On July 1, 2020, Pastor Chanda Nunes made Black Adventist history by becoming the first African-American female Lead, or Senior Pastor, of an institutional church in the North American Division.
An institutional church is a church that is connected to an institution-often, an educational institution-often a college or a university. Almost always, those churches are the largest and wealthiest in terms of tithe in the conference where the institution is located, e.g., the Oakwood University Church-which is the largest tithe church in the Regional Conference work.
Once upon a time, these kinds of churches were led by older men, e.g., the late legendary Elder E.C. Ward, of the Oakwood University Church. But all of Pastor Nunes’ ministry has found her being placed in groundbreaking, mold-breaking assignments.
It began for her in Toronto, Canada, where she was born of “two, God-fearing, Jamaican-born parents”. At the age of 9, she felt a call to the ministry and was supported in recognizing that call by adults who affirmed God’s call on her life-itself groundbreaking in those early days of women in ministry.
She graduated from what is now Burman University (then Canadian Union College), with a degree in Theology. Her first “first” came when she was hired by the Calgary Conference (first Black female Pastor).
After completing her Masters of Divinity Degree from Andrews Theological Seminary, she was called of God in 2008 to be the first Black Pastor in the history of the Kansas-Nebraska Conference and the first Black female Pastor in the history of the Mid-American Union.
After serving there for 7 years, she accepted a call to the Northern California Conference where she was (guess again?) the first Black female Pastor in the history of that conference.
The pastorate of the Pacific Union College Church had been open for approximately one year. It was at this time last year, while attending PELC that the Lord revealed to her that His next assignment for her would be another first-a string of them, in fact: The first Black Senior Pastor of the Pacific Union College Church and the first female Senior Pastor of the church.
Sure enough, on the flight home, she received a text from the President of the Northern California Conference, Dr. Marc Woodson, asking her if she would be interested in being considered. She answered in the affirmative-and the rest is, well, history.
Pastor Nunes-who was ordained in 2018-leads a Pastoral staff at the Pacific Union College Church of 6 Pastors. The tithe of the Pacific Union College Church would place it among the 5 largest tithe churches among Regional Conferences if her church were in a Regional Conference.
Though the pandemic has required her to lead in a different way, it seems obvious that the Lord has been leading her all of her life for this moment and to this assignment. What history will she and the Lord make next?