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Chris and Jenn Atwood

Whitworth couple revitalizing historic Miami church

God is on the move in downtown Miami, where Chris '03 and Jenn (Putnam) Atwood '04 are infusing new life into a formerly run-down historic church. Chris serves as senior pastor at First Miami Presbyterian Church, founded in 1896, and Jenn is communications director.

When the Atwoods arrived in 2011, only 10 attendees gathered weekly in First Miami's 1,000-seat sanctuary. The church has since grown to 250 members, with 400 attendees participating in Sunday worship.

"The church just needed someone to have leadership and vision to see how people's lives could be transformed," Jenn says.

The Atwoods have brought about First Miami's transformation in part by creating a dynamic worship service, developing a children's ministry program, and setting a standard that all members serve, give and connect. And then there's Chris' popular Pub Theology night, where gatherers ask him questions about anything.

"We try to create space in our church and in our hearts for God to work." Chris says. "It's amazing what can happen when we do that."

Chris incorporates insights from his Whitworth theology and philosophy courses into his weekly sermon preparation. Jenn credits Professor Emeritus of Sociology Raja Tanas with showing her how to understand others through new lenses, a skill she particularly values now as she works with a primarily Latin American community.

"We want First Miami to be a place that has a substantial impact on the city," Chris says, "that speaks for justice and mercy, and that compellingly communicates the love of God to those around us."

Chris and Jenn's story appears in the fall 2018 issue of Whitworth Today magazine, available here.