July 02, 2020 | by JB Brayfindley
Dr. Reginald T.W. Nichols began his new position as the Director of Leadership Development and received a warm virtual welcome during the July 1st CNUMC Wednesday Webinar. Attendance spanned across the conference from Bakersfield to Sparks, Nevada.
Executive Director of Congregational Development, Rev. Craig Brown interviewed Nichols about his life, family and professional experiences along with his aspirations for leadership development in the CNUMC.
Born in Belgium, Nichols grew up in Brooklyn, New York. Nichols was raised by parents who were first generation college graduates who also went on to earn medical degrees. Nichols also recalled his deeper roots.
“I have ancestral elements that run through me,” said Nichols. Grandparents on both sides of his family worked as slaves, one in the sugar cane fields of Barbados and the other in the cotton fields of Virginia. “One of the things I’ve learned from the family, and what brings me here, is that I have learned grit, I have learned service, I’ve learned commitment and I’ve learned faith—those types of things that are part of the undercurrents of my life.”
He graduate from Gordon College, received his Master of Divinity from Fuller Seminary and earned his doctorate in Education in Organization & Leadership & International Multicultural Education from the University of San Francisco.
“Part of my story is this wonderful journey of integrating faith and leadership and organization and counseling and community work and, undergirding it, is grit and service to the community,” stated Nichols. He recounted his father’s logic for refusing to move out of the city even though his family could afford to because there would be no one left to serve the people there if everyone moved away.
He and his wife Vanessa have four adult sons, one who lives in Mexico and three of whom live in the Sacramento area along with two grandchildren.
“I am a systems thinker,” stated Nichols. Growing up Pentecostal, Nichols ‘fell in love’ with the liturgy of the United Methodist Church. Moving to Richmond to earn his doctorate at USF, Nichols worshipped at Easter Hill UMC from 1986 -1994 serving as a liturgist and youth worker. “I think the Wesleyan quadrilateral resonates with me.”
Although ordained in an independent denomination, he went on to serve as pastor of Jefferson UMC in San Antonio, Texas, an intercity, interracial, intergenerational church and was involved in several UMCs in Portland, Oregon. He also worked as president of a school in Mississippi.
“I’ve just been involved in the United Methodist church in many forms and facets,” stated Nichols. “And it’s good to be back in the California Nevada Conference and hear the wonderful things that are going on.”
Dr. Nichols reflected on the connections he has made since his arrival and what he sees as the leadership development needs of the CNUMC.
“In this conference, I see a wonderful history of serving others,” explained Nichols who, over the last two weeks, was impressed by witnessing the grace and perseverance of so many that extend beyond their assigned tasks. “And a deep commitment to Jesus Christ and the work of the local congregation and the broader church.”
“There is a desire to go deeper in the work of cultural diversity and intercultural competence,” added Nichols. “… it’s a matter of how do we put that in place so that it’s accessible and so that it works for people.”
Nichols underlined other areas of growth that people in the CNUMC yearn for including how churches can become more relevant to the communities, how to work together to bring about a new church after COVID-19, and how to engage both young and old in ministry.
“There is a desire to develop systems and partnership that have deep meaning,” stated Nichols, “that continue to have deep roots that extend beyond the current fad … to meet the needs now but with roots that stretch to a brighter future.”
Nichols discussed laity leadership, urban and rural church ministry, social justice outreach and various educational platforms.
“This is an exciting time for us!” Nichols summed up. “ I know the pandemic and the social unrest is in our midst, but I think that this is God’s time for us. I see God calling us to new and exciting ways to be the church for this new generation.”
This and other webinars are available on the conference website at cnumc.org. To contact Dr. Reginald T.W. Nichols, email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A resource noted in the chat room included a book by David Anderson Hooker - The Little Book of Transformative Community Conferencing.
Next week’s Wednesday Webinar will be feature guest speaker Rev. Sadie Stone from Bethany UMC, San Francisco who will taking about social media to engage with congregations and the community. Register here.