Getting to know… Barbara Wilson

We’re getting to know presbytery leaders from around the synod.  This month, meet Barbara Wilson! She is the Associate Executive Presbyter for Chicago Presbytery.

Tell us about your current call.

As of this year, my current presbytery role is Associate Executive Presbyter. However, I’ve been on staff over 8 years.  Although my job title evolves, my role with the presbytery continues to be a combination of what I call internal capacity building, connecting and bridging with congregations and communities, and building sustainable partnerships for mission impact. What I like most about my work is the myriad of opportunities each day to engage with others in healthy collaboration to increase vitality and enhance mission as disciples of Christ.

I came to the presbytery after having local, regional, and connectional opportunities for leadership and service in ministry.  As an A.M.E. Church pastor, I served 2 congregations for a total of 10 years; I was the first female pastor in a historic congregation in Chicago.   I served 2 years part time and 4 years full time as the Administrator for the 4th Episcopal District (Midwest region of 7 states and eastern Canada). My responsibilities included overseeing operations of our Christian camp in Michigan and coordinating annual conferences for 5 conferences.  In addition, I coordinated, as Director, our annual Christian Education Congress with up to 1,500 attendees per year. Finally, I was elected to serve a four-year term in the denomination’s General Board.

Prior to ordained ministry, I worked over 10 years (3 agencies) in the federal criminal justice system, primarily as an investigator. I’ve loved this work too.  For me, it is the great combination of law, psychology, and sociology.

What interests me most about ministry is the reality that transformation is available — and also the beauty and challenges of the journey. To borrow a phrase, “open heart, open mind, open will” affords us an adventure like none other, as we have the promises of God and the power of the Spirit as our leverage. No matter what, we can continue becoming because of the Love of our God toward us.

You work with a lot of Presbyterians, but are a member of a different denomination. How does that unique perspective inform your work?

I was raised in African Methodism by parents who stressed understanding the gospel as the foundation of faith and learning about the many Christian and interfaith traditions. As a result, ecumenism is an integral part of my faith journey. African Methodism was founded on justice and liberation — for individual or personal transformation and for community transformation. This is the individual-in-community model that urges us to work together for justice for all, in all sectors. This includes the Church’s willingness to more deeply connect our “being” with our “doing.”

Tell us about your involvement in coaching.  And, how do you think coaching can benefit church leaders?

Professional coaching certification grew out of my use of the coach approach for the last 15 years.  Whether persons become certified or not, learning and utilizing the coach approach in leadership and service results in growth and transformation, healthier boundaries, and greater accountability — even in conflict.

What’s a resource that you’ve discovered that you’d like to recommend to presbytery and/or church leaders?

I offer two books to read, revisit, and apply to our own lives and leadership:

What do you like to do outside of work and church?

I love music of all kinds and have an album collection of about 450 (see photo). I’ve also returned in the last 8 months to growing house plants — my green thumb is returning.  See my selfies about these two hobbies.

What are your plans or hopes for this year?

For me, 2023 is the year I’m enjoying and celebrating life much more! This means time with family, day trips in nature, live jazz, and exploring the U.S.