The pastoral staff at Park Avenue is here to foster the spiritual growth of our community and to support the faith journey of individuals, families and anyone who comes seeking to draw closer to Jesus Christ.
Interim Senior Pastor (as of February 2020)
Interim Pastor / 2020 Appointment
Gifts for Ministry
- Worship leadership
- Strategic planning
- Helping the local church or other group identify and articulate a vision
- Engaging the church in a broader sense of mission beyond its own
- Building relationships both within the faith community and with others
within the broader community to address issues of need and concern
- Fostering stability and readiness for renewal in short-term pastoral
My leadership style is a blend of collaboration and decisiveness. I seek to involve a range of voices and perspectives into the decision-making process. I believe that part of my role as a leader is to listen and find ways to make sure that all voices are heard and not just those that are able to dominate the discussion. One of my gifts is the ability to see the connectedness among various parts, to see and begin to articulate the broader, or sometimes new picture that often emerges from the raising of various perspectives and understandings. I believe that one of the primary roles of a leader is to hear, articulate, and hold before the congregation a vision of how and where God may be inviting them to go and to grow in ministry. This balance of collaboration and decisiveness can be an important part of helping the congregation come to a new vision, one that may call them to a very different possibility than what they had considered in the past. I also see an important part of my role as a leader to be the identification and development of other leaders. This means helping to create an open, accepting, and supportive environment where people can risk trying, growing and succeeding in their ministry. Making sure that the church has a good structure and capable leaders is essential to successful ministry.
Wife Katherine (Kathy) Schill
- Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) – Kent State University
- Master of Arts (Public Administration) – Ohio State University
- Master of Divinity – The Methodist Theological School in Ohio and Bosse
- Ecumenical Institute, World Council of Churches; Geneva, Switzerland
- Good Samaritan UMC, Edina – Interim Jan-June 2019
- Grace UMC, Burnsville; 2012-2017
- Simpson UMC, Minneapolis; 2009-2012 (Director of Center for Servant Ministries)
- Metro West Builders; 2009-2012
- Faith UMC, St. Anthony; 2006-2009
- Christ UMC, Rochester; 2001-2006 (Assoc. Pastor, Mission/Community
- CEASE Violence Cessation Program; OH; 1999-2001 (Group Facilitator)
- Maryhaven Treatment Center, Columbus, OH; 1996-2001 (Dir. Chaplain)
- Peace UMC, Clintonville, OH; 1994-1996
- Thurman Avenue UMC, Columbus, OH; 1990-1994
- Continuing Education and Training
- Bridges Out of Poverty- Strategies for Professionals and Communities
- Kaleidoscope Intercultural Competency Leadership Training
- UMCOR Early Response Training
- UMCOR Volunteers in Mission Team Leadership
- Service and Community Involvement
- Peace Meals- Developed an interfaith/intercultural dialogue program in
conjunction with the University of St. Thomas and the Jay Phillips Center
for Interfaith Learning
- VIM Mission leadership- Started Christ UMC Young Adult Ministries
- Center for Servant Ministries- Started Community Meal Program,
Produce Fair, Neighborhood Community Garden
- Whittier Neighborhood Assoc. (Simpson Center for Servant Ministries)
- Emma Norton Services Board- housing services for chronically homeless
women and families
- Olmsted County United Way Board
- Social Services Advisory Board- Olmsted County Salvation Army
- Various committees with the Minnesota Annual Conference
Call to Ministry
My first sense of a call to ordained ministry was at age 20. Although the
Church had always been an important part of my life, I had never seen myself in the pulpit. This first sense of call began as a sense of restlessness, and gradually an awareness that something, I believe God’s Spirit, was stirring within me. These feelings developed into more focused thoughts of ministry, which I shared with my pastor, immediate family and a few close friends. Even though they had known me through some years of pretty rebellious behavior, none seemed overly surprised. In retrospect, I believe that the early sense of call was genuine, but my ideas of the pastoral role were somewhat romanticized and unrealistic.
I chose to pursue a career in social services, believing that what I had felt was a need to be involved in some kind of service. For 10 years I worked as a social worker and administrator in areas of developmental disabilities, children and family services and mental health. The sense of restlessness returned a couple of times, and I responded by further pursuit of my career and education in human services and concern for issues of social justice.
It was at about age 30 that the now familiar restlessness returned. It was much stronger and more focused than it had ever been. Through prayer and several key discussions, I became more certain that God was indeed calling me to full-time pastoral ministry.
Passion for Ministry
To help people discover their gifts and God’s call in their lives to meaningfully engage in serving others, and to grow in their understanding and commitment to move beyond acts of mercy to God’s call to justice and true change for themselves and others.
Vision of the Church
My vision of the Church grows out of Jesus’ image of the Realm of God, which is at the very heart of Jesus’ ministry and message. I believe that the Church is called to be both a reflection and a celebration of the great diversity of creation that most fully reveals the nature of our creative God. I therefore believe that the Church must be a place that is truly safe for people to risk discovering and striving to become who God has uniquely created and gifted them to be. This means that the Church is called to be a place of open hospitality where all are welcome to the table and where those who are most vulnerable are at the very center of the community where their gifts can be offered and shared. The Church must be a community of support, healing, spiritual growth and compassionate outreach, but also a prophetic voice for justice, especially on behalf of those whose voices are not being heard in the larger community.
Jia Starr Brown
612-835-6864, ext 551
Preaching, Program Development
Rev. Jia Starr Brown’s experience in community education, engagement, and outreach encompass more than 20 years. Her passion to increase accessibility of affordable academic and enrichment opportunities for all youth and families led her to create a community education business network within 8 different school districts.
