Church Profiles: Community of Practice
We’re excited to introduce the 12 churches in the Community of Practice with the Log College Project! The Community of Practice represents congregations from diverse theological, geographical, and social contexts across nine states and seven denominations. These churches, led by their Design Fellow and Design Team, will each receive a $15,000 grant to build new ministries that take theology and young people seriously.
Abiding Presence Lutheran Church is an intergenerational congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), located in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington D.C. Recognizing that a relationship with Christ isn’t just reserved for Sunday morning worship, they operate a vibrant weekday community center that offers everything from parent/child music classes to exercise classes for seniors. Through celebrating Holy Communion and maintaining an inclusive communion table, they seek to live out a spirit of welcome to all people.
DESIGN FELLOW: REV. MEREDITH KESELEY
Rev. Meredith Lovell Keseley is the senior pastor of Abiding Presence Lutheran Church. Embracing the “holy chaos” of ministry and motherhood as the mother of two girls (ages 4 and 7), she has a passion for understanding the faith of young people. She first felt called to be a youth pastor in the 7th grade during confirmation. Today, she loves being a senior pastor who sees youth ministry as a key component of her ministry vocation. Rev. Keseley is a graduate of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg and Susquehanna University. Alongside her congregation, Rev. Keseley has been in the process of intentionally discerning what the “next big thing” God is calling Abiding Presence to do within their youth ministry. They are hoping that the Log College Project will help provide them with the experiences, relationships, and tools needed to listen to God’s call and act on it.
THE DESIGN TEAM
Abiding Presence’s Design Team includes the senior pastor, children & family minister, parents, longtime congregational members, lay leaders, and a confirmation student (8th grade).
The historic Berean Baptist Church was founded during the height of the abolitionist movement and was incorporated in 1850 by abolitionist leaders in Brooklyn, New York. Berean stands as the oldest remaining institution within the confines of the first settlement for freed blacks in New York City, known as the Weeksville section of Crown Heights, Brooklyn. As a church that was part of the Underground Railroad, Berean continues to have an expressed commitment to social justice and community empowerment.
During the past few months, Berean has been discerning ways to unite the different generational groups within their community: seniors, middle-aged adults, and teenagers/young adults. Through the Log College Project, Berean is hoping to test innovative ways to bring their “three separate” generational groups together to move forward as one congregation. They are excited about having a Design Team that brings diverse ages to the table to discuss theological ideas and develop programming together.
DESIGN FELLOW: MS. LOREN COOPER
Loren Cooper is the youth leader at Berean Baptist Church. A native New Yorker, she attended Baruch College where she earned a B.S. in elementary education, an M.S. in education from Brooklyn College, and an M..S in school building leadership from Mercy College. Loren served as a classroom teacher for 10 years before becoming a teaching coach, and she currently serves as an assistant principal in Brooklyn. Loren’s hope for participating in the Log College Project is to help bridge the generational gap that exists in their congregation, share in the work of cultivating innovative ways to transform their youth ministry, and to spread the word of God throughout their community.
THE DESIGN TEAM
Berean’s Design Team includes their associate pastor, their youth pastor, a member of their deacon board, two high school students, three young adults, a middle school student, a guidance counselor, and an educator.
Calvary Episcopal Church is the oldest church in Rochester, Minnesota, located directly across the street from the world-renowned Mayo Clinic. As a downtown church, their attendees come from all over the Rochester area, as well as countless visitors from all over the world who are seeking medical services at the Mayo Clinic. This has led them to become a church grounded in hospitality. They are an active, busy, faithful congregation yearning to move into the future to be a faith community that is committed to serving all ages inside and outside of our walls. The Log College Project has energized their youth ministry, causing a ripple effect of innovation that is beginning to spread throughout their congregation.
DESIGN FELLOW: REV. BETH ROYALTY
The Rev. Beth Royalty serves as the rector at Calvary Episcopal Church. Rev. Royalty was ordained to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church in 2000. This Southern-bred woman has fallen in love with Minnesota! Her first career was in the hospitality industry in Atlanta, where she worked for 15 years. Working in the church is just another way of expressing the love of—and theology of—hospitality. Beth is the mother of a young adult daughter (Margaret), a dog (Oscar), and a cat (Sabrina). The chance to be a part of the Log College Project is enormously exciting to her, and she is honored to do this work on behalf of her beloved Calvary Church.
THE DESIGN TEAM
Calvary’s Design Team includes the director of faith formation for children and youth (ordained in the PCUSA), an 8th grader, a Sunday school teacher and mother of two “tween”-age girls, a former Sunday school teacher and staff member at Mayo Clinic, a high school teacher, a member of their vestry (election board), two young adults, a professor at the local college, and a member of the area diocese.
