Pastoral Staff

Rev. Dr. Carmin Frederick James
Associate Pastor to Youth


Rev. Carmin A. Frederick-James holds a Master of Divinity from the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology-Virginia Union University, a Master of Health Sciences in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Governors State University, a Bachelor of Science in Speech and Hearing Science, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.   She is currently working toward her Doctor of Ministry at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, Indiana and anticipates graduation in 2018.  Her project will include the development of greater congregational intimacy with God and their community.  She was ordained by the Chicago Metropolitan Association in March of 2014.

Rev. James is wife to Mr. Durell James and the mother of a blending family including four children--Kristan, Van, Deanna, Adin and two dogs, Grayson and Phoebe.  Her hobbies include reading, writing, and cooking. Her favorite scripture is Isaiah 43:16-20 (The Message), “Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.” Her favorite prayer is “The Peace Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.”


Rev. Gwendolyn Kirkland
Associate Pastor of Stewardship


Rev. Gwendolyn V. Kirkland was called into ministry in January 2002. After answering her call, Rev. Gwendolyn attended Chicago Theological Seminary part-time for six years while continuing to maintain her financial services practice. Rev. Gwendolyn is a May 2008 graduate of Chicago Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity degree. A former member of Trinity United Church of Christ, Rev. Gwendolyn was ordained in ministry in the United Church of Christ in March 2010. She is currently serving in the capacity of Associate Pastor of Stewardship at Covenant United Church of Christ in South Holland, Illinois.

Rev. Gwendolyn has contributed to articles and has been quoted in Essence, N’Digo, The Chatham Citizen, Money Magazine, Black Enterprise, Ebony, and The Bulletin. At Covenant, Rev. Gwendolyn helped to implement electronic giving while working hard on the Capital Campaign. She teaches a monthly New Members’ Class on Stewardship and Discipleship and provides a monthly insert to the bulletin on Stewardship. Rev. Gwendolyn serves as Pastoral Liaison for the Green Ministry and the Stewardship Ministry in addition to serving on the Endowment Committee.

Rev. Gwendolyn serves the wider church as a Board Member of the United Church Funds and Stewardship Committee member of the Illinois Conference. Rev. Gwendolyn Kirkland was featured in the November 2013 Chicago Magazine as a Five Star Wealth Manager Award recipient.

Rev. Ethel Southern
Associate Pastor of Pastoral Care and Education


Rev. Ethel Southern received a Bachelor of Arts from DePaul University, and a Master of Divinity from Chicago Theological Seminary. As of January 2009, she will receive a Master of Counseling from National Louis University. Ethel is a charter member of Covenant United Church of Christ and has been actively involved in the life of the church since the first Sunday of the church. Ethel has been blessed to serve in a variety of capacities where her gifts are utilized. They have included; facilitating the oral preparation of Deacons in Training, organizing and implementing educational tutoring services for students of CUCC and the community.

Annually, Ethel organizes the back to school activities for elementary, high school and college students of the church. Additionally, each fall she works diligently with the James Capers Foundation, high school seniors and their parents in obtaining college admission, scholarships and grants. For the last four years Ethel has worked in the capacity of assisting with the Pastoral Care of members who are hospitalized, bereaved or in need of counseling. Rev. Ethel has been married to Samuel Southern for the past thirty years and they are the proud parents of three daughters Fiesha (Deonte), Ambra (Garrard), Breana and one son Savion.


Rev. Keitric Emory
Assistant Associate Pastor to Youth


Rev. Keitric L. Emory is a Chicago native. Keitric was ordained as a Deacon in 1999 under the leadership of the Rev. Dr. Joseph L. Henry, Pastor of Omega M.B. Currently; he is currently serving as Associate Youth Pastor at Covenant United Church of Christ, under the leadership of Rev Dr. Ozzie E. Smith Jr. in South Holland, IL. He also serves as the pastoral liaison to the Married Couples Ministry, and is a member of Men's Fellowship. Keitric has a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Science from Eureka College, Eureka, IL. He is currently seeking a Master of Divinity from McCormick Theological seminary in Chicago, IL. Keitric is married to Dr. Lakshmi Emory and together they share and enjoy life with their daughters, Ashley, Kyla and their grandson Cameron.

