The Rev. Glenna Huber
Rector, Church of the Epiphany
The Rev. Glenna Huber is the 15th Rector of the Church of the Epiphany in Washington, DC. Before joining Epiphany, she served as Vicar at the Holy Nativity Episcopal Church in Baltimore, Md. She is also a consultant for congregations on the efficacy of community organizing in congregational development.
Over the past 20 years, she has served in several pastoral roles in Washington, Baltimore, and Atlanta, including ecumenical and educational positions. Her positions have provided her with the opportunity to offer pastoral care and counsel to a wide range of communities.
She has experience working in a variety of neighborhoods ranging from suburban affluent neighborhoods to underserved and economically depressed environments.
In relationship to her capacity within the church, Rev. Huber is a sought-out lecturer and has addressed subjects ranging from leadership in the church and in the community to faith and justice and systemic injustice, including urban poverty, education, housing, redlining, race, and reconciliation.
She is the recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award, conferred by Holland Hall School, Community Service Award, conferred by the Baltimore Police, and Marylander of the Year, honorable mention by The Baltimore Sun.
She serves on several boards including The Bishop Claggett Camp and Conference Center, Grace Episcopal Day School and at large member of the Episcopal Urban Caucus and is a former board member of the Anti-Racism Commission Diocese of Atlanta, Feminist Women’s Health Center (Georgia), Episcopal Service Corporation, Holy Nativity/St. John’s Development Corporation, and the Parks Heights Community Health Alliance and the former Pimlico Road Youth Program (Maryland).
She received a Master of Divinity degree from The General Theological Seminary and her undergraduate degree in history from Spelman College. She and her husband Rick are the parents of two children, and two dogs.
How does your relationship with Jesus shape your priestly ministry?
There is a responsibility when a disciple takes up their cross and decides to follow Jesus. I have chosen to follow Jesus as one whose gift is to participate in equipping the saints for building up the Kingdom of God. I also understand Jesus to be inviting me to stand up for the rights of the “least of these.” My ministry in the church and in the world has been to follow Jesus where he, and the Holy Spirit have led me. More often than not, this has led me to places of deep need, and at times, to congregations who have a principal desire to address those needs in profound and systemic ways. I have followed Jesus far beyond what I have understood my comfort zone to be because I trust that the tools I need will be provided.
When I packed up and moved to Baltimore from Atlanta to serve in two, not yoked, urban parishes as part of a new initiative sponsored by the Diocese there was much for me to learn. There were things that I didn’t know I needed to know to lead those congregations well. Because my faith is rooted in how I understand the call the God has on my life I was able to follow Jesus into neighborhoods that had been adversely impacted by systemic racism, structural neglect, and economic divestment. I was able to minister with and to people who were recovering addicts, people challenged with mental illnesses, those who were returning citizens, those experiencing chronic homelessness, and children who had been growing up in spaces that had left seen and unseen trauma on their bodies. And while the majority of ministry up to that point had been focused on advocating for people on the margins, this was the first time that I was in sustained proximity with those who would be easy to overlook.
Using the framework that Bryan Stevenson laid out around pursuing justice; proximity, changing the narrative, being uncomfortable, and being hopeful has been invaluable. Without an unwavering faith in Jesus there is no way that I could be in these communities doing the long hard work of preaching, teaching, marching, for societal change. If I did not wake up each and every day and make a conscious decision to follow where Jesus leads, I would not be able to stand in the pulpit and preach the Good News in a world where it is difficult to parse out the “good” amid all the pain. I believe that Jesus is leading us to be co-creators with God in building on earth the equity that we will find in Heaven. I want to be part of what the Presiding Bishop has called the Jesus Movement. I want those who I’m in ministry with to be followers who understand their role in the part of the vineyard we may find ourselves in.
Have you ever committed to—and created—an environment of racial healing, justice, and reconciliation? Tell us about it.
