|The Rev. Timothy C. Ahrens is in his 13th year of ministry at the First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ in downtown Columbus. A church known for its witness to social justice, growing out of its birth as an abolitionist congregation in 1852, Rev. Ahrens is the fifth consecutive senior minister from Yale Divinity School and is a lifelong member of the United Church of Christ. Under his leadership, First Church has doubled in membership during an era when four downtown churches have closed their doors. With the church adopting an "Open and Affirming” statement in 2002, First Church's welcome in the heart of Columbus now extends to ALL persons.
Rev. Ahrens has been a strong and respected voice in the community since 1985 when he arrived in the city to serve North Congregational UCC on Henderson Road. He has built relationships with other pastors, lay people and city leaders to work to end poverty through improved education, fair labor laws, job creation, fair housing, health care reform and equal rights for all people. He has also advocated for the end of gun violence and the abolition of the death penalty in Ohio. He has served as co-president of B.R.E.A.D. (Building Responsibility Equality And Dignity), an interfaith organization working for economic justice and social change, which he helped found in 1996. To move compassion for the poor and action on their behalf beyond Franklin County, Rev.Ahrens launched We Believe Ohio in March 2006. We Believe Ohio has united diverse religious voices to achieve social justice. Over 400 religious leaders and hundreds of lay people have joined We Believe Ohio's efforts to strengthen the voice of religiously diverse people in the public square.
Rev. Ahrens has preached, lectured and taught at Yale Divinity School and Chicago Theological Seminary. He has also been "preacher of the week" at the Chautauqua Institution in New York, as well Chautauqua Institutions in Lakeside, Ohio, and Bay View, Mich. He has preached at the MAAFA celebration at St. Paul's Community Baptist Church in Brooklyn, N.Y. In October 2011, he spoke and offered a eulogy at a home-going celebration for the Rev. Dr. Fred Shuttlesworth in Birmingham, Ala.
He is a member of the board of directors of Faith in Public Life, a faith-based national organization that seeks to influence public policy, has been involved with the Universal Health Care Action Network in Ohio and has spoken at many rallies at the Statehouse on issues of social justice and fairness. He is the 2008 recipient of the William Sloane Coffin Award, given by Yale Divinity School in recognition of a person’s commitment to peace and reconciliation, the only local church pastor to have ever received the award. On September 11, 2011, he received the Distinguished Citizen Award for social justice and community action from the Interfaith Youth Group of Central Ohio. He has spoken at several area high schools on social justice and faith and has been a coach and tutor of young people since 1980. Rev. Ahrens has lectured on Washington Gladden and the social gospel movement on a number of occasions.
His comments and columns have appeared in New Yorker magazine, the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post, Christianity Today, Christian Century, Reflections magazine, published through Yale, and over 20 Ohio newspapers. He has been quoted in several books on religion in America and has had sermons published in interfaith books and periodicals. For years, he wrote regularly for the Columbus Dispatch’s “Faith and Values’’ section. He wrote a blog for the newspaper in the summer of 2010 chronicling his travels and experience among Jews, Muslims and Christians in the Middle East (See “Meet the Pastor’’ page on this site). He is the author of Acts Comes Alive, 12 Keys for Reviving the Church.
He has served the United Church of Christ at the association, conference and national level. Rev. Ahrens was ordained in his home congregation, St. John's United Church of Christ, in Lansdale, Penn., June 23, 1985. Before coming to First Church, he served as senior pastor of North Congregational United Church of Christ in northwest Columbus for more than 10 years. Prior to that, he served Bethany UCC, Cleveland, Ohio, and in three urban settings of ministry in St. Louis, New Haven and Philadelphia, stimulating growth and revitalization by helping congregations to become more multi-racial, more multi-cultural and more accepting and tolerant of all people.
This year, Rev. Ahrens is beginning his doctoral work with an emphasis in "public theology" at Chicago Theological Seminary.
A devoted husband and father, he and his wife, Susan Sitler, have been married since November 1985 and are the parents of three children.