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A Ministry of Bridge-building for the Church – Jill Hudson (MDiv ’76)

May 25, 2010
Jill M. Hudson, Distinguished Alumna 2010

By Toya Richards

As an executive among the various governing bodies of the Church for most of her ministerial calling, The Rev. Jill M. Hudson (MDiv ’76) has not lost sight of her role as a pastor.

“First and foremost I am a pastor,” said Hudson, who has served as Middle Governing Body Relations Coordinator for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), since 2007. “I have tried to bring a pastor’s heart to the structural and professional side of the Church’s life.”

In her denominational leadership role, Hudson, also Associate Stated Clerk; serves as a bridge between presbyteries and synods and the General Assembly of the Church, helping each governing body build networks of support and collaboration with the other and facilitating communication between each level of Church governance.

Hudson, who earned her Master of Divinity degree from Louisville Seminary in 1976, recalls fondly her time as a student at the Seminary, especially cherishing the “gift of community” present there.

“It was an amazing collection of students and faculty and administrators that worked to build a sense of inclusion,” she said. As a single mother at the time and one of only a very few women, she said the Seminary community supported and cared for her and her daughter.

“It was just a remarkable sense of unity and common purpose that I experienced within the community itself,” she added.

On April 27 Hudson was one of four Louisville Seminary alums to receive Distinguished Alum Awards, which honor graduates for their vision, accomplishments, and leadership in their respective callings. The recognition was celebrated at a luncheon on campus during the annual Festival of Theology and Reunion.

“For nearly a quarter of a century Louisville Seminary has designated this annual season to recognize servants of Christ’s Church who have lived as faithful witnesses to the redemptive ministry of Jesus Christ in the world through their various vocational ministries,” Rev. Dr. Dean K. Thompson, LPTS president, told luncheon attendees.

“Today, we lift up four Louisville Seminary alums for their pastoral imagination and servant leadership in their respective callings of pastoral care, teaching, organizational leadership, preaching, chaplaincy, activism, and social witness in the United States and around the world.”

Shortly after graduating from the Seminary, Hudson served as an associate pastor in Richardson, Texas, and then accepted a call as Associate Executive for the PC(USA) Synod of Lincoln Trails (Illinois and Indiana), where she served from 1977 to 1991. She then became Executive Presbyter for Whitewater Valley Presbytery in Indianapolis, a position she held for 13 years. Prior to her appointment with the denominational offices, Hudson consulted with synods and presbyteries in the United States and the Church of Scotland that were seeking leadership and guidance in strategic planning.

“I feel very, very blessed to have served the Church at all governing body levels,” said Hudson. And in each position, she said she has considered the pastors with whom she has worked “as members of my congregation.”

Growing out of her own vocational calling, Hudson also has authored numerous articles for Church-related publications and several books for Alban Institute, including Congregational Trauma: Caring, Coping, and Learning; When Better Isn't Enough: Evaluation Tools for the 21st Century Church; Evaluating Ministry: Principles and Processes for Clergy and Congregations; and Beyond the Boundary: Meeting the Challenge of the First Years of Ministry, with Gary L. Harbaugh, William C. Behrens, and Roy M. Oswald. Gifted and publically recognized in the area of organizational development, she is frequently invited to lead workshops on the professional practice of ministry.

At the national level of the Presbyterian Church, Hudson has served as a committee assistant at the General Assembly and as a member of numerous planning teams and advisory boards, including the Middle Governing Body Advisory Board for the Board of Pensions.

“The Seminary well prepared me for that kind of ministry,” she said. “The Seminary saw that [area of leadership] in me.” In response, Hudson has served Louisville Seminary in ways that have helped shaped future leaders for the Church. From 1977 to 1982 she served on the Alum Association Board of Directors and was Vice President for the years 1978 and 1979. She is a former adjunct professor and, in 2003, was selected as Alumna-in-Residence and shared her work in conflict management and peacemaking in congregations. Currently, she continues her strong relationship with Louisville Seminary, serving as a member of the Board of Trustees since 2007 and chairing the Board’s Student Life Committee.

“Louisville has one of the most exciting faculties that they have ever had,” she said. Plus, “the diversity at Louisville makes it a wonderful microcosm of the world.”

The Rev. Terry Newland, who attended Louisville Seminary during the same time as Hudson and is a member of the class of 1978, highlighted her long career of leadership development and vocational nurturing during his introduction of Hudson at the awards luncheon.

In fact, he joked that Hudson had consulted with every agency of the church except the PC(USA) Investment and Loan Program, but since she is married to the agency’s president she’s probably consulted with them too. Hudson is married to the Rev. James L. Hudson.

She has made a significant contribution to us and the church, said Newland, who serves as the Executive Director of the PC(USA) Synod of Living Waters and is the Alum Board Representative to the Louisville Seminary Board of Trustees.

“She is a true friend,” he said.


Since the Distinguished Alum Awards were established in 1986, 93 Louisville Seminary alums have been honored for their vision, accomplishments and leadership in their respective callings. To learn more, or to nominate an alum for this award, visit Louisville Seminary Distinguished Alums.

There are more than 2,200 active alums. 80.0% have graduated with the Master of Divinity degree; 68.3% are in active ministry; 20.7% are retired; 7.9% are students or in an inactive ministry period; and only 1.9% are out of the ministry. Alums serve in more than 60 distinct vocational professions, with the majority in church-based ministries.

Additional images from the 2010 Festival of Theology and Alum Reunion are available at: LPTS Photo Gallery

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