Have faith: Methodist church welcomes new minister

Reverend Roberta Williams brings a suitcase full of experiences to the Island’s faith community.

Reverend Roberta L. Williams is the new pastor of the United Methodist Church of Martha's Vineyard. — Roberta L. Williams

Every other week, Connie Berry reports on the news, events, and people at Martha’s Vineyard’s various places of worship.

The United Methodist Church welcomed its new leader, the Reverend Roberta Williams, in early July. Rev. Williams came to the Island from Wellfleet on the Cape, where she served for a year. Before that, she spent eight years in Connecticut, serving Vernon and Wesley Memorial in East Hartford from 2007 to 2015.

Rev. Williams told me she has a particular interest in youth and children’s ministry. Her past ministry included taking youth groups to New York City with the program Ministry, Missions, and Mayhem. Another project close to her heart, she said, is Little Dresses for Africa, a nonprofit where volunteers make dresses from simple patterns that are then delivered to villages across the continent. Sometimes the dresses are mailed and other times mission teams deliver them in person.

“In Africa, there have been 16 million children left orphaned by AIDS,” Rev. Williams said. “Little Dresses for Africa gives people an entry point into these villages.”

Once a mission group connects in a village, they can do things like teach lessons on clean water and sanitation, and building strong families.

Rev. Williams comes to the Island bringing a pretty interesting skill set, along with her keen interest in building Christian community all over the world.

Her father was a pastor at the United Parish in Brookline, where she graduated from Brookline High School. She then went to Colorado Women’s College in Denver. After college, she went to Europe, where she worked as a nanny for a family in Munich. Rev. Williams said she felt the call to ministry while she was in Europe, and earned a master’s of divinity from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, after returning home.

I had a telephone conversation with Rev. Williams, but I gleaned more information when she sent me an email that described some of her experience. She wrote:

“I spent time in L’agri, a Christian retreat in the Swiss Alps. I returned home and found a job as a Kosher cook at Boston University’s Hillel House and the BU-Tanglewood Institute.”

A Methodist minister who once served as a Kosher cook, pretty interesting.

Rev. Williams continued:

“In 1996, I was a delegate to the World Methodist Convention in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It was a great eye-opener to be in a country where 70 percent of the population could not read. We visited with ministers and churches involved in teaching children and their parents how to read and write, thus becoming more employable. I ventured up the Amazon and stayed for a week in the Jungle Tower Hotel.”

That must have capped an unforgettable trip.  

Rev. Williams has shared her love of connecting world-wide with the people in her congregations.

A press release announcing her appointment to the Vineyard’s United Methodist Church said that her commitment to youth was evident in her work to help them fundraise so that they could travel and connect with Christian communities in places like South Africa, India, and Taize, France. It certainly sounds like Trinity Church in Oak Bluffs,

Christ Church in Vineyard Haven, and the Old Whaling Church have found a pastor who will lead them into the future.


The Chilmark Church has been offering Musical Meditation Vespers on Sundays from 5 to 5:30 pm. It looks like the event will run at least through the end of August, so I still have time to check it out.


The Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center is joining Martha’s Vineyard Community Services for a unique fundraiser on Thursday, August 25. Billed as Three Literary Women: Lillian Hellman, Dorothy Parker, and Edna Ferber, two performers will offer dramatic readings from the works of these three legendary authors. One of the performers, Julie Gilbert, is Edna Ferber’s grandniece. The other, Lee Wolf, is an award-winning writer and performing artist. The show begins at 7:30 pm at the Hebrew Center and certainly sounds like a great way to raise funds for two well-loved Island organizations.

If you have news for Have faith, email it to connie.berry12@gmail.com.