Rev. Kim Newport

Growing up, there were a plethora of careers I thought I wanted to try when I grew up:  an archaeologist, a doctor, a teacher, or the person who sits in the little booth and makes drawbridges go up and down for the boats.  I never dreamed I would be a pastor.

It wasn’t until I was hurt terribly by a church and went through a period of spiritual awakening that I realized I couldn’t walk away from religion.  I needed to create a church that truly represented God’s love for all people.  A place where everyone is not only welcomed, but affirmed.

I received my Bachelor’s of Science in Religion and Psychology and a Masters of Divinity from Ecumenical Theological Seminary in Detroit.  I also obtained certification in Social Justice Leadership from United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities.

I am known for my activism throughout Macomb County with Black Lives Matter and Macomb County Pride. I have spent over twelve years studying various disciplines of liberation theology and I have spoken at many churches educating congregations on the open and affirming process for LGBTQ+ individuals.

I am also called to speak at mental health organizations concerning LGBTQ+ treatment and care. I have served as the Moderator of the Coordinating Committee of the Eastern Association of the Michigan Conference of the United Church of Christ and have served on the Board of Directors for Macomb County Pride.

Before serving Rise UCC, I was the pastor of First Congregational, UCC in Romeo, Michigan for six years.

In my spare time, I am usually outside in nature.  I love to fish, hike, and spend time with animals.  I have worked with horses for over twenty years.  I am also an avid reader and researcher.

I am a non-binary lesbian and use the pronouns she/they.

Rev. Traci Bartell

I remember sitting in worship services in my late 30’s having just entered back in to organized religion from a 15-year hiatus, and, no matter what, the gospel would be read, or a hymn would be sung, and I would end up in tears. At one point I asked my sister Lori, “Why am I crying so much in church?” and her wisdom reached deep within. She said, “Jesus is calling.”

It took me a year or two after she spoke it for me to fully understand what she meant and to take the call she spoke of more seriously. How could I change a career at my age? I was a successful music educator and loved teaching children of all ages. At that point I had just started to lead church and worship music and was finding so much joy in bringing sacred music to life with those called to share their gifts. What was it that God was calling me to?

Seeking an answer to that questions, in 2012, I entered a program hosted by the Wisconsin Conference of the United Church of Christ called Lay Academy. I knew that after the two years of work, if I still had a yearning for more education, I would apply for Seminary.

In January 2014 I began and in May of 2021 I graduated with a Master of Divinity from Central Seminary, an American Baptist institution centered in Shawnee, KS with a site in Ann Arbor, MI. Upon graduation, I was honored to receive awards in writing, preaching, and be named a Presidential Scholar.

Being called to plant and build Rise United Church of Christ led to my ordination that took place on August 7th, 2022. The creativity and entrepreneurial energies that it takes to bring something brand new into being is exhausting and exhilarating. Expanding the language and the understanding of what church is for today’s people has become a passion.

After years of being on a path with the Great Companion and Creator, what I know in the core of my being is that there are more questions than certainties, there are more stories to hear and learn from, and that God reveals Herself to us repeatedly in multiple ways every day. This, just like all those years ago, brings me to tears regularly. I am thrilled to be on the journey to work with others to bring justice, equality and equity, compassion, and love to life through our actions. May it be so!