It was through the Indiana/Kentucky Conference of the United Churches of Christ that wan-ted to start a church in Gary. Because Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago was the largest in the denomination and the only African American church in the area they asked Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, pastor of Trinity, and Otis Seawood to be a part of organizing the church in Gary. Rev. Wright knew that Dena Neal-Holland, a member of his church, lived in Gary and knew the community so he asked her to be a part of the Gary church organization as well. It was during this time in 2005 that Neal-Holland answered her calling into the ministry.
She said, “I had no intention of staying in Gary, but God had something else planned for me. I told Rev. Dr. John E. Jackson, the pastor of the Gary Trinity UCC, that I would help get the church started, but that never happen-ed. In June of 2007 Rev. Jackson named me his assistant pastor, but two days later I was admitted to the hospital for over a year.”
Afterwards Neal-Holland was in seminary for three years to obtain her Masters degree in Theology. Rev. Jackson suggested to her that she get her license so that she could pastor a church. She said, “With that I knew I could go anywhere and pastor a church or participate in any type of ministry. I learned to say what I wanted, but God was steering me to something else.”
According to Neal-Holland, in order to be ordained you must have a calling. She said, “I am a minister in Gary and surrounding communities and I am able to provide information, attend engagements and provide transformation in representing the church. It amounts to a social justice ministry or involvement in the community. Since I’ve been ordained it has been non-stop. I have always been involved and it has been a blessing.”
She said, “It has really humbled me that God has brought me all the way through this and paved the way for me. I needed money to finish school, but I was in the hospital. It was truly a blessing from God that I was able to obtain the money to finish school.”