Rev. Dr. Bernice Powell Jackson

Rev. Dr. Bernice Powell Jackson is an activist on behalf of human and civil rights, women’s rights, and has been an advocate for peace with justice and ecumenism around the world, including serving as president of the North American region of the World Council of Churches for nine years. She just finished her term as co-president of HOPE (Hillsborough Organization for Progress and Equality) and still chairs its Criminal Justice Committee.  Serving on the UCC national staff for nearly two decades, Pastor Bernice was the founding Executive Minister of Justice and Witness Ministries and one of five officers of the denomination. She also served as Executive Director of the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice. Prior to that, she served as the director of the Bishop Tutu Southern African Refugee Scholarship Fund, where she was also the Archbishop’s U.S. representative. Born and raised in Washington, D.C., she is a graduate of Wilson College and holds master’s degrees from the Columbia University School of Journalism and Union Theological Seminary and received honorary doctor of humane letters degrees from Defiance College and the Florida Center for Theological Studies. Pastor Bernice is married to Dr. Franklyn Jackson, a retired school administrator, for nearly 25 years.

Rev. Dr. Esther Robles
Pastora Asistente para Comunidades Hispanas
Assistant Pastor for Hispanic Communities

Esther Robles es ministro ordenado de la Iglesia Cristiana (Discípulos de Cristo) en los Estados Unidos y Canadá. Es a través del convenio fraternal entre la Iglesia Unida de Cristo y la Iglesia Cristiana (Discípulos de Cristo), que con gozo la recibimos como nuestra pastora asociada para el ministerio hispano. 
Esther recibió su Maestría en Divinidad y Doctorado en Ministerio con énfasis en liderazgo y discipulado misional del Seminario Teológico de Asbury. Pastoreó una iglesia hispana por 13 años y actualmente sirve como profesora para el programa, Latino Ministry Formation de Asbury, y como mentora para el ministerio Hope Partnership para la Transformación Misional. 
Esther es mujer soltera que ha llenado su vida en servicio al Señor Jesucristo a través de la música, la predicación, la enseñanza y la escritura. Gran parte de su deleite en el ministerio es poder combinar estos encantos y así ampliar la formación espiritual de vidas. Para ella, estas cosas no son estáticas sino altamente dinámicas y se expresan en la compasión, la justicia y el servicio humilde. Ella siente que uno de sus textos bíblicos favoritos resume bien la dirección de su vida: 
Y los tuyos edificarán las ruinas antiguas; los cimientos de generación y generación levantarás, y serás llamado “reparador de portillos”, “restaurador de viviendas en ruinas.”
-Isaías 58:12

Esther Robles is an ordained minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada. It is through the partnership between the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) that with joy we welcome her as our associate minister for the Hispanic ministry.
Esther received her Master’s in Divinity and Doctorate of Ministry with an emphasis on leadership and missional discipleship from Asbury Theological Seminary. She pastored a Hispanic church for 13 years and currently serves as adjunct professor for Asbury’s Latino Ministerial Formation Program, and as mentor for Hope Partnership for Missional Transformation.
Esther is single woman who has filled her life in service to the Lord Jesus Christ through music, preaching, teaching, and writing. A great deal of her delight in ministry rests in being able to bond these joys and thus deepen the spiritual formation of people. For her, these things are not static but highly dynamic and are expressed through compassion, justice, and humble service. She feels that one of her favorite bible verses sums up well the compass of her life:
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called repairer of broken walls, restorer of streets with dwellings.
-Isaiah 58:12

Rev. Paul Werner

Rev. Paul Werner was called by the congregation to be our Assistant Pastor for Digital Ministries in 2020. He previously served as Designated Pastor of Trinity Congregational UCC in Winter Haven and as Pastor of St. Andrew UCC in Sarasota before returning to First United Church of Tampa. Paul is originally from the New York metro area, and you will still hear faint traces of his New York accent!


Paul has been teaching Spanish and ESL (English as a Second Language) to middle school, high school, and college students for 20 years. He has a bachelor’s degree in Spanish, a master’s degree in Foreign Language Education (Spanish), and a graduate certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language from the University of South Florida, and he earned his Master of Divinity from the Florida Center for Theological Studies (which has since merged into St. Thomas University in Miami). He was ordained at First United Church of Tampa in 2013. He served as student clergy at our church while in seminary, and he was our Assistant Pastor in 2015-2017.


As our Assistant Pastor for Digital Ministries, Paul provides leadership and coordination for a hybrid worship experience that includes in-person and online worship. He provides social media outreach for our English and Spanish services and also assists with and leads worship services.


What makes Paul “tick” is his passion for social and economic justice. He believes that the poor, oppressed, marginalized, and vulnerable are particularly loved by God, and that we are to emulate the actions and teachings of Jesus to work for justice and peace for all people and end the sin of systemic injustice. Paul is interested in how churches can express a progressive Christian faith with prophetic voices and actions to promote justice, peace, equality, and liberation for all.

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Fernando López Gutiérrez
Director Musical y Pianista
Musical Director and Pianist

Fernando López es originario de Sonora, México. Aunque sus estudios musicales han sido enfocados mayormente en la música occidental, Fernando no se ha limitado a explorar e incluso dominar diversos estilos. Actualmente se dedica a la ejecución de su instrumento tanto como solista como acompañante, así como también a la enseñanza, contando con un amplio número de alumnos. Fernando es graduado de la Escuela de Música de la Universidad de Arizona y más recientemente de la Universidad del Sur de Florida, en donde recibió su Maestría en Música.

Fernando López is originally from Sonora, Mexico. Although his musical studies have focused primarily on Western music, he has not kept himself from exploring and mastering various styles. Currently he works not only as a soloist, but also as an accompanist and a teacher for a large number of students. Fernando graduated from the School of Music at the Univeristy of Arizona and recently graduated from the Univerisity of South Florida, where he received his Master of Music degree. 

Darlene Hopkins
Administrative Assistant

Darlene is a native of Tampa. She is a proud grandmother of five and enjoys traveling.

Jorge Cerdas

Jorge is a native of Costa Rica. He is meticulous and takes excellent care of our facilities.