Kimberly Orr named Publisher of The Upper Room
By Lindsay Peyton
Rev. Kimberly C. Orr is packing up her house in Houston and preparing to move to Nashville, where she will assume a new role -- leading The Upper Room’s global ministry. There is only one way this pastor in the Texas Annual conference can explain how everything fell into place to make the move possible. “It’s one of those God things,” she said.
Orr has served as Pastor of Spiritual Formation at Windsor Village UMC, Houston for the past 10 years. She was not looking for a new position, simply reading a devotional on The Upper Room website in August, when she noticed the opening.
The more she read the job description for Associate General Secretary of Discipleship Ministries and Upper Room publisher, the more it fit. All of her past experiences seemed meant to prepare her for the position.
“I just felt a call to apply,” Orr said. “It was out of the blue. I was not seeking anything, but this fit all of my ministry experiences, everything the Lord brought me through, from working for the opera to all the churches.”
The Upper Room is a global ministry dedicated to supporting the spiritual life of Christians seeking to know and experience God more fully. From its beginnings in 1935 as a daily devotional guide, The Upper Room has grown to include publications, programs, prayer support and other resources.
The Rev. Dr. Stephen Bryant, who has served as associate general secretary and Upper Room publisher since 2017, is retiring after more than three decades at Discipleship Ministries.
Orr started a lengthy interview process, and everyone from her Senior Pastor at the church to her District Superintendent to Bishop Scott J. Jones rallied around her in support. “The Lord was with me every step of the way,” she said.
Orr will start her new job on Jan. 1. “I’m very much looking forward to building on the foundation the Upper Room has worked to create,” she said. “The foundation is very solid, and I look forward to what God wants me to do to expand the reach of the Upper Room.”
As the United Methodist Church faces transitions in the future, Orr believes that the Upper Room can serve as a resource. “The Upper Room can be there are as a bastion of hope and healing,” she said.
In addition, she is eager to join in the Ecumenical work at the Upper Room. Recognized as an interfaith leader, she currently serves on the Interfaith council of Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston.
Still, leaving Windsor Village UMC will be difficult. “It’s hard, because I love being there,” Orr said. “I will be taking a lot of Windsor with me. I feel extremely blessed to be a part of the Windsor Village family.”
Originally from Livingston, Orr took an early interest in faith, music and technology. In fact, she felt a calling to become a pastor at only 6 or 7-years old. “I struggled with it my whole life,” she said. “I grew up in a tradition where there were no women in the pulpit. I had no models.”
Still, Orr had a role model in her grandmother that she could be anything she wanted. Her grandmother was a biblical scholar, who taught Sunday school, spoke Spanish and Latin and graduated in the second class to allow women at Stephen F. Austin State University.
As a young child, Orr remembers reading the Bible and learning its lessons with her grandmother. “I would line up all my dolls and stuffed animals and preach to them,” she said.
In the 1980s, her parents invested in an Apple IIc, the fourth model of personal computers. Before long, Orr was learning to code, creating her own games. “I always had a deep fascination with computers and their inner workings,” she said. “I used to deconstruct computers and trace their circuitry. I built my own computer as a young adult.”
She would later translate that love of technology to her work as a pastor – and now plans to use that skillset at the Upper Room.
As a child, Orr also began playing guitar and singing. Orr ended up pursuing music at Sam Houston State University, earning an undergraduate degree in music education. Then, she received a master’s degree in choral conducting from Rice University and planned to be a musician and a teacher upon graduation.
Instead, Orr started working at the Houston Grand Opera as the Associate International Tour Manager. “That was a wonderfully informative experience,” she said. “I was 26-years old, taking people all around the world.”
She answered her call to full-time pastoral ministry in 1998 and received her Master of Divinity degree from Asbury Theological Seminary in 2005. She was ordained a full elder in the United Methodist Church in 2009.
Orr served as Associate Pastor at Foundry UMC in Houston from 2001 to 2004, as Senior Pastor at Westwood UMC in Palestine the following year and as Pastor of Worshipping Arts at Chapelwood UMC in Houston from 2005 to 2007. She next became Associate Pastor and Interim Senior Pastor at West University UMC in Houston until 2010.
Orr is passionate about deep biblical study and gleaning truths from the Hebraic roots of the Christian faith. In the spring of 2010, she received her certificate of Jewish Learning from Hebrew University through the Florence Melton School for Adult Learning.
She is also interested in contemplative worship – and added services at almost every congregation she has served. Paired with her liturgical background and interest in spiritual formation, she brings a wealth of experience to her new post.
“This is a culmination for me – through the grace of God,” she said. “God has called me to express His word, whether that be through music, worship, writing, preaching or teaching. The Upper Room will give me the ability, in partnership with the team there, to continue to fulfill that mission.”