Introducing Rev. Joanna Fontaine Crawford
A lifelong Unitarian Universalist and Texan, Rev. Crawford was raised in Houston, Texas. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Texas in 1991. After graduation, she worked first in marketing and advertising before moving to the new field of web design.
Although she was an active lay leader in her home congregation and district, it wasn’t until attending General Assembly in 2004 that she finally admitted to herself that she was drawn to ministry. One month later, she was enrolled in seminary.
Rev. Crawford attended the Houston Graduate School of Theology, an ecumenical, multi-cultural divinity school. Most of her seminary classmates were from traditionally African-American denominations such as National Baptist and African-Methodist Episcopal (AME), and this experience opened up an entire world to her. She also took classes from Starr-King School of the Ministry to supplement the education from HGST. She graduated summa cum laude from HGST in December 2011 with a Masters of Divinity and a 4.0 grade point average. At graduation, she was awarded the school’s highest honor, the Academic Excellence Award. As the dean announced her as the winner of the award, he talked about her being a liberal and a Unitarian Universalist and said that "… we Conservative Evangelicals are much better off for our years spent with her." A statement that Rev. Crawford cherishes more than the award itself.
After graduation, she had two internships: one at the Church of the Larger Fellowship (CLF) from August 2011 to June 2013, and the other at a traditional "brick and mortar" church, Northwoods UU Church from January to July 2012. At the CLF, she was responsible for weekly worship services that were all done online, through video and live chat on Livestream. At Northwoods, she had the opportunity to experience the breadth of traditional parish ministry, from preaching, to religious education, to administration.
In August 2012, she began working as the minister for First Unitarian – Copperfield as they transitioned to merging with and becoming a satellite of First UU Houston. In August 2013, the position was expanded to include working at the main campus of First UU Houston.
When it comes to the worship service, Rev. Crawford writes, "my philosophy of worship is pretty basic and pragmatic. What defines the value of a worship service, to me, is ‘Does it work?’ And by ‘work,’ my goal is singular in nature, but complex in possibility: transformation. Was the congregant transformed in some way? Did he decide to make a change in his life? Did she reach a new point in understanding? Did he discover something missing in his life – peace, grace, an inexorable pull to accountability? Did they experience worship?"
When she decided to enter into ministerial search, she knew she was "looking for a church with heart – a heart full of love for not only its members but also for the people outside its doors, who haven’t found their way in yet. Because this is what Unitarian Universalism is all about: it’s about having the faith that love is infinite, undying, and there’s plenty to go around for all of us, so we need to love one another within the church, then take that love outside the church because there are people out there starving for acceptance, for nourishing food for their minds and souls, for a listening ear, for relationship, for purpose."
"I hope for a church that is both open to innovation and grounded in our Unitarian Universalist heritage. We are not a ‘none of the above’ religion. We have a rich history and theology that we draw from. We stand on the shoulders of giants – people who have literally ‘changed the world with their love.’"
Rev. Crawford has changed the world in many ways with her love. In 2010, she organized and "participated" in an event for St. Baldrick’s, a charity that raises money for childhood cancer research. That participation took the form of shaving her waist-length hair to raise money.
In 2011, after the suicide of a local gay teenager, she organized "Bring Your Gay Teen to Church Day" to bring attention to the fact that there were loving, accepting churches in Houston. Local print and television news featured the story, which was picked up by the Associated Press and shared around the country.
Rev. Crawford also writes "One thing that I take very seriously is our call to experience and create ‘Beloved Community.’ I believe we can and should foster wholeness both in our church communities and in the world at large."
When asked what unique quality she would bring to Live Oak, she replied that her personal mission is to "Love the Hell out of the World".
On a personal note, Rev. Crawford is married to Tom, whom she met while attending UT. They have been married 23 years and have four children together: Jackson, 17; Kaziah, 14; Lilyanne, 11; and Marenna 8.
Read more about Rev. Joanna Fontaine Crawford
If you’d like to know about Rev. Crawford, here is a sampling of her work, plus her "packet" (think of it as a really long application).
- First UU Church of Houston
- Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Galveston
- Church of the Larger Fellowship
- Video for online magazine “The Radical Spirit”: