Three YDS alumnae recognized as entrepreneurial faith leaders

Neichelle Guidry Jones ’10 M.Div., Emily Scott ’06 M.Div., and Kaji Spellman ’06 M.Div. have been selected to join the 2013-2014 class of Beatitudes Fellows. The Beatitudes Fellowships recognize innovative church leaders who are resilient, authentic, and passionate about social justice. The Beatitudes Society describes their fellows as “the face of the new church” and envisions that, under these new leaders, “Christianity will be known as a force for good, and a sign of inclusive welcome and healing love.”

Students' photoAs Fellows, these three YDS alumnae will receive funding and leadership training to support their ministries, as well as the opportunity to engage with other innovative leaders and advisors. Their fellowship year begins with a retreat in October.

Neichelle Guidry Jones is associate pastor at Trinity UCC Chicago and founder of, an online magazine for young African-American women in ministry. “I believe that it is time for the Church to raise a voice of indignation on issues pertaining to the lives, dignity and personhood of women,” said Jones in her profile on the Beatitudes Fellows website, “Preaching is very powerful for awareness-raising and consciousness-building.” Currently a doctoral student in liturgical studies at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Jones hopes to use her year as a fellow to build up platforms of “prophetic disruption” to equip young women of color for ministry.

Emily Scott is the founding pastor of St. Lydia’s, a dinner church in Brooklyn, NY. And what exactly is a “dinner church,” you ask? Scott explains: "Our congregation gathers together around a sacred meal which we prepare together. Worship takes place around the tables as we light candles and sing, bless and break bread, explore scripture, offer prayers, and clean up together. Our community is founded on three pillars: sharing the meal, telling our story, and working together. Every person who walks in the door is invited to be a part of making worship. You might set out napkins, cut flowers, or put water on to boil on your first visit. Together, we are looking for an experience of the Holy that is strong enough to lean on, deep enough to question, and challenging enough to change us." Scott hopes to use her year as a fellow to equip her congregation to continue developing meaningful relationships with their economically and racially diverse neighbors.

This September, Kaji Spellman will assume her role as senior minister of United Church of Christ La Mesa in California. Spellman describes her work as “building connections, deepening a sense of Christian community of care, enriching a sense of Christian ethics through learning opportunities, and preaching God's love for all people. I look to offer creative workship that is refreshing. I take great joy in seeing souls igniting for justice, connecting this spiritual and intellectual growth to the deep needs of our unjust world. My work is in building the connections, inviting the Spirit, structuring systems of empowerment and growth." Spellman plans to use her year to strengthen her congregation ethnic and economic diversity, “injecting hope in places where the shadows have overcome."

Congratulations to our YDS graduates on this tremendous honor!

Date Posted: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 - 4:24pm