The Reverend Lydia E. Lebrón-Rivera was born and raised in Puerto Rico and attended both undergraduate and graduate schools on the Island. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from the Seminario Evangélico de Puerto Rico where she received an M.Div. The daughter of a pastor and raised in the church, she felt a call to ministry during her teen years, and has been involved in ministry all her life. She is passionate about issues of justice and human dignity. She traces the awakening of her social consciousness and her lifelong commitment to the struggle of the poor and the oppressed to her middle school years when she learned to think critically about the complex socio-economic and political issues surrounded her birth place and witnessed the heroism of Puertorrican women and men in their strive for self-determination and self-empowerment.
In the 80’s she arrived in New York and pursued religious orders in the New York Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. She was ordained an elder in 1987. In 1993 she received a Masters Degree in Sacred Theology from Union Theological Seminary in New York and has worked in pastoral and church related ministries ever since. Formative in her academic and spiritual journey has been liberation theologies, in particular that of the Brazilian Theologian Father Leonardo Boff and Ernesto Cardenal. She attributes her progressive theology to the teachings of theologians like the late Wade A. Eaton, Gustavo Gutierrez, James Cone and Phyllis Trible among others.
She was the pastor of La Resurrección Church in the South Bronx from 2006 to 2011 after serving in churches and other church-related offices. In 2011 she was appointed as pastor of Grace Church in the Upper Manhattan, leading both Hispanic and African American congregations. Under her leadership both congregations were merged in 2014 into one church and now are trying to expand and mirror the diversity of the neighborhood beyond racial lines. At Grace we are creating transformative and empowering spaces for those on the margins including women, youth, children, undocumented immigrants and LGBTQI communities.
During her years at La Resurrección she co-founded the South Bronx Community Congress, and led the church into active involvement in many of the of the issues affecting the people of the community such as joining the Band of Brothers protest of discriminatory policies at Woodland Cemetery, fighting post office closings, protesting the Yankee organization’s failure to keep its promises to the community, fighting against gun violence, police shootings of innocent youth; ICE detentions among many other injustices perpetrated against the people of the South Bronx. She has also allied with other progressive organizations committed to seeking the liberation of Puerto Rico from the grip of U.S. colonialism, and ending the U.S. embargo against Cuba.
“Identification with the plight of impoverished people and with the victims of systemic injustice is at the core of Christ’s message in the gospel,” states Rev. Lebrón. “You cannot stand for Jesus and not get involved in the struggle to create a more just and inclusive society.” “The greatest joy in my life is to daily affirm God’s grace to all God’s creation, that every human being is sacred and free, and that we all are part of a wonderful diverse creation where everyone and everything exists for goodness and beauty.” She further maintains: “The church belongs to all and the people of God should strive to break down walls and to build community among all God’s children.”