Nancy Ellett Allison, 61, found her way to Charlotte by way of California, Texas and Liberia.
After majoring in psychology at Baylor University, she received her master’s of divinity and Ph.D. from Southwestern Baptist Theological seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Her first church assignment was at Royal Lane, a progressive Southern Baptist church in Dallas, where she was ordained in 1981. A few years later Allison and her husband, Dale, went to Liberia with their 3-month-old daughter and served as missionaries. In Dallas, Allison worked as a chaplain in the maternal child services department at Baylor University Medical Center, founded CityChurch (now Church in the Cliff) and in 1999, moved to Charlotte when Dale took a job as administrator of Myers Park Presbyterian Church.
Allison was installed as pastor at Holy Covenant UCC in 2004. She and Dale live in Charlotte and have two daughters.
Q. When did you know you wanted to be in the clergy?
A. I grew up Baptist in a very small town in California. In that context, I had no vision for what a woman might do in church work. My first sense of ministry came when I began working at summer youth camps before and during college. I worked at Palomar Baptist Camp out in California for three or four years in a row, and then served as a missionary camp staff volunteer on a small island off of Kodiak Island in Alaska. When I finished my MDiv, I was called to Royal Lane Baptist Church as their youth minister. That was the congregation where I said, “Oh, I just love church work, and the opportunity to see people change over longer periods of time.”
Q. “What are your passions in ministry?”
A. The UCC denomination has been at the forefront of supporting marriage equality for all, and our congregation has been actively involved in advocating for same sex marriage. On a personal level, my gardening led me into real concern for the environment, and our congregation has since created a community garden and has supported my involvement in issues related to climate change and Duke Energy’s coal ash ponds along the Catawba River.
Q. What do you enjoy most about Charlotte?
A. Not the roads. There is a vibrant interfaith community, with intentional cooperation among churches and synagogues and mosques around issues of racial and environmental concern. I really have valued the interfaith networking that it is possible to do here.
Q. Favorite quote?
A. I think this one is wonderful from Gandhi: “Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”
Q. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive?
A. “Here’s your dark chocolate.” No. “Welcome.” The Universalist part of me says I will be welcomed with all of God’s beloved children. The nice thing about heaven is that it is far beyond our imagination, and God’s welcome and grace to us is far beyond our imagination, as well.
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