Fri | May 29, 2020

Rev Karen Thompson’s heart for service

Published:Sunday | February 9, 2020 | 12:08 AMCecelia Campbell-Livingston - Sunday Gleaner Writer
Rev Karen Smith
Rev Karen Smith

Last June, the Rev Karen Georgia Thompson was elected to serve as the associate general minister (AGM) for wider church ministries for the United Church of Christ (UCC), making her one of three elected officers in the denomination.

It also makes her the first Jamaican-Caribbean person to serve in leadership in the UCC and in the post in which she now is.

As AGM for Wider Church Ministries (WCM), Thompson is responsible for the programmatic ministries of the UCC in the areas of global relations, humanitarian aid and development, ecumenical and interfaith relations, events and scholarships management, and archives. She is responsible for staff supervision, visioning, and providing long-term vision for WCM. Working with the other two elected officers, Thompson ensures that the mandates of the General Synod and the United Church of Christ Board are carried forth in the areas she manages.

For Thompson, not only is it an honour, but also a chance to do even more in terms of ministering. In her newly elected role, she serves in leadership of the denomination with responsibilities for visioning, staff supervision, and management of the day-to-day operations of WCM.

One could say that Thompson’s whole life has been preparation for the task that she has now willingly embraced.

“Over the years, I have been committed to being engaged in arenas where social change is being made possible. My work has taken me around the world and seeing the impacts of a variety of problems and the ripple effects these have on the lives of marginalised people. I hope that my life can make a difference for someone and create impact for generations to come,” she told Family and Religion.

Thompson, who hails from Kingston and grew up in Duhaney Park, attended Wolmer’s Girls School for three years before migrating to the United States.

thompson’s earlier years

Commenting on her involvement in ministry, Thompson, a trained educator, said she did not immediately answer the call to ministry as she spent her early years in non-profit management and programme administration with the focus on initiatives for women and girls.

With her level of work and the extensive travel it involves, added to the long hours she puts into the office, Thompson said she has to juggle an “erratic schedule without clear patterns or consistent opportunities to set a particular rhythm”.

It is for that reason that she places self-care as a priority.

“It is important for me to make time to relax. Massages every two weeks, or so, help. I try to eat right, and I am working my way to an exercise routine that I can manage when I travel. I try to connect with friends and family when I travel,” she shared on the deliberate effort to ensure that she doesn’t get lost in her busy schedule.

It has been a long road of service for Thompson prior to the new role she now is in. Before joining the national staff, she served in the Florida Conference United Church of Christ as a pastor and on the conference staff as the minister for disaster response and recovery.

The holder of a BA from Brooklyn College in New York, a master’s in public administration from North Carolina Central University in Durham, NC, and a Master’s of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary in New York, Thompson also studied public policy at Duke University and earned her doctorate in ministry at Seattle University.

The mother of two grown sons with children of their own now has one thing on her bucket list to do, and that is to publish her first book of poetry, which, for her, would be a major accomplishment.

Titled Drums in Our Veins, it will be a compilation of poems that focus on the injustices people of African descent face and the fight for global racial justice. Her poems will also reflect her Jamaican heritage and culture as well as the traditions and lore of her ancestors.

“I would like to focus on the artistic side of my life, in addition to the work I am doing in the Church,” she said, about her desire to pen the book.