PC(USA) colleagues celebrate Jewel McRae’s 37 years of denominational service

McRae will be honored Wednesday during a celebration of a career marked by encouragement and inclusion

by Shani McIlwain | Presbyterian News Service

Jewel McRae

On a crisp winter day on December 29, 1986, Jewel McRae began her first day as a member of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) national staff, and, as the saying goes, the rest is history.

One of the many gifts that make Jewel a treasure to her colleagues is her ability to connect people across the church. “Jewel knows everyone in the PC(USA),” says just about everyone in the PC(USA).

Susan Jackson Dowd, executive director of Presbyterian Women, said, “Jewel is amazingly connected throughout the PC(USA). For years, Jewel has been Presbyterian Women’s contact for bringing younger Presbyterian women to the Presbyterian Women, Inc., Board of Directors. Whenever I contact Jewel about needing new representatives — and sometimes this can be rather late in the process — Jewel goes to work and provides exceptional candidates to the board. Jewel knows young women in the PC(USA) and she knows Presbyterian Women. She has done an exceptional job bringing the two together.”

Known for her candid, straightforward and direct approach, Jewel brings out the best in her colleagues.  She is dedicated to living into the passage in Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth, but all things should be done decently and in order. 

McRae began her career as an administrative assistant. Her acute attention to detail to make sure the job gets done followed her to a number of positions, including working various General Assemblies.

In 2014, she became a mission associate for Racial Equity and Women’s Intercultural Ministries. In this role, her gifts and talents thrived in many ways, with work on projects including Celebrate the Gifts of Women and the Commission on the Status of Women.

The Rev. Denise Anderson, who directs Compassion Peace & Justice ministries in the Presbyterian Mission Agency, recalls first meeting Jewel at RE&WIM’s Executive Leadership Institute. “Jewel was personable and nurturing and looked out for people,” Anderson said. “Many of us owe our careers to her leadership and care.”

To say McRae’s institutional knowledge will be missed is an understatement. Her current supervisor, the Rev. Shanea D. Leonard, sums it up with these words: “I call Jewel ‘the mayor of the PC(USA)’ for a reason. In my experience, she has effortlessly yielded her service in the church to being a loving and thoughtful nucleus to the care, growth, and connection of young women AND people of color. In various roles, in multiple cities, Jewel has gone above and beyond to make sure marginalized people got what they needed despite institutional barriers. She has been a champion for women, an advocate for Black folks and an ally to all people of color.”

“She is someone who has been so ingrained into the life and witness of the church and has been invaluable in the ministry of RE&WIM,” Leonard said. “We celebrate her [Wednesday, with a farewell reception at the Presbyterian Center] but are planning a larger affair later in the year. Elder Jewel McRae is the reason many even know about the work of Louisville and her legacy will live on far beyond her tenure.”

Culturally, many African parents name their children after what the family’s expectations are or how they want the child to relate to others in the community. “Jewel” not only means a precious gem, but it also is a pleasing or valued person or thing; a very fine example. Let Jewel’s 37 years of service be a very fine example of a good and faithful witness. Thanks be to God!


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