Senior Minister @ First Church Berkeley UCC
Molly is the senior minister of First Church Berkeley UCC in Berkeley, CA, where nonagenarian Nobel laureates worship cheek-by-jowl with pink-haired trans activists and young multiracial adoptive families. On any given day at First Church, you might hear Bach or Sara Bareilles, people praying for climate justice or speaking in tongues. The ministry bug bit Molly at progressive Christian church camp when she was a nerdy teenager, and she has worked for God for a living ever since, in a wide variety of settings: Mexican orphanages; large, quiet suburban Anglo churches where the median age was 65; less-quiet urban multiracial churches where the median age was 9; and most recently, First Church Somerville, a radically renewing UCC that boasts its own Drag-Queen-in-Residence in Berkeley’s doppelgånger, Somerville, Massachusetts. She takes the Bible seriously, but herself, not so much. She loves Jesus and really does believe he is “God with skin on,” but is not above fighting with him in the back seat of the car, like you would any true sibling.
She writes books to fill gaps in the progressive Christian canon: so far, a book about church renewal (Real Good Church: How Our Church Came Back from the Dead and Yours Can Too), a manifesto for the vulnerability revolution and a blueprint for spiritual transformation (Standing Naked Before God: The Art of Public Confession), two grief workbooks for children (co-authored with Nechama Liss Levinson: Remembering My Pet and Remembering My Grandparent) and (co-authored with Ellen O’Donnell) Bless This Mess: A Modern Guide to Faith and Parenting in a Chaotic World, for parents who want to raise their kids with a different kind of Christian spirituality that is also grounded in good science. She is a cancer survivor and her newest book, How to Begin When Your World is Ending: A Spiritual Field Guide to Joy Despite Everything, is about post-traumatic resiliency: how we really live and thrive through all the hardest parts of being human.
She is a popular writer of whimsically pious and always relevant Daily Devotionals for the UCC Stillspeaking Writers’ Group, archived here, and which you can subscribe to here, and other resources including a modern bible study on that ancient curmudgeon, Ecclesiastes, and an anthology of devotions for weary parents.
A graduate of Dartmouth College and Yale Divinity School, she teaches and coaches individuals and church teams online and in the flesh. If you ask her to come do a keynote, she will probably say yes but will likely make you confess your sins to a roomful of friends and strangers (which you will, surprisingly, turn out to enjoy).
She shares a home in the Bay Area with her husband Peter and her two teens. A perfect sabbath for her would include a swim, a hike in the hills, readin gin the hammock and making people happy with home-cooked food.