Obituary for Jill Kirchner-Rose

Rev. Dr. Jill Kirchner-Rose passed from life to Life, due to colon cancer, on June 30, 2023, in Redlands, California, at the age of 54. She was preceded in death by her brother, Hank Kirchner. She is survived by her wife Karen Rose, daughter Daniella Kirchner-Rose, sister-in-law Karen Kirchner, nephew Chris (Stacy) Kirchner, and niece Lauren Twig (Ryan).

Jill was a beloved pastor and community leader, widely recognized for her dynamic preaching and uplifting presence. She was an avid reader, star athlete, animal lover, and world traveler. Born in Redlands, California, to Harold and Dona Kirchner, Jill knew from a young age that she was called to be a pastor. It was “in her bones.” After graduating from Redlands High School in 1987, she received her B.A. in Liberal Studies from University of California (Riverside) in 1991. Jill completed the Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School in 1994 and the Doctor of Ministry in Preaching from Chicago Theological Seminary in 2001.

After teaching math, psychology, and speech at Arrowhead Christian Academy (1994-1996), Jill began her first ministry position as the Associate Pastor for the University Christian Church in San Diego. She served in that role for over 18 years (1996-2014). Parishioners, young and old, remember her as “a source of comfort and encouragement” and “always responsive to those in need.” During her first sabbatical, Jill studied Sufism and was very inspired by Rumi’s ecstatic love poetry, which solidified her view of God as Love.

In 2010, Jill married Karen, a professional and multi-talented woman who moved her life from St. Louis to San Diego to be with Jill. Jill often said, “Karen sacrificed a lot to be with me. She is a devoted spouse. It was not easy to be a pastor’s wife, but she did so with common sense and social grace. She greatly increased my awareness of social justice and the suffering of the disenfranchised.”

In 2015, Jill began her ministry as the Senior Pastor of the Redlands United Church of Christ (RUCC), the very congregation in which she had been a youth member and preached her first sermon. In 2016, Jill and Karen were thrilled to adopt their baby, Daniella (Jill’s grandniece), a “miracle child” who survived a difficult birth. Though Jill served at RUCC only eight years, her ministry made an indelible impact. In the church and in the larger community, she sought to create a space of grace for all people. Parishioners recall: “She guided me through the hardest time in my life.” “Her vibrant warmth and her teachings changed me for the better.” “She had a way of deep listening and being so kind that everyone felt that they were her best friend!” “She is the best preacher I ever heard. Brilliant. Thought-provoking. Heartfelt.” As a lifelong animal lover, one of Jill’s favorite services was the annual Pet Blessing.

When the COVID-19 pandemic required the closing of church doors across the country, Pastor Jill worked tirelessly to uplift her congregation through virtual services and drive-by “showers of love” to the homes of church members who were alone or grieving. In the midst of rising death tolls and culture wars, she was steadfast in her message that “God’s love embraces us all.” She pastored her community through heartbreaking losses, while simultaneously holding space for their joys. Notably, the Redlands United Church of Christ is one of the few churches that grew during the pandemic.

Pastor Jill appreciated mystical poetry and often quoted it in her sermons, such as this line by St. Catherine of Siena: “Vulnerable we are, like an infant. We need each other’s care, or we will suffer.” Jill and her family are grateful for the love and care of the many people who prayed for them and encouraged them during Jill’s illness.

Her Memorial Service will be held on August 19, 2023, at 10 am, at the Redlands United Church of Christ, 168 Bellevue Avenue, Redlands, California. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made either to the Redlands United Church of Christ (Check To: RUCC), or to the custodial account created for the welfare of Jill’s eight-year-old daughter, Daniella (Check To: Daniella Kirchner-Rose). In either case, checks may be sent to this address:

Redlands United Church of Christ
ATTN: “In Memory of Jill”
168 Bellevue Ave
Redlands, CA 92373