The Walla Walla University Church made history recently with the commissioning of Executive Pastor Alareece Collie. Pastor Minner Labrador, president of the denomination’s Upper Columbia Conference, presided at the commissioning service.
“Pastor Alareece has a heart for people, along with spiritual gifts in administrative excellence,” says Labrador. “I count it an honor to commission her to the ministry. I know God will continue to bless her in her work.”
Pastor Collie is the first black woman pastor in the denomination’s North Pacific Union Conference, the first non-white pastor on staff at the University Church, and the first woman from The Bahamas to attend the seminary at Andrews University (AU). She grew up on the Caribbean island of Andros. After completing high school, she attended The College of The Bahamas while working at the Nassau branch of Credit Suisse, an international bank and trust company. Collie says her years at Credit Suisse helped to nurture her growth as a professional and to develop skills that God would use when she entered full-time pastoral ministry.
She transferred to AU and completed a college degree in economics. While at AU, she volunteered for outreach activities, preached a two-week evangelistic series in Kenya, and spent a year in Argentina to learn Spanish. Upon graduation, she served as a missionary in Costa Rica teaching English as a second language. These experiences fueled her growing sense that God was calling her to full-time ministry.
Back at AU, she enrolled in graduate school at the seminary, having surrendered all to the promptings of the Holy Spirit for full-time ministry. While in seminary, Collie served in several capacities, including as president of the Women’s Clergy Network and as the administrative pastor of The Grace Place, a multi-ethnic community-focused church in South Bend, Indiana. She graduated in 2015 with a Master of Divinity degree.
Prayerfully, she accepted the call to serve as executive pastor of Walla Walla University Church. “As executive pastor,” says Collie, “my role is on the business side of the church,” but for her it is fully “driven by the mission of the church.” Collie is an avid reader and is also passionate about traveling and experiencing new cultures. She has experienced God in many aspects of her life. “God has been teaching me about … being completely open to how He’s leading or guiding. He has been working hard to teach me that, which has deepened my relationship with Him.”
“I’m happy to be here,” says Collie. “I feel like God is up to something, and I’m excited to be a part of it!” The University Church is one of the largest congregations in the denomination, with more than 2,500 members, as well as a key role on the university campus, an Adventist institution with 1,900 students and nearly 200 faculty.
A commissioning service in the Adventist denomination looks no different than an ordination to the gospel ministry. In the denomination’s North American Division, a Commissioned Minister has the same status and role as an Ordained Minister. The international denomination maintains the two separate credentials largely because there are a number of places in the world where large numbers of church members are unwilling to accept the idea that a woman can service in a role equal to that of a man, despite the clear example set by one of the denomination’s founders, Ellen G. White.
A video of the commissioning service can be seen here:
The photo is of Pastor Collie with other women who serve as Adventist pastors in the Walla Walla area. From left to right are Pastor Jaci Cress Solis, Associate Pastor, Walla Walla University Church (and an Adventist Today board member); Pastor Natashia McVay, Associate Pastor, Moscow, Idaho, Adventist Church; Pastor Collie; Pastor Nancy Canwell, Associate Pastor, Milton-Freewater, Oregon, Adventist Church.