As an African- American woman with a certain amount of privilege I have a clear calling to do all that I can to help create access points for all of God’s people. Everyone should have the right to work, be housed, to be educated, receive medical care, and to be able to walk to school without fear of gun violence. I have always been actively part of working towards that vision.
Growing up in the northern part of Tulsa, Ok. in the shadow of the 1921 Race Riots and the legacy of the Trail of Tears taught me at a young age the role of organizing to shift the narrative and dismantle ingrained racism. By the time I was called to my present location I had spent many years marching, testifying, organizing, reorganizing, listening, and fighting alongside those living on the margins.
Currently, I am in downtown DC in a church that does ministry with those experiencing homelessness or deep poverty. In this area, like many others, those adversely impacted by a rapidly changing urban landscape are disproportionately Black and Brown men and non-traditional families of color. These are the people who come to the church for food, clothes, and respite from life on the streets. The church meets direct needs but also works with partners to push elected leadership to budget money for homeless services and create affordable housing. Part of our work has been to highlight the multiple layers of injustice that allows for these systems to survive.
With the help of a grant, I started a program called Power Hour. Leveraging our Downtown location, we offered a free lunch program for people to come in and hear from some of the DC justice non-profits with opportunities to join in their work by volunteering or advocating with letter writing, marching, and showing up at council meetings. Prior to the pandemic we were averaging 25-30 people and were able to welcome, in the same space, housed, unhoused, employed, retired, and everybody in between; leaders who were invested in changing the systems that were dehumanizing our neighbors. One of the ongoing relationships has been with an organization that provides shelter to unhoused teens and young adults. Because of the necessary COVID protocols, and the growing numbers of youth on the streets, there have been conversations about Epiphany being a drop-in location for these young people.
Racial healing, and reconciliation happens when our justice work is with, not “for”, but with those who are directly impacted by injustice. When the voices of the historically silenced are emphasized and supported by those who have power and privilege transformation can happen, prejudices can dissolve, and hearts can be softened. I would also note that the entirety of my ministry has been about addressing inequity and providing the tools necessary to do the work while also staying rooted in scripture because unpacking the entrenched layers of racism in the city, in the church, and in the world is long, hard, and at times painful work.
Please describe a time when you played a leadership role in advancing ministry with young adults (ages 18–39)?
When I began ordained ministry, I was Chaplain in an elementary school. This work and my passion for working with young people allowed me to be with youth of all ages in the Diocese of Atlanta. I have created and led young adult book studies, pub bible studies, and retreats. One of the groups I worked with did a movie and study series. We would watch a movie and then discuss the ways in which the movie spoke to our faith walk. That year Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” was released in theaters. Our 20’s and 30’s group spent the entirety of the Lenten Season exploring themes in that movie. Out of the group two individuals were married, and I was asked to preside over the ceremony. It was a joy to see their relationship blossom and that even after the group dissolved, they continued to participate fully in the life of the larger congregation.
After moving to the Diocese of Maryland and the Diocese of Washington, I have had the honor of serving as Chaplain for summer camp. I have led workshops with the counselors and served as a sounding board throughout the week as these young adults, in their early 20’s, encountered challenges with campers. More recently I have worked with young adults who have been passionate about the current movements and have helped them organize – specifically Black Lives Matter, and Gun Violence Marches. I have seen those young people, now in their mid to late 30’s, working in Street Ministry, or in organizations that address racism, legislative reform, and women’s rights. I have mentored or served as a supervisor for Episcopal Service Corps participants in the Diocese of Maryland. One of the students I supervised has gone on to ordained ministry and began an ESC community sponsored by the congregation they serve. Another that I mentored is now working with the Episcopal Office of Government Relations. What a gift to be able to have been a part of their faith journeys.
Based on your reading of our Diocesan profile, what excites you most about leading in ECCT, and why?
