Garrett Theological Seminary 1971
Pastor, Sherman United Methodist Church, Evanston, Illinois
Rev. Dr. Gessel Berry, 2013 recipient of BMCR’s Margaret Ann Williams “Joy of Serving” Award, he understands his call as ministering wherever God takes him, and he has responded by serving the congregation, the UMC, and the community in multiple capacities. In his 46 years in ministry, Rev. Berry’s reach as pastor has extended far beyond the local church. For example, he has served as Church Officer for the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits, as Assistant General Secretary in Administration, and as Chairman of the Board of Ordained Ministry, the Board of Trustees, and the Board of Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns for the Northern Illinois Annual Conference of the UMC. He also served on the North Central Jurisdictional Board of Ordained Ministry, the National Women’s Clergy Consultation, and was a delegate to three World Methodist Council Conferences.
Ever community-minded, Rev. Berry also has been in leadership roles with the United Methodist Foundation, ChildServ, Bethany Methodist Corporation, two community councils, and the democratic party of Chicago. In defining faithfulness in ministry, Rev. Berry points to Wesley’s hymn, “To serve the present age, my calling to fulfill: Oh, may it all my pow’rs engage to do my Master’s will.”
Rev. Berry received inspiration from several faith leaders who came before him and helped him answer God’s call to ministry—Bishop Edsel A. Ammons, Rev. Dr. Maceo D. Pembroke, Othello Ellis, Rev. Dr. Philip A. Harley, Archbishop G. Duncan Hinkson, and President C. Shelby Rooks. As role models, mentors, and fathers in academia and the church, these individuals were essential in helping to shape Rev. Berry’s ministry.
Rev. Berry’s time at Garrett-Evangelical was another important influence; “It gave me an opportunity to work in the church for racial justice and to be involved in ministry while I was still preparing for ministry.” With several classmates, Rev. Berry founded Garrett Evangelical’s Black Seminarians group (GEBS) and served as its first president—a move that changed the face of the seminary for many years to come. In that capacity, he was a representative to Garrett-Evangelical’s Board of Trustees. Rev. Berry continues to be involved with Garrett-Evangelical, as Peer Group Facilitator for the Peer Learning Group, a place for local pastoral colleagues to share effective preaching techniques through the Styberg Preaching Institute’s Peer Learning Program.