Rev. Charles Straight - Lead Pastor
Preferred Pronouns: He, him, his
Rev. Charles M. Straight is currently Pastor of the Faith United Methodist Church in Dolton, Illinois. In addition to his traditional pastoral duties at Faith, he also heads a Social Justice Ministry, The Next Movement, under the Faith UMC umbrella. He served in the position of Assistant Pastor at the Wesley United Methodist Church for seven years prior to his current appointment. During that time, he chaired the Evangelism Committee and was Overseer of the AIDS Ministry. Rev. Straight is Board Member and President, of The People’s Lobby Education Institute. He is a member of the HIV Prevention Taskforce for the Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church.
His past leadership roles include: Board Member at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, the Black Church & HIV Advisory Committee for the NAACP, member of the Spiritual Care Committee for Bonaventure House, member of Pastor’s United for Change, a community action group made up of ministers involved in the issues of crime, health, education, social justice and economic empowerment of local community members where he served as Chairman of the Health Committee. Pastor Straight also serve three years as Chairman of the Local School Counsel for his children’s school; and for two years, President of the West Chesterfield Community Association.
Rev. Straight was a member of the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church from 1973 to 2000. During his 27 years membership he served in the capacity of Associate Minister starting in 1974. In that capacity, Rev. Straight served faithfully in Fellowship’s combined choirs, the Mission Department which provides spiritual support and guidance to persons confined to hospitals, prisons, nursing homes, and mental institutions, as well as conducting worship services for the Children’s Church. In 1985, Rev. Straight organized and chaired the city’s first African-American church-based AIDS ministries, serving over 25 HIV-impacted church members at Fellowship and other churches. In the past 20 plus years, Rev. Straight has provided vital services to the HIV/AIDS community, working as a Licensed Practical Nurse and volunteering in such institutions as Howard Brown Health Center, Martha Washington Hospital Treatment Center, Kupona Network, Evanston Health Department, Chicago Community Programs for Clinical Research on AIDS, and Project Coordinator for the HIV Vaccine Preparedness Trails at Cook County’s Stroger Hospital.
In the past, Rev. Straight also served as chairman of the board of BE-HIV, a not-for-profit social support agency in Evanston, Illinois. He also served as an advisory board member of the Lutheran Social Services Second Family Program, which provides placement services for children orphaned by parents or caregivers impacted by HIV/AIDS. Rev. Straight was also a member of the City of Chicago’s HIV Prevention Planning Group and chaired the Needs Assessment Committee. He remains a certified instructor for Midwest AIDS Training and Education Center (MATEC) and has provided HIV/AIDS technical support to various churches and agencies targeting children and adults. Now an empty nester, he was a licensed foster parent or adoptive parent for Krystal, Kenneth, Ruth, Jeremiah, and Jasmine, whom he raised to adulthood.
Rev. Rachel Birkhahn-Rommelfanger (They/ She) – Community Minister
Preferred Pronouns: They/She, them/her, their/hers
A second-generation United Methodist clergywoman and Chicago native, Rachel Birkhahn-Rommelfanger fell in love with Jesus, justice, and the Church at a young age as she tagged along with her mother to work at church and with her father to protests. Her interest in faith grew in college at American University where she majored in history and sociology and spent hours at the interfaith center on campus leading a social justice team. During that time, she also advocated nationally for the voice of young people in the UM church, spoke about the importance of secular, spiritual, and religious communities in higher education, and worked nationally for LGBTQ equality in religious and secular settings.
After college, Rachel worked a variety of jobs in DC political and non-profit organizations working for environmental justice and women’s rights before being drawn back to faith work and attended Wesley Theological Seminary in DC. She was fully ordained as an Elder in the United Methodist Church in 2016 in the Northern Illinois Conference (of which Dolton is a part).
During her ministry, Rachel has served at local churches and on college campuses in Chicago, the DC area, and Tennessee. She has held offices at every level of the church, including being a delegate at the denominational policy-setting body and she has been on the boards of directors for the General Commission on Religion and Race, the Connectional Table of the UMC, the National Council of Churches Intergenerational Thinktank, and Reconciling Ministries Network. As an organizer and pastor, Rachel mobilized Chicago-area churches to raise $1 million to combat malaria in nine months, doubled the size of her congregation, inspired a worship service to take over a street as part of a Black Live Matter action, and participated in civil disobedience to push for a fairer state budget.
Rachel currently serves as a community minister and works as Advocacy Manager for the Chicago Jobs Council, where she lobbies the Illinois legislature for laws that promote economic and racial equity and justice.
She lives on the South Side with her partner, Will. At home, you might find her reading, planning a service project, enjoying a meal with friends, or out in nature.