Educational Intensives are hour-long educational sessions led by unbiased experts on the subject matter of each resolution that will come before Synod. These sessions are designed to inform delegates who will eventually vote on each of the resolutions. Delegates should attend the intensive that is related to the committee to which they have been assigned. Committee assignments were sent via email in late May. Anyone who is registered for General Synod is welcome to attend any of the Intensives. Priority seating will be given to voting delegates. Intensives take place Friday, June 30 from 1:00pm until 2:00pm. Committee members will meet later Friday evening.
The Educational Intensive for Committee #1 will be led by:
The Rev. Dr. Bernice Powell Jackson currently serves as pastor of The First United Church of Tampa, a 132-year-old congregation of the United Church of Christ. From 2004-2013, Dr. Jackson was the North American President of the World Council of Churches, having been active in the ecumenical world for more than two decades. During that same time, she served as Executive Minister for Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ and as one of the five officers of that denomination. Dr. Jackson has more than four decades of experience in working for racial justice, women's rights, economic justice, and human rights around the world.
The Rev. Dr. Yvonne Delk is currently a member of the Historical Council of the UCC. She is the former Executive of the Community Renewal Society of Chicago. She was the first black woman to be ordained in the United Church of Christ and has served the denomination in leadership positions, including serving as the Director of its Office for Church in Society. She also served as the moderator of the Program to Combat Racism of the World Council of Churches. For 50 years, she has served as an educator, preacher, organizer, and a prophetic voice leading the fight for human and civil rights for people of color, children, and the poor throughout five continents. She is the founding Director of the Center for African American Theological Studies.
The Educational Intensive Leader for Committee #2 will be led by:
Ms. Chelsey Berlin is the director of B'Tselem USA, a nonprofit that builds support in the United States for the protection of human rights in the Occupied Territories. Ms. Berlin previously spent three years in the northern West Bank city of Nablus directing a service-learning program at Tomorrow's Youth Organization and a year in Tel Aviv as the recipient of a Dorot Fellowship in Israel. Ms. Berlin is the vice chair of HEKDESH, a national giving circle. She earned her BA in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies from Brandeis University.
The Educational Intensive for Committee #3 is led by:
Dr. Katherine Low is Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Chaplain at Mary Baldwin University in Staunton, Virginia, and is a Nebraska native. She grew up in the United Church of Christ and has been an ordained minister in the UCC since 2004. The role of biblical ideas in public life, especially regarding the intersections of biblical studies, gender studies, and cultural studies, is her overall research interest. She earned a PhD in biblical interpretation and is the author of several publications, including the book The Bible, Gender, and Reception History: The Case of Job's Wife. Engaged in interfaith work for over 15 years, Dr. Low focuses on religious diversity and interfaith dialogue in her role as Chaplain of Mary Baldwin University. She launched her podcast Women and Worldviews in celebration of such diversity and engagement in the women's college of the university. She currently holds standing in the Shenandoah Association of the Central Atlantic Conference of the United Church of Christ.
The Educational Intensive for Committee #4 will be led by:
The Rev. Rhyne moved to North Carolina in 1992 after retiring as an Air Force Chaplain (rank of Colonel). In the past 25 years, he has served as staff chaplain at the local medical center and Hospice and as co-pastor with his wife, Rev. Marion Rhyne, for several years. He has also been on many mission trips after hurricanes and floods and served as chaplain for the UCC Disaster Ministries. In Jan. of 2015 he was a participant in the UCC Cuba Study Seminar. This seminar has been visiting Cuba for over 30 years. Currently he is on the staff of the Southern Conference, serving as Minister of Church Affairs to the Western Association. He is a member of Holy Covenant UCC, an ONA church in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The Educational Intensive for Committee #5 will be led by:
The Rev. Dr. Sheldon Culver is retired from active ministry, having served as the Conference Minister of the Illinois South Conference of the United Church of Christ, and previously as an Associate Conference Minister of the Missouri Mid-South Conference. She served in a variety of local church pastoral positions for over 41 years. She has served in various positions at the National Setting of the Church, including a term on the Board of Directors and on the General Synod Nominating Committee. She is a Trustee of the Pension Boards. She is well-versed in church finance and the structure of the pattern of giving and OCWM history and trends.
