Rev. Renee Garrett has served as the Minister of Christian Nurture at All Souls Church since 1987. She has grown our church school and service projects to be leaders in our community.
Reverend Renee Garrett, M. Div, Minister of Christian Nurture
Renee Garrett grew up in Lodi, California. and loved the outdoor life. She was an athlete from a young age, excelled in college basketball, and graduated from California State University, Fresno. Raised at the First Congregational Church, she attended Andover Newton Theological School in Newton, Massachusetts after college. While a student there, she served churches in Walpole and Weston, Massachusetts where her primary ministry was with children, junior and senior high school aged youth of the parish and community. She earned her Master of Divinity degree in May of 1977. She was ordained to the Christian Ministry at her home church in Lodi, California in August that same year; the first woman to be ordained in that community.
She began her ministry as an associate minister at Dane Street Congregational Church in Beverly, Massachusetts alongside her husband, Rex, who was also called to that shared position. Later, she served as Associate Minister at two churches in California, the First Congregational Church of San Rafael and the Mill Valley United Methodist Church.
In the fall of 1986, Garrett filled a "temporary" position at All Souls to cover the area of education. In March of 1987, she was formally called to ministry at All Souls as the Minister of Christian Nurture, a title she based on the writings of Rev. Horace Bushnell who held that it was possible for a child to be raised in such a way—nurtured as a Christian—so as never to remember a time when she or he was not a Christian. A position of her own crafting, it has grown and changed over the years to encompass the work of shaping the spiritual lives of our children, teens and adults at all stages of their spiritual journeys.
Story telling is one of her primary ways of communicating the Gospel to young and old, and she has become quite well-known for her original “Uncle Sol” stories. Supported by a sabbatical grant from the Louisville Institute in 2004, she refined her talent and began the process of editing these stories into a collection published in 2010 as One Man's Roses: Tales from Uncle Sol's Neighborhood.
Garrett’s life long interest in sports is also a natural “in” with youth and adults alike. Early on, she thought she might become a coach. She officiated at basketball games, is an earnest cyclist and is easily at home in sports settings of all kinds. She makes pastoral calls at soccer games, basketball tournaments, on the baseball diamond, at track and field meets and the field hockey side-lines.
During her years of service at All Souls, Garrett has moved a rather modest Sunday School program of our downtown church into a thriving youth ministry. She leads high school students in various retreats and overnights, oversees the confirmation process for ninth graders (that includes adult mentors for each confirmand), and leads an Easter vigil each year for youth. She participates in the pastoral and sacramental work of the church, counsels both youth and adults, and preaches occasionally. She highly values Sunday morning classroom time with the high school students.
Mission has been an organizing center for the broader educational work in which she has engaged (and by which she has engaged the entire church). With the help of many volunteers, she was the impetus behind the creation of ASSIST-JC (All Souls Students In Service to Jesus Christ), the program which coordinates various intergenerational mission trips to communities in Central America, Native American reservations in Arizona, and to Eastport, Maine. Involvement in ASSIST-JC provides opportunities for growth in Christian character and community. The trips themselves are challenging, with participants working on building projects, medical clinics and various teaching ministries, but the spiritual dimensions of the time together are always Garrett's central concern.
She has taught generations of All Soul students this benediction:
May the Lord go before you to guide you,
Beside you to guard you,
Above you to bless you,
Beneath you to uphold you,
And behind you to forgive you,
Now and always. Amen.