Trilingual, Rev. Brown serves as a diversity trainer and community educator, continuing to be an advocate for underrepresented and marginalized communities. She is the mother of five inspiring children ranging in age from 12-23 years old.
In the past decade, she has designed and facilitated more than 160 educational programs in the Twin Cities, served as Adjunct Faculty at Rasmussen College, and contributed to numerous Health and Wellness and Community Planning committees.
In 2015, Rev. Brown received a Congressional Award for her service with “Reaching Up Ministries”, a local nonprofit organization that she co-founded, whose mission is to “bring community partners together to respond to the local needs of youth and families”.
Upon receiving the call to ordained ministry, Rev. Brown started a new chapter, attending Luther Seminary. She recently completed her Master of Divinity and now serves as Associate Pastor of Park Avenue United Methodist Church in Minneapolis, MN. In the past year she co-launched “Sankofa” – a coalition of support for clergy of color in the Minnesota Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Also this year, Rev. Jia Starr Brown was a recipient of the Minnesota African American Heritage Calendar Award, recognized “as an individual who has shown tremendous dedication to teach and preach God’s Word to inspire others”. She was recently accepted into the renowned Jarena Lee Preaching Academy in 2020, “an intensive weeklong academy that empowers and equips women of the African diaspora to speak in their own prophetic voice”.
Her life scripture is “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:4, NASB).
Minister of Preaching
Steven Belton grew up in the Central Neighborhood of Minneapolis, home of Park Avenue Church. He is a long time member of Park Avenue Church and has served as a youth minister and is currently on the preaching staff.
Steven is the President and CEO of the Minneapolis Urban League and is an experienced executive, attorney and community leader with over thirty years tenure in high-level positions in state government, public schools and the non-profit and private sectors.
He has worked as Chief of Staff, Executive Director of Employee Relations and Director of Diversity and Equal Opportunity for the Minneapolis Public Schools, was a partner and litigator at Leonard, Street and Deinard where he specialized in employment, product liability and family law, President and CEO of the Urban Coalition of Minneapolis, and Executive Director of the State Council on Black Minnesotans.
Steven earned a BA in political science from Washington University and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Michigan Law School. He has completed the majority of the requirements of a Master of Divinity degree at Luther Theological Seminary in St. Paul. Married for nearly 34 years to Sharon Sayles Belton, the former Mayor of Minneapolis, Steven and Sharon have three adult children.
Early Risers Gathering Coordinator
Leads and facilitates Early Risers Service
Jamil Salaam is the coordinator for the Early Risers service., leading the weekly service order and is the main contact person for this service.
The Early Risers Service is a lay-led, intergenerational praise-filled worship service which includes a diverse line-up of speakers, sharing individual testimonies as well as Biblical teaching messages in a warm, welcoming environment filled with music, scripture, love and prayer.
Park Avenue has a rich tradition of a dynamic praise and worship that create space for people to experience God’s presence within the community. Our Music Ministry draws out the gifts of our congregation by creating opportunities for all to minister and be ministered to through creative expression.
Minister of Worship & Music
612-835-6864, ext 579
Talented and spirit-filled pianist, Martial Besombes started serving as an assistant to the worship minister at Park in 2000. He considers Park as one of the rare God chosen places for worship and feels it’s a privilege to serve in the capacity of director of worship.
Born in France, he received his Master’s degrees in classical piano, jazz and composition at the Conservatory in Paris. He toured in many countries before making America his second home.
Children and Youth Ministry
Our Children and Youth Ministry shares God’s amazing love through age-appropriate programming, activities, and events tailored for each stage of life.
Director of Youth Ministry
612-825-6864 ext 570
Darelle (deh RELL) Williams serves as the Youth Director for Park Avenue United Methodist. Darelle facilitates the weekly Youth Worship & Youth Gathering Services. He also organizes our bi-annual youth mission trips and confirmation ordination for student’s grades 6th-12th.
Darelle, a native of Minneapolis, felt his call to Park Avenue after volunteering for over 9 years in Youth Ministry roles in the metropolitan area. He is also a Christian hip-hop recording artist whose music has been featured on well-known Christian websites, streaming platforms and national/international radio stations.
Daelle studied theology at Liberty University. He has been married for 14 years and fathers three teens. He’s passionate about bringing Christ to the chaos of growing up and finding identity.
Our Operations Team ensures that the ministries and programs at Park Avenue UMC have the tools and support they need. They are the “behind the scenes” crew that keeps the building running and our community informed.
Minister of Congregational Care & Human Resources
612-825-6864 ext 567
- Congregational care: hospital visits, prayer appointments, benevolence requests
- Funeral arrangements
- Human resources
- Building maintenance supervision
Office Admin, Worship & Communications Coordinator
612-825-6864 ext. 513
- Room reservations
- Sunday worship coordination
- Communications: announcements, church bulletin,
website updates, social media
- Office administration
- Pastoral support
- Wedding reservation information
Park Avenue UMC has a robust volunteer leadership base that operates essential ministries.
Chair: John Urban
Co-Chairs: Jerry Walker & Roz Brown
firstname.lastname@example.org, 612 723-7607
Chair: Bill Richards
Staff Parish Relations Committee
Chair: Ken Krahn
Adult Spiritual Formation
email and phone
Chair: Tricia Bergh, Acting
Nominations and Leadership Development Committee
Chair: Kathy Rainey, Interim
email and phone
Chair: Bert Hepp