Rev. Troy Underwood
Associate Pastor of Biblical Studies


Servant, teacher, and preacher are words that best describe the lifestyle, ministry, and passion of Troy C. Underwood. Born and raised in the church, Rev. Troy has served in pastoral ministry for 13 years. A graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, Rev. Underwood earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. Subsequent to receiving the Master of Divinity Degree from Chicago Theological Seminary in May 2011, Rev. Troy was licensed into the Christian Ministry at Greater Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church under the late Rev. Dr. A. Lincoln James, Sr., where he served in many leadership capacities.

In 2008, Rev. Troy and his wife became members of Covenant United Church of Christ in South Holland, Illinois under the pastorate of Rev. Dr. Ozzie Smith, Jr. Rev. Troy serves as pastoral liaison to many of Covenant's ministries: Music Ministry, SHARE Ministry, Men's Fellowship, Boy Scouts, and Male Mentoring. Rev. Troy also facilitates two of Covenant's bible study classes, Bible Basics and Men's Bible Study. In addition to serving at Covenant, Rev. Troy is Director of Learning Technology for Kaplan Higher Education Campuses. He also serves as the Chairperson on the Urban Clinical Pastoral Education committee for the Urban CPE Consortium, which provides training in the art of pastoral care within the urban context. Rev. Troy is joyfully married and a devoted husband to Katherine Underwood, and he is a loving step-father to Zecilia Ann Vantrease, and grandfather to Zaire Anthony.


Rev. Ramah E. Wright
Associate Pastor to Women


Rev. Ramah E. Wright serves as the Associate Pastor to Women on the pastoral staff of Covenant United Church of Christ in South Holland, Illinois. She is also the co-founder of Sistahs In Sync, Inc., an organization dedicated to promoting a spirit of cooperation and interdependence among women that fosters a healthy and productive future for blended families. Rev. Wright is a native of Chicago, Illinois, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree and a Master of Science degree in Mathematics from Chicago State University. For nineteen years, she taught high school mathematics and served as the math lab coordinator in the Chicago Public School system.

In 2004, Rev. Wright earned the Master of Divinity degree from Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois. As a result of her commitment to God, her ministry to the people of God, and her academic training, Trinity United Church of Christ called her to serve as the Associate Pastor for Adolescents (Teens) and Women in 2005. In January, 2010, she was ordained by the Chicago Metropolitan Association of the United Church of Christ. Rev. Ramah is married to the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. Prior to Dr. Wright’s retirement as pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, they served together as copartners in ministry to over 8,000 members. They are the proud parents of a blended family of five children and they have three grandchildren.

Rev. Robert E. Buckner, II
Associate Pastor to Young Adults



Rev. Robert E. Buckner II, has served youth, young adults, singles and pastoral care, since accepting his call to ministry. He currently serves at Covenant United Church of Christ, under the leadership of, Rev. Dr. Ozzie E. Smith, Jr. and Rev. Dr. Patrick L. Daymond, as the Associate Pastor to Young Adults and Men. Rev. Buckner also serves as a member of the Congregational Life Committee of the Chicago Metropolitan Association of the Illinois Conference of the United Church of Christ. Rev. Buckner holds a B.A. in Political Science from Western Illinois University and a Master of Divinity from McCormick Theological Seminary.

Beyond academic pursuits, he has been an itinerant lecturer and preacher. His encounters with diverse believers has led him to draw on the simplicity of the Word, while digging for the richness that can only come with a true encounter with Christ. His writing, preaching and teaching seeks to draw out the undiscovered personal needs of the people, to develop an unencumbered personal relationship with God. This is best espoused in his book, “Lost In Church Translation: Finding Christ In Christianity.”

Rev. Buckner is a Lifetime member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Rev. Buckner is the husband of the former Mary Elizabeth Francies and they are proud parents of sons, Caleb and Micah.