Each Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister. This week, we are thrilled to introduce Marie Onwubuariri.
Marie, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.
I grew up in an American Baptist church in Queens, New York, with my parents serving as lay-leaders for as long as I can remember. After being active in the church throughout my childhood and teenage years, I stepped away from the church while attending college. After college, I returned to church more out of obligation than devotion, but eventually the elders of the church “roped” me back in by recruiting me to lead the youth group. To their credit, they invested in me by sending me to training events. It was at one of these events that I renewed my faith and began my true journey of discipleship. I enjoyed my service in the church in various roles and eventually gave in to a call on my life to go to seminary. I moved across the country to attend the American Baptist Seminary of the West in California, where I was blessed to meet and enter into a wonderfully supportive ministerial community.
Since beginning seminary, I have served on staff at three different churches, including a pastorate, and went back to my alma mater to serve as Admissions Director. I also grew in ministry while serving in various volunteer positions throughout the American Baptist denomination, exposing myself to different aspects of ministry such as ecumenical work, international short-term service, ministerial support networks, leadership development, organizational development, and advocacy groups. I also served as a cross-cultural competency trainer, primarily in United Methodist contexts. In 2014, God, via the calling from the wonderful American Baptists in Wisconsin, sent me to the Midwest, to serve as the regional executive minister. While this is my primary call, I am continually discerning how my involvement in various denominational and local community efforts will both contribute to communal transformation as well as align with my faithful living of my vocation. Currently, this has manifested in working toward education, justice, and equity across racial and ethnic differences.
What are the greatest challenges you have faced in ministry?
Living into my identity as a faith-based leader, a wife, and a mother, and recognizing, processing, and prioritizing expectations from myself and others has been, and continues to be, a challenge.
The other great challenge, which is not unrelated, has been living into my identity as an interculturalist—going through periods of self-discovery, pain, growth, fear, and courage. Figuring out what is authentically me, what I have negotiated, what ultimately matters, what is preference versus essential, what is needed by versus valued by others, and what my gospel responsibility is in the midst of all this is also an ongoing challenge.
All of these challenges are worth the struggle because they both frame and internally form who I am as a child of God and how I am to embody my life’s scripture verse: Romans 12:1-2.
What do you love best about your current ministry?
The people and organizations that make up the American Baptist Churches of Wisconsin together create a thoroughly meaningful context for ministry. I believe they have what is needed to exemplify the unifying power of Jesus Christ and the creative work of the Holy Spirit. I minister among a people who display the expansiveness of Divine creation and the breadth of human experience.
This is also a region in which my various passions and ministry interests come together: inter-church relations, leadership development, academia, outdoor ministries, ecumenism and interfaith appreciation, experimental ministry and relevant mission, artistic expression and administration.
I am in a ministry setting in which I can bring the best of me and still be stretched in life-giving ways.