The Educational Intensive for Committee #6 will be led by:
Mr. Jeffrey O'Donnell has been a therapist working with children, families, individuals, and couples for 20 years. He received a bachelor's degree in Human Resources from the Catholic University of America. He worked full time in a volunteer program in Washington, DC, before volunteering in South America with an organization that operated several orphanages. Thereafter, Mr. O'Donnell directed a full-time volunteer program, placing volunteers in full-time positions in different parts of the Midwest and East Coast. At the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, he received a Master's Degree in Social Work. Mr. O'Donnell has worked extensively with children, adolescents, and families. As a supervisor and an administrator, he worked for the Baltimore City Department of Social Services before working with the Social Services Administration.
The Educational Intensive for Committee #7 will be led by:
Mr. Eric Seymour has worked at the Esperanza Center for nearly four years, starting as an AmeriCorps member in 2013, when he returned to the United States from living abroad in Ecuador. The Esperanza Center, located in Baltimore, MD, is a comprehensive immigrant resource center that offers hope and essential services to people who are new to the United States. At Esperanza, Mr. Seymour oversees the Center's Client Services, Volunteer, and Outreach programs. In addition to working at the Esperanza Center, Mr. Seymour serves on the board of the Latino Providers Network, an organization that provides direct services to the Latino community in the Baltimore Metropolitan Region. Mr. Seymour has a bachelor's in Spanish and Latin American, Latino, and Caribbean Studies from Dickinson College.
The Educational Intensive for Committee #8 will be led by:
The Rev. Sekinah Hamlin is the Center for Responsible Lending's faith affairs director, overseeing The Faith & Credit Roundtable that engages works with faith communities to end predatory lending and highlights the moral voice that religious traditions bring to eradicating deceptive usurious lending practices and policy. Among her numerous religious affiliations and activities nationally, Rev. Hamlin has worked directly with the Circle of Protection, the National Council of Churches, and the All Africa Conference of Churches. In addition, she has served as senior pastor and/or on the staff of congregations within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Presbyterian Church (USA), African American Episcopal Zion, United Methodist, and Church of God in Christ traditions. She will speak to A More Just Economy: Living Wages and Job Creation.
Dr. William Field is an Associate Teaching Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University and a UCC member for 25 years. His research interests currently explore the intersection of religion and politics, the impact of public opinion on public policy, and what the United States can learn by studying European policy outcomes. He has served as secretary to the board of directors of the Central Atlantic Conference of the United Church of Christ for the last six years and until recently chaired the Working Group on Congregational Vitality and New Church Development. He is a member of Holmdel Community United Church of Christ in New Jersey, where he serves as president and moderator. Dr. Field will speak to Enact Minimum Wage Laws of $15 Per Hour.
The Educational Intensive for Committee #9 will be led by:
Dr. Martha L. Wharton is a diversity professional with experience at the secondary and post-secondary levels. She has earned a law degree (J.D.), a doctorate in English and American Studies, and a master's degree in Pastoral Care and Spiritual Direction. Dr. Wharton leads this Educational Intensive after expressing an interest in offering her expertise in diversity and inclusion as a ministry. She wishes to assist churches as they welcome more diverse members and clergy. Dr. Wharton and her daughter Madeline live in Baltimore and have been active members of First & St. Stephen's UCC in Towson, MD, for more than eight years.
The Educational Intensive for Committee #10 will be led by:
Dr. Nancy Hensler is a licensed psychologist in private practice in the District of Columbia, with 14 years of clinical experience and 25 years of experience in higher education. She trained with and worked for five years as an associate in the practice of Christine A. Courtois, Ph.D., an internationally-recognized expert in posttraumatic stress, complex trauma, and dissociative disorders. Dr. Hensler has worked with adult survivors of childhood abuse and neglect in diverse settings. Dr. Hensler presents regularly at national and local conferences, university training programs, and organizations on a number of trauma-related topics, including complex trauma, cyberstalking, relationship violence, and traumatic grief and loss. Her other professional interests include women's career development, mindfulness and somatic therapy approaches, and healthy relationship formation. She works with individuals, groups, and couples in her practice in Friendship Heights, DC.
