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About Me


I’m Jay Williams

Hailing from Buffalo, New York, I despise the snow and dream of a life in Wakanda. To wit, I’m pretty much obsessed with “Black Panther”—as well as the 1980s cartoon series “The Thundercats.”

As an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church, I currently serve as Lead Pastor of a historic, predominately black United Methodist congregation in Boston called Union. Having a pastor’s heart, I have joyfully served congregations in New York City, Boston, and San Francisco, including Glide Memorial.

One of my interests includes exploring the profound questions of the meaning of “spirit” in black cultural discourse at the intersection of race, class, gender, and sexuality: mainly how spirit-talk has been a marginalizing language of power. Through my pastoral and academic work, I strive to help more disinherited folk find their voices.

Williams holds a Master of Divinity with highest honors from Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York (2009) and the Bachelor of Arts magna cum laude from Harvard College (2003). In May 2017, Jay received the Ph.D. in the Study of Religion from the Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. His dissertation, entitled “Unholy Ghosts in the Age of Spirit: Identity, Intersectionality, and the Theological Horizons of Black Progress,” develops a constructive theology of spirit that rethinks hope, courage, and vitality, premised on insights from W.E.B. Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston, and Howard Thurman.

Rev. Jay, a queer cisgender man, and his partner, Robert, have two crazy Yorkie-Chihuahuas, Bentley and Hurston. | download CV

“Spirit is con-tested space.”
– Rev. Dr. Jay Williams “Unholy Ghosts in the Age of Spirit” (2017)

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