The Reverend Marie Mainard O’Connell was born in Springdale, Arkansas, and grew up in Carrollton, Texas. She holds a Bachelor of Arts (BA) from Hendrix College where she graduated with an interdisciplinary major in Holistic Health and a minor in Religion. She later received a Master’s Degree in College Administration from the University of Central Arkansas. While in Conway, she joined First Presbyterian Church of Conway, AR, and was baptized as an adult at the tender age of 23.
After serving as Program Coordinator for the Office of Student Engagement at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Virginia, and the birth of their first child, Katie, Marie answered the call to ministry. She graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Master’s in Divinity from New Brunswick Theological Seminary in New Jersey in 2012 with a senior project in Human Trafficking, and highest honors in preaching and academics. While in seminary, she interned as a hospital chaplain and gave birth to her second child, Kevin, which she finds to be an important point in her story, because there is always a child somewhere nearby.
She returned to Arkansas; where she found herself the co-moderator and chaplain for the Occupy Little Rock Encampment. She moved to First Presbyterian Church of Little Rock, where she was ordained and pastored for three years. She has enjoyed advocacy work with the state legislature on issues of gun rights in churches and LGBTQ rights.
Following the birth of her third, and, hopefully, final child, Jon, Marie served as the Young Adult Volunteer Coordinator at Ferncliff Camp and Conference Center, and then as the Interim Minister for Congregational Care and Fellowship at Second Presbyterian Church in Little Rock. Eventually the Spirit led her to the congregation of Park Hill Presbyterian Church in North Little Rock in 2018; where she currently heads a small but mighty staff and leads a congregation just over 100 persons.
Marie has been honored to serve on the Board of the Center for Artistic Revolution, an LGBTQ resource and activist advocacy group, as well as a brief stint as the Interim Director of the Industrial Areas Foundation organization of the Greater Little Rock Organizing Committee in 2016. She is grateful to serve on the leadership team of the Mosaic Church Diversity Circle Discussion Group and she co-founded the Bridge Builders Reading Group, a community book club on issues of race and class. Marie also assisted in founding Mercy Church of Little Rock, a worshiping community of those experiencing homelessness.
She has served on the Presbytery of Arkansas’s Committee for the Future of the Church, assisting in the closure of two congregations, and currently moderates the Committee on Representation. Marie is grateful to serve as a commissioner from Arkansas Presbytery and to stand as Co-Moderator for the 224th General Assembly.
“I feel called to serve as Co-Moderator because of the swift impact of the Coronavirus on the church and families, and the overwhelming sense that ministry is changing rapidly and permanently. The future is now; and we are the hands and feet of Christ for today; let us act like it.