Archwood UCC
Want to reach us?
Please scroll down on this page
for contact information. You can also find a list of our recent guest preachers and a brief history of our congregation here.

Welcome to Archwood’s staff, Esther! Esther Baruja, M.Div., began a one-year engagement as our part-time Worship Coordinator and Leader on Jan. 25, 2016. She coordinates all services in cooperation with our Worship Team, preaching twice a month and securing guest preachers for other Sundays. She prepares the Sunday bulletin and leads Bible studies and other spiritual-growth programs. A team of Archwood leaders appointed by Moderator Judy Schumann drafted Esther’s position description and contract, which emerged from our New Beginnings process. Esther is still working separately with the Western Reserve Association of the United Church of Christ on starting a new, progressive Hispanic ministry based in our neighborhood, for which she was originally brought to Cleveland. She lives in our parsonage with her partner, Kati, and their little baby, Tekové -- plus two cats and a dog. Authorized as a Licensed Minister of the United Church of Christ, Esther has a B.A. degree in clinical psychology from her native Paraguay. She began her ministerial studies in the Program in Sacred Scriptures at ISEDET Seminary in Argentina and later transferred to Chicago Theological Seminary, where she finished her divinity degree. Her studies focused on what she describes as "theological-based liberation from multi-level oppressions at the intersections of race, class and gender, as a Latina woman living in the U.S." She is in the process of seeking authorization as an Ordained Minister. We first met Esther, Kati and Tekové in June 2015, and Esther was a guest preacher with us on various Sundays in October and December of that year.

How to reach us

at Archwood United Church of Christ

Here is whom to contact for various needs and questions:

Pastoral care. The Rev. Wayne Brass, a member of Archwood and an experienced local church pastor and hospital chaplain, responds to pastoral care needs. Please call or text him at 216-394-6421.

Building use. Donna Ressler coordinates our building calendar and relationships with our space sharers. We continue to welcome neighbors and community partners to make arrangements to use our historic building. Please email her at, call Donna at 216-905-7685, or leave a message at the church office, 216-351-1060 and ask Donna to contact you.

Worship. Want to read scripture, lead prayer, serve as a greeter, offer special music? Speak with Worship Coordinator and Leader Esther Baruja or send an email to the church office, Also, Grace Schumann is available to provide children's activities in the parlor during sermon time each Sunday. If you're interested in taking part in that ministry, contact Grace at

Governance. Moderator Judy Schumann and the Governing Body keep our organizational life going and make sure there are “point people” for functions such as those described above. Questions? Contact Judy at

          Church office. Feel free to leave a voice mail message at Archwood’s phone number, 216-351-1060, or send an email to All will be checked regularly.

Recent preachers at Archwood
Back in our pulpit on July 17, 2016, was the Rev. Dr. Carl P. Wallace, a longtime Northeast Ohio pastor and leader in the national setting of the United Church of Christ. A frequent guest at Archwood in the early 2000s, Carl most recently served from 2008 to 2015 as Senior Pastor of Trinity UCC, Akron. Under his leadership, the church carried out such ministries as Trinity in the Community, with free clothing, food and emergency financial assistance; Mothers on a Mission Spiritually, reaching out to young mothers; and the Empowering Scholars Project, serving homeless students and families. Previously he served as pastor of Trinity UCC, Cleveland, and Union Congregational Church, Painesville, and as Executive Associate of the UCC's national Justice and Witness Ministries. Among his responsibilities there was serving as Project Team Leader for the Gulf Coast Justice Initiative. He also previously was leader of a national UCC task force promoting public education as a fundamental civil right. Carl's academic degrees include a B.A. from Tufts University, Medford, Mass.; an M.Div. from Ashland (Ohio) Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Divinity from United Theological Seminary, Dayton, Ohio. He'll next preach for us on March 19.

A Brief History

of Archwood United Church of Christ

Founded in 1819, Archwood is the oldest congregation of the United Church of Christ in the city of Cleveland. We are also the result of a merger of Archwood Congregational Church and Fourth Evangelical and Reformed Church in 1967, which followed the national merger of those two denominations in 1957. 
In the 1950s the membership of Archwood Church was over 1,000 people, most of whom lived in our Brooklyn Centre neighborhood on Cleveland's Near West Side. When the freeways were built in the 1960s, as many as 5,000 homes and businesses in our immediate area were torn down, causing an outward migration. Busing in the 1970s also caused some families to move to nearby suburbs. These changes contributed to the decline of the church, to such an extent that in the early 1990s there were only 30 people in worship on an average Sunday, most of whom were over 75 years of age. 
This struggling congregation found it difficult to find a pastor, and for three years, while actively searching, was served by an interim pastor. The regional UCC executive that assists congregations to find pastors suggested that they look at the candidacy of openly gay pastors, many of whom have difficulty finding placement, even though the UCC was the first denomination in the United States to ordain an openly gay man in 1972. 
(The UCC, through one of its predecessor bodies, the Congregational Church, was also the first in the U.S. to ordain a person of African descent, in the late 1700s, and the first to ordain a woman, in 1853.)
In 1992 the search committee came to a conclusion about the best qualified candidate and extended an invitation to David Bahr to preach a "call sermon," after which the congregation would vote. A two-thirds majority was required to extend a call, and the margin was exactly two-thirds. Most, but not all, of those persons who voted against his call left the church immediately. Cleveland's daily newspaper, The Plain Dealer, carried the news that the church had called an openly gay man as its pastor. Visitors, gay and non-gay, started coming to the church and becoming members. The long-time members who remained were exceptionally loving and welcoming. 
An Open and Affirming Covenant was developed to make explicit the church's welcome of all people and which expressed its commitment to be intentional in growing as a multicultural, multiracial congregation. A few years later our diversity further developed as we began providing interpretation for deaf and hearing impaired individuals. 
In 2001 we began to consider an explicit statement of our commitment to justice and peace. From that we developed a Just Peace Covenant, similar to those of other UCC congregations.
The Rev. David Bahr concluded his ministry at Archwood in the fall of 2007 upon receving a call from a UCC congregation in Denver, Colo. There followed a period of search and call during which the church was served successively by three interim ministers: the Rev. Joan Salmon-Campbell, the Rev. Stephen Adams and the Rev. Ruth Garwood.
The Rev. Sara Ross was called as Archwood's pastor in December 2010 and served from Jan. 1, 2011, to June 30, 2015, when she relocated to Connecticut to be reunited with her family and pursue other callings in ministry.