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The Reverend Jesse B. Garner

Jesse B. Garner.jpg

The Reverend Jesse B. Garner was born in Memphis, Tennessee, and was in high school there when Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered in the city, a tragedy which very much influenced the course of his life. He received his undergraduate education at Yale University and his seminary training at Harvard Divinity School. An ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA), Rev. Garner served churches in Tennessee and Alabama in a wide variety of settings (rural, urban, suburban) before moving in 2001 to First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia where he was pastor until his retirement in 2018.   


Since coming to Philadelphia, in addition to his parish activities, Rev. Garner has been an active member of the Presbytery of Philadelphia (PCUSA), and has served on various presbytery committees, was a longtime chair of the Nominating Committee, and chaired two Administrative Commissions addressing denominational concerns.  He was also a member of a presbytery team which made numerous trips to the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina to rebuild homes there.


Rev. Garner joined the board of Interfaith Philadelphia in 2009, and during his tenure has served as Board Secretary, Treasurer, and Chair. While he was the Chair of the Board of Directors, he oversaw Interfaith Philadelphia’s Year of Civil Conversations with Krista Tippett, bringing dialogue across difference to thousands of individuals in the Greater Philadelphia region. The year of dialogue shaped Interfaith Philadelphia’s future, still driving its direction and work today. 


Also while he was Chair, Interfaith Philadelphia responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by shifting programs and operations online without any lessening of our efforts in this important work. Rev. Garner has also chaired Interfaith Philadelphia’s DEI Committee since its inception during which time the organization has increased the racial, gender and religious diversity of both its Board and staff. He currently co-chairs one of the working groups in Interfaith Philadelphia’s strategic planning process.


Rev. Garner has also served on the boards of the Christian Association campus ministry at the University of Pennsylvania and Penn’s Village, and is currently “theologian in residence” at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Berwyn. His wife Allen is a retired schoolteacher. They have two daughters, Allen and Lela, who work for schools in California and Virginia.

About the Dare to Understand Award

Interfaith Philadelphia’s Dare to Understand® Award honors individuals, communities, and businesses of distinction, that have championed the work of interfaith engagement and understanding across lines of difference. Awardees lead their communities by example, demonstrating humility, curiosity, and respect, qualities imperative in interfaith work.


View full list of previous honorees

For questions about sponsorship or this event, please contact Sara Zebovitz at: or (215) 222-1012 x5

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