The Rev. A. Iona Smith Nze is the eldest of three daughters born to Jehue Nelson and Sarah Cole Smith. She credits her parents for the solid spiritual, academic and social foundation they provided for her during meals at her family’s kitchen table. Mt. Calvary African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Towson, MD - the family’s home church for generations, and Union United Methodist Church in Boston, Massachusetts were the churches of her youth. Rev. Smith Nze sought out her call at St. Paul AME and the Historic Charles Street AME Churches in Boston.
Rev. Smith Nze is a graduate of the prestigious Lily Foundation funded program, Transition-Into-Ministry Pastoral Residency Program at Charles Street AME Church in Boston and was a Pastor- Scholar at Boston University. She is a graduate of Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and earned a Master of Divinity degree. She attended Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia and Suffolk University in Boston. Rev. Nze accepted the call to pastoral ministry in 1994, under the leadership of Rev. Dr. LeRoy Attles.
Rev. Nze, as she is most often called, accepted the call to ministry in 1994, under the pastoral leadership of Rev. Dr. LeRoy Attles, then pastor of St. Paul AME Church in Cambridge. She was ordained an Itinerant Deacon in 2004 at Bethel AME Church in Bridgeport, Connecticut by Bishop Zedekiah L. Grady, and as an Itinerant Elder in 2006, by Bishop Richard F. Norris at Grant AME Church. She has served four of the seven annual conferences in the First Episcopal District.
On July 21, Bishop Gregory G.M. Ingram appointed Rev. Nze as the new Pastor of Bethel AME Church in Bridgeport, CT. She is the former Pastor of Bethlehem Burlington, (NJ) Mt. Zion Ellendale, (DE) and DeLaine Waring AME (WNY) churches.
At Mt. Zion Ellendale, Rev. Nze was a visionary Servant-Leader and Teacher. Smith Nze has led the congregation in the reduction of its mortgage by nearly $50,000, revitalized the parsonage through a facelift; inspired visitors to become members and leaders in the church, restimulated the church’s commitment to youth and young adults, reinvigorated the participation of the church elders and endeavored to preach and teach the gospel.
She is the First Vice-President of the First Episcopal District Women in Ministry and the immediate past Coordinator of WIM for the Delaware Annual Conference. Until her transfer, Rev. Nze was a Trustee of the Delaware Annual Conference, Member of the Board of Examiners, Instructor for the Ministerial Institute and served on the Finance, Budget and Ministerial Efficiency Committees. Rev. Nze is also a past President of the Delaware Conference Ministerium and currently served as the Treasurer of the Dover District Ministerium and she is the Past Chair of the Dover District Committee on Ministerial Orders. She is the Past President of the Ellendale Community and Civic Improvement Association. During her tenure, she stabilized the organization’s structure, invited and secured the commitment of state and federal resources for clean drinking water and led the ECCIA through the transition of its leadership.
Rev. Nze was a history maker in the Western New York and New Jersey Annual Conferences, being appointed in both churches, DeLaine Waring and Bethlehem, as the first women to pastor those congregations. During her tenure in Western New York, Smith Nze led a capital campaign and succeeded in completing the project of church restoration with a total of $200,000 in renovations. Nze was a member of the Finance Committee and Treasurer of Women in Ministry in the WNY Conference and served Greater Buffalo as President of the African Methodist Minister’s Alliance of Greater Buffalo, representing 13 African-American Methodist congregations of AME, AME Zion, Christian Methodist Episcopal and United Methodist (UMC) pastors and churches and received several awards for her work in the Buffalo community.
Prior to her pastoral calling, Rev. Smith Nze was employed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the Secretariats of Elder Affairs and Public Safety (Registry of Motor Vehicles) in the areas of Public Relations Director, EEO Compliance, writing the first Executive Order for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that enabled new immigrants to obtain identification for work. She also became the first civilian of color to serve as a local Registrar of Motor Vehicles, generating $12 million per year. Her work has earned several promotions and awards. She also served as an Executive Director of a community-based organization (CBO) and Settlement House, providing youth and family services to a diverse immigrant community, and seeded may start-up CBO’s by providing executive office space. She has served as a Project Manager for an extension ministry of St. Paul AME Church; as a curriculum developer, facilitator and trainer of psycho-educational programs for a large mental health organization and worked as an Adjunct faculty member at Cambridge College teaching in the fields of Human Services and Multi-Cultural Psychology. Today, she is a Consultant to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Catholic Charities, assisting these non-profits with facilitation and strategies for organizational development and conflict resolution. She is the Founder and President of Heirlooms and Legacies – a Special Events and Rites of Passage company which was featured on “Sundays with Liz” on CBS-Channel 4, Boston, where Rev. Smith Nze has worked to build self-esteem and confidence in 21st century youth.
Rev. Smith Nze loves the work of every secular and sacred position she has held, but one outweighs the others – that is, the opportunity to be a mother. Today, she gives God praise for the 21 amazing years God gave her son, John Ikechukwu Nze Jr., (1985-2006) and looks forward to meeting him in Heaven one day.
Her favorite scripture: “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will praise you forever.” Psalm 30