Pastor of Church Life and Innovation

Pastor Desiree Elder

Desiree Elder—originally from Southern California—serves as the Associate Pastor of Arts and Spiritual Formation at First Corinthian Baptist Church (FCBC) in New York. She dually serves as the Executive Visionary of The Dream Center, a multi-generational space in Harlem that focuses on free inventive programming designed to awaken dreams.

After only a year in New York, she was offered a full scholarship for a Masters in Divinity at Union Theological Seminary, followed by an internship at FCBC where she quickly began to excel, grow, and catalytically change the atmosphere of the environment. It is in this vibrant space where Desiree grew from member to intern, followed by minister in 2012, Executive Visionary of The Dream Center in 2013, and finally Pastor in April of 2014. Just like her unconventional path, Desiree continues to redefine and reimagine tradition and standard; exploring innovative approaches to clergy, ministry, and women’s roles in the African American church structure. She fearlessly delves topics such as sexuality, black bodies and its role in spiritualism, and sacred vs. secular. Her limitless creativity and tireless work ethic have attributed to countless projects, programs, and initiatives at FCBC, including Freestyle Friday services, Spiritual Formation (FCBC’s discipleship education and development program), and overseeing the praise dance ministry to name a few.

Under her leadership, The Dream Center has thrived, offering over 40 different original free programs and events to the Harlem community in the areas of leadership development, creative arts, and economic empowerment. A multicultural space, The Dream Center serves over 4,000 Harlem residents annually. Marketing, writing, theatre, yoga, DIY mobile apps, entrepreneurship, Home-buying and credit repair seminars are just a few of the innovative free programs developed under Desiree’s leadership. Possibly Desiree’s magnum opus is the development and artistic direction of The Sanctuary at FCBC, an imaginative utilization of FCBC’s 1500-seat theatre space, bringing in real headliners and real dollars into the space so its vital community work can continue. Previous acts at The Sanctuary include: Tasha Cobbs, Yolanda Adams, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Kim Burrell, Daniel Beaty, Broadway Inspirational Voices, and more.

In 2015, Desiree Elder was selected to be a fellow in the 2015/2016 AMEX Black Agency Executives Fellows Project. She was also recognized by Harlem Community News and Health First as one of the “Women Who Nurture the Church and Harlem Community.” In 2016, she launched, an innovative online platform and blog for progressive fire-starting women.

Desiree makes her home in the Bronx with her husband Tony Elder and their gorgeous identical twin baby girls: Nyah and Niaya.


Q: What is the most disturbing sound you know of?

A: I absolutely hate the sound of Styrofoam. It makes me nauseous.

Q: If you could only eat one more meal, what would it be?

A: Pizza, definitely pizza.

Q: What’s on your bedside table?

A: A lamp, candle, my cell phone, and whatever book I am reading.

Q: If the whole world was listening and you say one thing about Jesus, what would it be?

A: All you need to know about discovering who you really are and how to treat humanity is evident in the life of Jesus.


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