In July, the Rev. Johnsie Cogman — pastor since 2011 of Mt. Zion Church on 29th Street in Georgetown — will become superintendent of the Washington East District of the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Her last Sunday preaching at historic Mt. Zion will be June 9, she said.
She succeeds the Rev. Rebecca Iannicelli, who has been appointed by Bishop LaTrelle Easterling to serve the Annapolis District as superintendent.
Cogman said that she tends to address life and ministry “wholeheartedly” and with a smile. The smile is intentional, she explained, a way of addressing the world with joy. She doesn’t take that joy for granted. At times, in fact, it means more to her because it was forged in a refiner’s fire, crafted from a series of tragic circumstances.
Before entering the ministry, Cogman was an Air Force officer. At every assignment, from Michigan to Japan to Delaware to the D.C. area, she served with the base chaplain, directing the choir and providing pastoral care to service members and their families. In that service, she said, she began to sense a call to ministry, but wore out a lot of running shoes running from her calling.
Part of the reason for her running was anger. It began in 1986 with the death of her adoptive mother. Two years later, she ended her marriage to an abusive husband. And less than a month later, her three-year-old son Stevie died.
Two years after that, her biological father, whom she had gotten close to, died. The death of her newborn daughter Bianca followed. Her twin sons, Jacob and James, were born two years later. They have grown to be exceptional young men, but when they were young Cogman was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer.
This incident, and God’s continual and insistent call upon her life, nudged her “to want to bring some joy,” she said. “When you see so much evil, hurt and sadness in the world, people need to see my joy. They don’t need to know my story, but I hope my story — and my smile — connects with theirs.”
In 1990, Cogman felt the calling. “I heard God clear as day,” she said. “God said, ‘I told you to inspire people with my words, not your words. So now, go.’”
Her twin sons, who are finishing up their theological studies, have answered their own distinct calls and are certified candidates for ordained ministry in the Baltimore-Washington Conference. Another vital part of her life is her relationship with her husband Billy. “I could not be without him,” she said.
Prior to coming to Mt. Zion, Cogman served Zion Wesley UMC in Waldorf and Bells UMC in Camp Springs, Maryland.
“I am very humbled to be invited to serve at this table,” she said.