The Educational Intensive for Committee #11 will be led by:
The Rev. Henrietta S. Andrews retired from conference work in Michigan, where she worked with churches of the Detroit Metropolitan and Eastern Associations as an Associate Conference Minister. In her retirement, she is a member of First Congregational Church of Atlanta, Georgia, where she is a member of the Chancel Ringers, volunteer librarian for the music department, member of the Servettes Club, and worship assistant from time to time. For the Southeast Conference, she serves on the Member In Discernment Committee for the Commission on Church and Ministry. She is a certified Spiritual Director and recently self-published My Short Hair Tells It All, a book of poems, short essays, and (some of her) art work that provide reflections on her life's journey.
The Rev. Dr. Kristina Lizardy-Hajbi is the Director of the Center for Analytics, Research and Data (CARD) in the United Church of Christ's national setting. Dr. Lizardy-Hajbi is a denomination-wide resource and expert regarding ministerial and congregational data and research and provides consultation and reports on statistical trends throughout the various settings of the church. In addition to earning a Master of Divinity degree from Iliff School of Theology, she holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Educational Leadership, Research and Policy from the University of Colorado and has served as adjunct faculty at both alma maters. Dr. Lizardy-Hajbi's particular areas of research interest include congregational vitality, ministerial excellence, and young adult spirituality.
The Educational Intensive for Committee #12 will be led by:
The Rev. David E. Denham is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, trained at the St. Mary's Seminary and University in Baltimore. Rev. Denham has served UCC churches in Frederick County, MD; Houston, TX; and Arlington, VA. Prior to seminary, he was a disability specialist, serving in public and non-profit agencies in MD. After ordination in 1988, he and others shared in a vision for developing the Central Atlantic Conference Task Force on Issues of Disability and Accessibility. This work gained the attention of the National Setting. He would join the UCC Disabilities Ministries and would become its chairperson. In 1996, Rev. Denham would become the National Setting's consultant to UCCDM, where he would serve for 10 years. Many of the church's resolutions regarding disability would pass during his time of service.
The Educational Intensive for Committee #13 will be led by:
Dr. Edith Rasell is on the national staff of the United Church of Christ serving as Minister for Economic Justice. She works with UCC congregations around the country as well as national and international organizations to bring greater economic justice to people in the U.S. and around the world, especially the poor and marginalized. Dr. Rasell is known for her ability to make economic matters understandable, relevant, and interesting. She writes and posts information about and assessments of current economic issues on her webpages, accessed through the UCC's economic justice home page. Her writing has also been featured by the Center for American Progress and on the blogs of the AFL-CIO, Sojourners, and the Presbyterian Church (USA) Office of Public Witness. Dr. Rasell holds a Ph.D. in economics and before coming to the UCC she worked at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a highly regarded, progressive think tank in Washington, D.C.
The Educational Intensive for Committee #14 will be led by:
Dr. Daniel Webster is one of the nation's leading experts on the prevention of gun violence. He has published over 100 articles in scientific journals on topics including gun policy, violence prevention, youth violence and intimae partner violence. Dr. Webster's research and leadership have been particularly evident in Baltimore where is advises the Mayor's Office, Police Department and Health Department on strategies to reduce gun violence. He leads the Johns Hopkins-Baltimore Collaborative for Violence Reduction. President Obama cited Dr. Webster's research in his 2016 address to the nation on gun violence in support of universal background checks. Dr. Webster has been selected to receive John Hopkins University's Distinguished Alumni Award for 2017.
The Educational Intensive for Committee #15 will be led by:
Dr. Michael J. Strauss, MD, MPH, is a retired internist, physician executive, and entrepreneur whose medical career has included a focus on new medical technology and health policy. Following medical school (Duke University) and internal medicine training and a master's degree in public health (University of Washington, Seattle), Dr. Strauss returned to Maryland in the mid-1980s. He worked on the staff of a Congressional commission addressing health reimbursement issues. He later pursued health policy consulting and with two colleagues founded Health Technology Associates (HTA), which helped public and private enterprises evaluate and advance new medical technologies. He has served on the Board of Directors of both public and private companies, including various medical device companies and Kaiser Permanente's Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group. As an active member of his community, Dr. Strauss has served as a volunteer, advisor, or director for the local public high school, Montgomery County, and State of Maryland.