Growing up, Pastor Jennifer Aull had a keen interest in the church, even though she lived in a strictly religious home where women were not allowed to be ministers. Today, she is a co-pastor at the Greenpoint Reformed Church, but she didn’t come into her position without some struggle.
“I have always loved church and even in the conservative church of my youth I saw how people cared for one another,” she said. “I later felt ostracized because I was gay. I had a rough time in general and it was a profound spiritual experience that saved my life.”
When Aull first decided that she wanted to become a pastor, she sought ordination in the Reformed Church in America. “I quickly saw that this wasn’t going to work out because of their views on my sexual orientation,” she said. Instead, she joined the United Church of Christ and was ordained in October 2007.
Aull started working with the Greenpoint Reformed Church in 2006. Her co-Pastor, Ann Kansfield, is also her partner, and they have two children, a three-month-old daughter named Grace and a two-and-a-half year old son, John. In between working at the church and taking care of her kids, Aull interns at Midtown Marriage and Family Therapy, and is studying to be a marriage and family therapist.
The church is known not only for its weekly services and Bible study, but also for the food pantry and soup kitchen, which cost $5,000 a week to maintain, according to its Web site. The city, state, and federal government provide the funds for the food, which consists of meat, soup, bread, salad, and local-grown, organic vegetables. Anyone is welcome to the food, “regardless of race, gender, immigration status, economic situation, sexual orientation, [and] faith background (or lack of one).”
Each week, Aull said that 20-30 people volunteer at the soup kitchen and food pantry. “Some people come every week, some help monthly, others might come once,” she said. “They work together, share their troubles together, and celebrate together. They care for each other when they’ve had a rough day. It’s really an amazing community of people who come together to give of themselves to others.”
Rob Weinert-Kendt, who attends the church and has lived in Greenpoint since 2006, said, “the food ministry, for one, has opened the doors to a larger community than just the people who worship there once a week. Consequently the church feels like a living part of the community every day, not just on Sunday. Jen and Ann and the church are one of the main reasons [my wife and I] love Greenpoint, and that would make it hard to ever leave.”
Weinert-Kendt knew that as soon as he went to services at the church, it was a natural fit. “There was a range of ages and types in the congregation, and Pastors Ann and Jen were two young people not unlike us.”
Aull gave pre-marriage counseling to Weinert-Kendt’s wife, and would have married the two if she hadn’t been due for her first child that same week. When describing the pastor, he said she is “very accessible and non-judgmental… She preaches sincerely from her own experience, with great vulnerability and frankness and heart.”
The usual day at the church for Aull involves writing sermons, dealing with her building’s renters, and talking to people who want to volunteer or need help. The pastor may have a hectic schedule, but she is thankful for her position at the church and in the community. “The Greenpoint Reformed Church is the best,” she said. “I am so lucky to serve this congregation in this neighborhood.”