I do not have to fear the wolf, the leopard, the lion, the asp who lurk and lie in wait to do harm in the alleys or intersections, who strut and spew poison in marbled halls and paneled courts. I am not the target of those who take away food stamps and deny health coverage and cage children and steal children and allow children to languish in filth and to die alone. I am not among the terrorized and terrified denied shelter and safety at our borders.
I live in peace. And I’m not alone. To be clear, I’m not talking about inner peace. Many of us may struggle with various levels of anxiety and stress—some at truly debilitating levels—and it often gets worse this time of year. What I’m talking about today is the kind of peace that Jesus and his parents did not experience—the kind of peace that is freedom from threat of violence, the freedom to dwell in safety, the freedom to stay in their homeland without fear. I’m talking about the kind of peace that allows parents of any race or class or creed to trust that their children can be who they are, can play in public spaces. without being hurt or destroyed.
The vision cast by the prophet Isaiah in our text today is an ancient hope for the vulnerable in every age. In this vision a way is made for difference to dwell together in peace, for those with certain kinds of power to use that power to care and protect rather than to destroy. Lions and bears and asps and leopards and wolves continue to be who they are but don’t devour the little ones. And in this vision, the power of gentleness and playfulness and innocence and humility is recognized and allowed to lead the way.
Jesus came into the world to show us what that looks like. Jesus is born among the humble animals and, like them, is vulnerable to those whose hungry power would destroy him. Jesus from the very beginning crosses borders and boundaries, in solidarity with refugees everywhere, carried by his parents into unknown lands to try to find a place of sanctuary and safety. The holy family receives shelter and hope for their future from persons who could have turned them away.
In this world, still so far from the vision Isaiah saw, in this world still so plagued with violence, fear, and abuses of power, Jesus comes to awaken us to what is real: You and I live in relative peace. Countless others do not. Peace is denied so many of our human family and yet it is the promise heralded at our savior’s birth. Human actions at home and abroad, actions fueled by greed and fear, are responsible for stealing the peace and safety of God’s children. You and I can’t solve the global migration crisis or end wars in the world or on our streets on our own, but we are called to be peacemakers, to do what we can do. Educate yourselves; you can begin by participating in our Advent Justice Series focused on immigration. Contribute to our Advent Appeal which supports Foundry’s advocacy work for peace and justice and also the work of CARACEN, a local partner in our work with I.D. Ministry clients who are immigrants. Don’t take your peace for granted and do what you can to make peace for those hungering and thirsting for rest, for safety, for home.
By God’s grace and the example of Jesus we can be agents of peaceful change in the world. So be encouraged. May fresh hope and peace now comfort your soul…
This list is offered to help engage our experience and perspectives around race. It is shared as a resource and encouragement to raise consciousness and broaden understanding. The list is not exhaustive, though there are a variety of genres represented—fiction, non-fiction, history, memoir, and theology.
Foundry members are invited to read a book each month—or at least six of the twelve books numbered on the list before the end of February 2020. Read these on your own, with a friend, in your small group, or with your Sunday School class. Look for information on classes or book groups forming around these titles through the year and avail yourself of the opportunity to participate.
"I don’t recognize my church." That’s what I said to myself while serving as a delegate of the 2016 General Conference in Portland, Oregon.
In her new book, “Sacred Resistance,” the senior pastor of Foundry UMC in Washington, D.C., articulates how Christians can engage in the work of mending the world.
The language of “resistance” has a long history. For many it will call to mind those who’ve marched, stood on picket lines, participated in sit-ins, and put their bodies between trucks, tanks, and other people or cherished land. Used as a political term, resistance is generally understood as a kind of collective civil disobedience, focused on justice and human rights, and embodied in public actions like those just mentioned.
Growing up in a small town, Ginger Gaines-Cirelli ’96 M.Div. saw the wounds caused by poverty and segregation. Growing up United Methodist, she saw the urgency of connecting personal piety and social action.
When so many causes, crises, and critical needs demand our attention, how can a congregation decide where to engage? Pastor and author Ginger Gaines-Cirelli outlines key questions and concerns in discerning a faithful and sustainable response to public issues.
While it is still dark, Easter happens. Because if the message is that Easter only happens in the light, when we feel strong and certain, when suffering and death hasn’t touched our lives, when the powers of empire have been defeated and justice is consistently done — if that’s the only context where Easter happens, then our celebration of Easter would be a farce.
“It’s poor religion that can’t provide a sufficient curse when needed.” Wendell Berry said that.
Ginger Gaines-Cirelli, author of Sacred Resistance, says it’s up to preachers to address the pain, injustice, confusion, and chaos in our days even when it is risky, and she offers guidance on approaching controversial issues in meaningful and responsible ways.
Nearly ten years ago at a dinner in New York City, I was stunned when someone at my table declared clearly that there is really no point in dialogue or relationship with those whose beliefs will not be conformed to your own.
"I’m not sure how I feel about living in this city,” said a theologically trained young adult with a passion for social justice. As a relative newcomer to Washington, DC, he shared, “It seems that Washington attracts folks who care a lot about power and what it takes to get it.”
Beth Bingham began to see Hagar of the Old Testament in a new way after studying The CEB Women’s Bible.
Suddenly she wasn’t just the servant who bore Abraham a child when his wife Sarah couldn’t. She was, essentially, the Bible’s first single mom — one who had to leave the house because tensions were so high.
Bingham, a student at Virginia Theological Seminary, couldn’t wait to bring The CEB (Common English Bible) Women’s Bible and share her Hagar insight with the female inmates she studies Scripture with twice a month.
“Why should I add another Bible to my shelf?” This good-natured question has emerged often these past months as folks have learned that I served as an editor for the new CEB Women’s Bible.
It’s clear almost instantly that Abingdon Press’s newest Bible isn’t the kind of Christian women’s fare that focuses heavily on Proverbs 31 and lightly on indignities around gender.
The CEB Women’s Bible is a specialty edition of the Common English Bible, sold and distributed by Abingdon Press, part of United Methodist Publishing House. As a contributing editor, Rev. Ginger Gaines-Cirelli shares, “I think the vast, inclusive number of women’s voices that we have represented in the writings is beautiful and wonderful.” All five editors are women, as are all 80 of the commentary contributors. The team includes mainly seminary professors and pastors, but also Christian novelists and a rabbi.