for justice & mercy
Drawing on the ministry of Jesus Christ to confront justice and oppression.
In Pasadena, California I facilitated a community organizing initiative with around 50 nonprofit organizations, the school district, and the city to enhance the support for communities of color through First United Methodist Church. Pasadena is a beautiful and creative city, but also an extremely segregated community in need of relationships across the divides to take root. I found delight throughout this faith-based community organizing venture as I got to make connections and hear the stories of people helping their neighbors in a variety of ways. From City Hall, to the history museum, and my favorite a school bus converted into a mobile wood shop that could go to underserved neighborhoods and offer on-site creative courses.
The story I take with me from all these conversations was a remarkable woman who did the laundry for all of the homeless students who attended Pasadena Public Schools. From a little closet with a washer and dryer in the district administration building she ensured all students would have dignity even as the California housing crisis pushed more and more families into homelessness. I also will never forget that while meeting the City Manager the soon to retire Mayor of nearly 20 years interrupted our meeting and gave me a cookie. My call to ministry and to our shared work for Justice and Mercy is focused on what lies beyond the walls of our churches where our UCC witness is so inspiring to those on the margins and those called to help.
Pasadena Museum of History
Pasadena City Hall
Mobile woodshop classes,"The Wood Bus"
I have guided our youth in understanding how our shared UCC faith is not only something we believe, but that we live out through working for justice and building relationships. I have started a Faith and Advocacy program for our youth where we visited the Tempe City Hall and learned more about efforts for equity in our community and ways we can effectively use our faith to advocate for the rights of others. I also took our youth to the border in Nogales and to the Holocaust Museum in Tucson for a powerful trip in which we considered our call as Christians to advocate for the oppressed and prevent the dehumanization of persons and communities.
(Building relationships of mutual trust and interdependence.)
I believe everything we do in the church is about preparing us for a life of pursuing justice. My experience with advocacy around the country inspires me to work with my local churches to connect with larger movements seeking equity and justice. Through my ministry with youth and young adults I prepare them for a life of advocacy that is centered on an expression of their faith.
Desert Palm youth visiting Tempe City Hall to learn about Advocacy
Desert Palm youth visiting the border wall in Nogales
There has never been a time in which Andrew is more needed in the UCC. His ability to work with others is beyond parallel, finding not just commonalities but true points of genuine connection and desire to grow together. Where others see insurmountable difficulty, Andrew brings his authentic self to every setting – always evolving together in relationship toward the shared goal of true community. Andrew is the kind of pastoral minister and voice everyone should want in their church, not just for Sunday sermons, but for the deep-seated love and care he brings to a congregation.
Member of Desert Palm UCC
Practicing the radical hospitality of God.
In college I had one of the best and most unusual volunteer opportunities I have encountered. In our city's giant art museum I got to drive an indoor tram to help disabled persons, the elderly, and anyone wanting a distinct day at the museum get through the mile long corridor of galleries. A couple times I had special visitors who were wonderful friends who made it an all more delightful to share God's hospitality with all those in my midst.
My friends Amanda and Carmalita visiting me during my volunteering
The Church by the Side of the Road
My Grandmother's favorite poem was 'The House by the Side of the Road' by Walter Foss. The poem's chorus has echoed in my heart for most of my life, especially in my ministry. This poem reminds me of our call to offer the radical hospitality of God throughout our ministry and our daily living.
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man (all people).
My home church where I grew up in Kansas City is in the heart of the neighborhood I called home through high school and college. One day just a few months before I moved to California I was coming home when I saw drove of police cars and emergency vehicles right in front of our church. Soon after we learned that two young boys from the large apartment buildings across from our church were hit by a car, one of them had died and the other was in the hospital.
Growing up in Kansas City I had always witnessed firsthand the extreme inequities of urban life such as a lack of fresh food sources and in our case a lack of basic infrastructure-especially sidewalks. Many people in our neighborhood did not have access to vehicular transportation and this meant they had to walk everywhere and in our neighborhood this meant walking in the street.
There had been talk for years in our community about the need for sidewalks, but nothing ever seemed to develop. Following the accident my church hosted meetings about the need for safer ways for pedestrians to walk through the community and to cross the street to our church where we hosted many events for the community.
I went to City Hall and met with members of the City Council as I had done before to encourage them to prioritize the safety of our community's children and families. They were pretty defensive, but this persistence led to a multi-million dollar investment in the infrastructure of my old neighborhood.
During a recent trip my family and I had just enough time to swing by and visit our old neighborhood. One of my most cherished moments in life was to see a young family walking safely along the new sidewalk I and my church had a hand in creating for the safety of all God's children.
As people of faith we are invited to always respond to tragedy with action. What would our world look like if every church cared so lovingly for it neighbors? If we too sat at the side of the road and were friends to all people...
Enjoying the safe sidewalks I had a part in making happen with Avondale UMC in the background on the right
Identifying and working to overcome explicit and implicit bias in the life of the Church.
In 2012 I chaired the United Methodist General Conference committee on Human Sexuality and LGBTQ inclusion, which included 28 voices and votes from the United States, Africa, and Europe who were working for or working against inclusion.
This committee I chaired was the first and last to vote to make the United Methodist Church fully affirming of LGBTQ members and clergy
The Other Convention
This documentary is about the United Methodist committee regarding religion and human sexuality that I chaired in 2012.
Understanding community context and navigating change with a community.
My ministry in the church is also why I have a husband. When I was active in the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Church and Society, where I focused on Indigenous and Native American Justice, I got to travel around the country and my last meeting brought me to Phoenix. While here I met an amazing Catholic Filipino man and student at Arizona State University who has become my loving companion for my life in ministry. Our life journey together is what has led us back to Arizona where I am so grateful to be in ministry in the Southwest Conference.
Through the General Board of Church Society (UMC) I was active in advocacy for Native Americans in Arizona and Indigenous peoples in the Pacific and offered leadership for forums in Hawaii, Phoenix, the United Nations, and Capitol Hill in Washington.
The meeting with leaders from our Native American communities in Arizona
Exploring Downtown Phoenix around Central UMC where the meeting was held
Engaging in ministry and outreach.
I have offered writings and commentary for a national audience about LGBTQ spirituality and advocacy including in The Advocate (national LGBTQ magazine/website) and have been quoted in multiple articles for The Washington Post about overcoming explicit and implicit bias in the church and the ongoing reformations of institutional Christianity
The split is “a resolution that’s going to free the Methodist church to share love unconditionally with all people,” said Andrew Ponder Williams
"We’ve had the schism. We just don’t know what’s next,” said Andrew Ponder Williams..
The church is us -- people with a story of courage and fulfillment in living out our lives as God created us to. People who have experienced miracles and moments we can’t explain in the midst of trying times and the fear that we won’t be safe or accepted. People who love their neighbors and want to help them.
As a minister, Andrew has been compassionate and adaptable. Considering that our branch of UCC started during a global pandemic and amidst much unrest, Andrew has helped to create a safe space that is flexible and stress free for students. We greatly appreciate his eagerness to reach out to marginalized communities and openness to students of all religious backgrounds. As a student leader, I can see that this low stress and open discussion based environment has been very important to our small community's health as well as my own.
Facilitator of Programming for the ASU Rainbow Coalition