Rev. Adonna Reid is many things – a two-time Ivy League scholar, a mother of five, a wife, a former Wall Streeter and, most recently, the new pastor of First United Methodist Church, 324 N. Oak Park Ave. Reid shattered the stained-glass ceiling upon stepping into the role July 1, becoming the church’s first African American and fourth woman to serve as pastor. But she doesn’t really consider herself a blazer of trails.
“I won’t say that I’m one that seeks that, but if that’s where my path takes me, then so be it,” Reid said.
What does she consider herself? A spreader of good news. That good news, Reid told Wednesday Journal, is the teachings of Jesus Christ, which she is ready to share it with anyone who cares to tune in.
“Come one, come all, and see what this good news is,” she said. “It’s better than a sale at Macy’s. It’s better than a new flavor at Cold Stone. It’s better than the McRib.”
Reid hopes to work in collaboration with other places of worship to benefit the wider community. She wants everyone to know that First United welcomes all people.
“Our doors are absolutely open to everyone,” she said.
Reid describes her path to becoming a pastor as “circuitous,” despite having grown up in a religious household in New Jersey and having two uncles who were pastors. She got her undergraduate degree in political science and economics at Yale, then spent a couple years working on Wall Street. Both environments, she said, had few women or African Americans at that time.
Following her Wall Street stint, she went to Harvard, where she received her master’s in business. In her last year of graduate school, she met her husband, who was in his last year of Harvard Law School.
“The night I met him at a party, he said, ‘Oh, I’ve accepted a position in Chicago,’” Reid said. “Here we are, 33 years later.”
Upon moving to Chicago right after getting married, she worked for CBS on the business side of the network news division. Reid had just had her first son when the bureau was consolidated.
“I decided to exit myself for a while from the workforce and concentrated on being a stay-at-home mom,” she said.
It was around that time that Reid really started getting involved in their church but found that not everyone there was putting in the same level of effort as she was to help others. The decision to switch churches proved pivotal. She now recognizes it as the first step in the “spiritual direction.”
“The first female pastor I had ever encountered in my life was at this church that I went to,” she said. “We started having conversations because it never occurred to me that I could be a pastor.”
Right after she submitted her application to the seminary, she found out she that she was pregnant with their fifth child. She deferred for two years, starting school when her youngest was about 18 months.
“It was tough,” she said. “But God worked it out.”
While Reid was taking care of their five children, all under 10, and attending classes, her attorney husband was working long hours. As her schedule ramped up, her husband’s schedule got more manageable. By the time she was in the ordination process, he had become a partner at his law firm. She recognizes God for getting them through that particularly busy period in their lives.
“The strength to do this was not me because I would have given out a long time ago,” she said. “So just try him for yourself!”
She’s now been a pastor for about 15 years. Her five children are now adults, with her eldest in seminary himself. Reid came to First United having previously been the pastor of South Shore United Methodist Church and St. Mark United Methodist Church, both located on Chicago’s South Side.
Reid and her husband are hoping to relocate to Oak Park, which she said they have already found to be a very welcoming community. She believes people are ready to congregate together in church.
For those who are happy in their current place of worship, Reid advises them to get more involved. Those who are looking to try something new or those who are feeling unsatisfied spiritually are as welcome to Reid as any other parishioner. Everyone has a seat at Reid’s table.
“My goal is to help people hopefully learn to love God through Jesus Christ,” Reid said. “That’s what really excites me.”