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Clare Gromoll: United’s 2024 Spirit of United Alum



United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities is delighted to honor Rev. Clare Gromoll (’14) as its second Spirit of United alum award recipient. Established last year, the Spirit of United award celebrates recent alums who have done “exceptional work that reflects the mission of United in the church, in faith communities, or in society.” Clare—an adventurous scholar, gifted pastor, and skilled and thoughtful consensus builder—has accomplished that and more since she earned her MDiv.

“At first glance,“ notes Rev. Kimi Floyd Riesch (’19, ’24), “nominating a person who has centered their work in parish ministry might seem strange, but that is only if you do not know the full scope of what Clare does in her life.”

Currently, Clare serves as the pastor at St. Croix United Church in Bayport, Minnesota—a congregation recently formed from the merger of two local churches. Several years ago, St. Peter’s UCC in Stillwater entered a phase of contemplating a possible closure. Church participation was declining, and an interim legacy pastor decided to reach out to local churches to discuss options. Clare, then pastor of People’s Congregational Church in Bayport, agreed to invite the people of People's to explore the possibility of a merger.

During this difficult time of growth, grieving, and transition, Clare joined the first cohort for United’s Leadership Center for Social Justice continuing education program in 2022. Reflecting on that experience, Clare asserts, “My experience with LCSJ helped my roots sink into my way of leadership. I drew upon community organizing principles and strategies so I could equip our Pastoral Relations Committee to engage in one-on-one conversations with church members on the periphery.”

Announced by the Minnesota Conference of the United Church of Christ on November 1, 2023, the newly created St. Croix United Church is dually affiliated with the UCC and the NACCC (National Association of Congregational Christian Churches). In 2024, the new congregation is doing the creative work of strategic visioning. They are excited to discern who and how they want to be as a progressive Christian church in the St. Croix Valley. As members of the two predecessor churches became the 103 charter members of the new church, Clare encouraged them: “Let’s live into this reality together and trust that we will love again. When people feel commitment, they can be more brave and flexible than they imagined, building on the hopeful energy within their sense of commitment. I think that’s what is going to happen here.”

This year, as in the past several, St. Croix United Church joined with other area congregations to worship together on Palm Sunday. “I give thanks,” Clare recently shared, “for how the deeply collegial energy of our St. Croix Valley Ministerial Association strengthens me for my work as pastor within St. Croix United Church.”

Later this spring, Clare will conclude another professional training program, “Leadership in the Valley,” offered by the Greater Stillwater Chamber of Commerce. Alongside 27 other community leaders, she participated in monthly learning days about aspects of the local area—from environment and agriculture; to business and economic development; to diversity, equity, and inclusion; to community and the arts.

On behalf of the church, Clare is also a member of the Stillwater Noon Rotary Club. It is a long-standing connection. “I am forever grateful,” she explains, “for my year as a Rotary Youth Exchange student in the Dominican Republic in 2000, where I became bilingual and bi-literate.” She adds, “I think deep mutual appreciation lies at the heart of my approach to ministry…United has played a significant role in nurturing my approach to ministry.”

On a personal and professional level, another trait that sets Clare apart is her unfailing optimism and nurturing for others. As Kimi explains, “She has modeled how to live without fear for both of her sons, one with Lowe Syndrome and one without, and she continues to show how becoming a minister is not about a title, but about transformation.”

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