The Diocese of Connecticut appears to be a healthy Diocese that has been faithful in addressing the multitude of issues facing the church in these past years. What stood out, and peaked my enthusiasm was the focus named by the clergy to dream up new ways of being church. My sense is part of the reason that the church is experiencing decline is due to the unbalanced focus on maintaining or surviving. This coupled with the challenge of aging buildings with expensive deferred maintenance has not provided the leadership the space to dream boldly about ways to be church that retains Episcopal identity, meets the current societal needs, does not capitulate to the cultural whims of the day, and is financially stable.
There are several models throughout the wider church that could be scaled to work in Connecticut keeping in mind the diversity throughout the diocese. One of the gifts of the pandemic is that we were forced to redefine church, and we were forced to discern what was essential to be the Body of Christ. The loss would be if the church, having been imaginative, went back to the way things were. It takes courageous leadership to shift the ingrained understanding of what it means to be church. It also takes structures to support that leadership in their localities as they discern with their communities how best to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world. And then how to invite others into that work. Leaders who have the freedom to be developing disciples and developing leaders without burning out or feeling threatened. Being a Bishop who can encourage, support, advise, imagine alongside, and provide resources to the clergy and their congregations as they dream up new ways of being church sounds exciting to me.
Knowing that Episcopal minds don’t have the monopoly on ideas, the gift of being able to work with ecumenical and interfaith partners has proven to be invaluable. The partnerships and collaborations that I have had throughout the years have produced much fruit. In the DC region, working with partner congregations helped my church continue our much-needed ministry with those experiencing homelessness during the height of the pandemic. The Presbyterian Church around the corner was able to partner with World Central Kitchen to provide daily meals. Knowing that food was being addressed we handed out masks, shower kits, undergarments, and other necessary sanitary supplies. We worked with other nearby agencies so that services were not being replicated. We also partnered with a nearby Episcopal Church to distribute clothes that were being donated in our spaces. The relationships formed through online worship, study, and sharing of volunteers to meet the needs of those in deep need have the capacity to encourage other collaborative ministry efforts in the future. I would welcome the opportunity to support these types of imaginative regional collaborations.
What would make you a great Bishop Diocesan? Please share with us the gifts you would bring to this calling.
If I am called to be a Bishop Diocesan, and if I’m called to serve in that role in the Diocese of Connecticut, I would know that the Holy Spirit is doing marvelous work in me and the church. I would be a great Diocesan because I would understand myself to be called by God to serve you. And I know that God has always provided people, and resources to help me be successful with what I have been called to do. I will remain rooted in the Good News of the Gospel and faithful in my prayer life, taking the necessary respite so that I have the space to listen well.
The gifts I bring to this calling include my ability to think through how actions impact the entire system. Another gift is my desire to think about the future of the church, casting a vision, and then working to move towards that vision. In the movement towards success around a vision, I have learned through my organizing experience that all organizing requires reorganizing; meaning that we must be willing to revisit the vision, evaluate effectiveness, and adjust as needed. My faith in a future community where all the children of God will have equitable access to all that is needed for quality of life.
I live in hope that the people of the Episcopal church will be instrumental in the change that leads to systemic justice and recognized as such. The gift is that this type of work is not peripheral to my ministry, seeking justice for all God’s children is central to how I live and move in the world. I understand that for the church and her people to live into this call we need to have healthy congregational communities. Communities that are spending time supporting each other internally so that they can be the hands and feet of Christ outside the walls of the church.
I have a gift of recognizing and developing leaders, helping them actualize the gifts that they already have but haven’t necessarily been using to their fullest potential. I am excited about the future of our church, excited about the diversity of the wider church, excited about our collective willingness to be better stewards of our earth, excited that you have indicated a desire to care about and do the hard long work to change the realities of those marginalized by structural racism, and excited that Connecticut is a financially healthy diocese that will help create avenues to realistically address the needs that have been articulated. I bring with me enthusiasm for the potential of the work we would do together.