Senior Pastor, Rivers at Rehoboth
"The most valuable part of my work is when I see young and old alike being liberated from oppressive theology and theological abuse,” Pastor Vanessa Brown says of her job’s perks. “I am amazed by the transformative work of the spirit when people become truly liberated. When I see people rebuild their lives as a result of walking in their authentic truth and the unconditional love of God, I know that I’m a step closer to fulfilling a part of my destiny.” With a mixed congregation of straight and LGBTQ individuals at Rivers at Rehoboth in Harlem, where she was born and raised, Brown is known for her unique brand of modern leadership. The church keeps with traditions of black churches while actively ministering to the LGBT community and preaching an inclusive message – as Brown puts it, that “[God] made us knowing who we were going to be.” After years working as a producer at the Apollo Theatre, she has developed a talent for effectively combining social justice with spiritual fundamentals, using a mix of creative tools like social media, experimental art and the performing arts. “My hope would be for those within the LGBT experience to truly develop and become the community that we so intently embrace and idealize,” she says.