The Rev. Canon Kristin Uffelman White may have arrived in Indianapolis directly from the North Shore of Chicago, but her path to ministry began in the small Oregon towns of her childhood that gave her a heart for rural mission and ministry.
White, who began work Monday as the bishop’s canon to the ordinary for congregational development and leadership, is responsible for equipping congregations for more vital and innovative ministry and for working with congregations in transition. Her guiding principles, she said, are the objectives that the Executive Council has set forth for the congregations of the diocese. Over time, she will oversee a variety of programs designed to foster vitality in congregations of all sizes and contexts.
“I grew up in rural Oregon in a very small church that had to do alternative ministry before that was a thing,” she says. “And I also served at Church of the Holy Spirit in Lake Forest, Illinois, which at the time was the largest congregation in the Diocese of Chicago. In all of the congregations I’ve served, I have seen beauty and graciousness and hard things too, and I have been gobsmacked by the way that God is present in all of them.
“I hope to be a catalyst who can reflect stories of how God is present back to people, because they’re happening all the time.”
Until last month, White had been rector of St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church in Wilmette, Illinois, since 2012. Before that, she served Holy Spirit for three years as associate rector. A 2009 graduate of Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, she was sponsored for ordination by St. Hilda’s Episcopal Church in Monmouth, Oregon, the church she joined while an undergraduate at Western Oregon University. She served at St. Hilda’s as a lay leader for several years after earning a master’s degree in teaching at Willamette University, and also taught high school English and writing and facilitated student leadership training for nearly a decade.
A fifth generation Episcopalian, White was baptized at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Anchorage, Alaska, where she was born, and raised in small congregations in Oregon. Church, she says, has been “the constant of my life.”
“My family moved to Oregon, first to Bend and then, when I was ten, to Prineville. When we arrived, the town was home to thirteen lumber mills, and by the time I left for college, eight years later, all but one had closed. Our family has always been as involved as we could possibly be in St. Andrew’s in Prineville—that has always been my home.”
Her father, a pharmacist by trade, was ordained under Canon 9, a provision made for the ordination of local clergy to serve a particular small, remote congregation. He served as a volunteer priest while also working full-time at his paying job.
“I’ve seen what it’s like for small churches to struggle but still have a mission call and incarnate that in ways that are really beautiful,” she says.
White has moved to Indianapolis with her husband, John; their daughter, Grace, is a college junior currently studying in Germany. Serving with Bishop Baskerville-Burrows, whom she knew for several years in Chicago, is particularly exciting, she says, and she is eager to get to know people in the Diocese of Indianapolis. She’ll be visiting parishes each Sunday and hopes that congregations, both those in transition and those who want to discuss opportunities for building vitality, will invite her to visit, preach and preside. She can be reached at email@example.com or 317-926-5454.
Although the magnitude of her new position might be daunting to some, she says it has energized her. “The sense of possibility and imagination here in the diocese is so exciting to me,” she says.
“I really believe that the church is the hope of the world.”