Rev. rosi olmstead (rosi always spells her name in lower case) was on the staff at Church of the Covenant in Boston, Mass. from 1981 and retired as Co-Pastor in 2003. During that time, rosi was a consistent advocate for incorporating GBLTQ folks into the life of the church. rosi, one of four authors of the Open and Affirming Resolution (ONA) in the United Church of Christ, was the presenter and the defender of the ONA resolution at the U.C.C. Massachusetts Conference in 1984. The ONA resolution was passed at the 1985 General Synod opening the way for full inclusion of GBLTQ folks into the UCC.
Born in Lincoln, Nebraska, rosi spent most of her childhood in Omaha. rosi was active in St. Paul United Methodist Church. While in high school, her minister encouraged rosi to think about ministry as a career.
During her last year at Westmar College in LeMars, Iowa, rosi enlisted in the Women’s Officer Program. She served a total of five years, one year as a student officer, two years as a company commander in Frankfort, Germany and two years as a recruiter in Cincinnati, OH. She left the Army as a Captain. Using the GI bill, rosi went to Andover Newton Theological School (ANTS) in Newton, MA. After seminary, rosi continued to be involved with ANTS leading trainings on women in ministry, institutional racism and sexism. rosi also became involved with Casa Myrna Vazquez, a shelter for battered women, especially Hispanic women, during its founding year serving as a volunteer and later elected to its Board of Directors.
In 1977, rosi was ordained in the United Methodist Nebraska Conference. rosi’s first ministerial position was with Boston-Cambridge Ministry in Higher Education serving as campus minister at Boston State College. In 1981, rosi joined the staff at Church of the Covenant (COTC) in Boston. At that time, the COTC staff was a team ministry with part-time positions. With part-time work, rosi decided to pursue a social work degree and graduated from Smith College School of Social Work in 1986. After receiving her Masters in Social Work, rosi worked as a Crisis Clinician (1986-2003) for the Crisis Team at South Shore Mental Health in Quincy, Mass.
Since 1932, COTC has been a yoked Presbyterian and United Church of Christ (UCC) congregation. When joining the church staff, rosi made the decision to leave the United Methodist Church and join the UCC. She also held standing in the Presbyterian church. With her dual degrees, rosi’s ministry included Christian education, preaching, working with the Deacons, and providing counseling to parishioners on a variety of personal, emotional and spiritual matters. While at South Shore Mental Health, rosi held several memorial services for people whom the agency had served.
During her time at COTC, rosi sheparded over thirty-one candidates of which twenty-four were women through the ordination process at a time when women were still scarce in the ministry. In addition, quite a few of the candidates were gay and had to wrestle with the question “do I come out or remain silent?” and what impact will my answer have on my ministry and my career. As the years passed, more UCC. candidates went through the process as openly gay.
The second significant challenge was leading a congregation through the AIDS crisis. As Boston is a progressive medical center, men with AIDS came to Boston for treatment and found COTC as a spiritual home. The congregation met these men and journeyed with them to their deaths. rosi buried twelve men and one woman in a decade and with the rest of the ministerial team consoled and comforted the families and church community. Some say that rosi is best at developing personal wedding ceremonies and eulogies.
rosi with partner MarnieOver time, COTC had reduced the number of part-time positions and moved to co-pastors. In 2003, rosi retired as Co-Pastor and took a full-time position as Clinical Care Coordinator (2003-2011) at South Shore Mental Health. In 2011, rosi moved to Beacon Health Strategies as a Utilization Review Clinician from which she retired in 2013.
While volunteering at Casa Myrna Vasquez, rosi met Marnie Warner and they became life partners. Marnie is one of the four authors of the ONA resolution. In 1991, they rode bicycles cross country with Cycle America, making all 5,250 miles. In 2004, when Massachusetts became the first state to legalized same-sex marriages, they were married. Now retired, rosi and Marnie travel and spend time being staff to their cats.
(This biographical statement provided by rosi olmstead and Marnie Warner.)
Biography Date: February 2018
United Church of Christ/Congregational Church | Warner, Marnie | AIDS | Clergy Activist | Massachusetts