Coppin Memorial African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church sits on South Michigan Avenue, between 56th and 57th Streets in the Washington Park Neighborhood of Chicago. Coppin is a 21st Century church with a 1st Century mission—having all things in common, being of one accord and meeting the needs of the community we serve. Once a thriving community, they have been facing the reality of severe economic and social decline over the past 30 years. Nevertheless, Coppin is a place where the people love God and desire to serve the community. Coppin is excited to be a part of the Community of Practice and looks forward to gaining knowledge to equip their leaders with tools to help create an innovative, sustainable youth ministry model. They are also looking forward to engaging in conversation alongside other youth ministry thought-leaders as part of the Log College Project. Ultimately, finding ways to seriously engage the young people who are a part of their community is their core vision.
DESIGN FELLOW: MRS. MICHELLE ROBINSON
Michelle Robinson is a leader at Coppin Memorial AME Church. She loves Chicago because of the variety of opportunities for personal and professional growth. Mrs. Robinson finds working in Chicago challenging and rewarding, exposing her to a diverse set of people and experiences. Her favorite season is spring because she loves watching life regenerated and the anticipation of renewal that spring represents. She is excited to be a part of this project because she enjoys helping young people reach their potential academically, socially, and spiritually.
THE DESIGN TEAM
Coppin’s Design Team includes the senior pastor, church leaders, youth from within the congregation, and community members.
Esperanza Viva was born out of the calling to serve the urgent needs of the immigrant community in the neighborhood. They seek to support those who are in fear of deportation, help those who have limited resources because of their legal status, and help immigrant youth continue their education. E.V. also aims to bridge the gap between the social and spiritual disconnect among immigrants and their first generation Hispanic-American children. The Log College Project was an answered prayer for Esperanza Viva. Their participation in the project has led to a renewing of hope throughout their entire congregation.
DESIGN FELLOW: MR. ELISEO MORALES, JR.
Mr. Eliseo Morales, Jr. is the director for youth and young adults in two churches—Esperanza Viva and Grace First Presbyterian in Long Beach. He was born in Chicago and raised in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles. Mr. Morales is passionate about youth, young adult, and urban ministry. Mr. Morales graduated from Biola University with a B.A. in psychology and from Princeton Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity. Eliseo is also a chaplain candidate in the United States Navy. In his own words, his wife is pretty amazing and gorgeous, and his daughter is an amazing blessing.
THE DESIGN TEAM
Esperanza Viva’s Design Team includes high school students, young adults, and adults within the congregation.
New York City, NY
Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church is a landmark church in Midtown Manhattan, distinguished for their longstanding ministries to the homeless and the homebound; their diverse adult, youth, and children’s education programs; and a rich tradition in music and the arts. The congregation was founded in 1808 and has been worshiping and serving at Fifth Avenue and 55th Street since 1875. They are a vibrant, diverse, inclusive congregation of 2,000 members and part of the PCUSA.
DESIGN FELLOW: REV. WERNER RAMIREZ
Rev. Werner Ramirez is the associate pastor for youth, young adults, and community groups at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church. He is passionate about working with God in the lives of young people. Rev. Ramirez studied youth ministry at Princeton Theological Seminary (M.Div. and M.A. in Christian education & spiritual formation), and Azusa Pacific University (B.A. in youth ministry). Fun Fact: As an eighth grader, he was interviewed by Robin Roberts on Good Morning America! Rev. Ramirez is so excited to learn, dream, and create with the Log College Project and our design team for a new era of youth ministry.
THE DESIGN TEAM
Fifth Ave’s Design Team includes one member from their pastoral staff, one congregant/youth volunteer, three parents, two high school students, and four middle school students.
First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem is a “143-year-old startup” congregation. Historically one of the largest churches in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania, the congregation went through a schism in which a significant block of the membership and the entire pastoral staff left to form a new congregation. First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem is experiencing a new era of vitality and innovation as they pursue their mission to be a Christ-centered and inclusive multi-generational congregation.
DESIGN FELLOW: REV. J.C. AUSTIN
Rev. J.C. Austin has been the senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem since November 2017. He earned his M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary and spent a year after graduation as a visiting fellow at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. As a pastor, Rev. Austin is passionate about embracing the extraordinary possibilities for ministry in a rapidly changing world. Beyond ministry, he is a devoted father to a 13-year-old, loves to play guitar, listen to a wide range of music, and travel internationally. Fun Fact: He once walked a mile through a literal minefield in Mozambique to get to a beach that local people said was particularly beautiful and (surprise!) very untouristed. He and his congregation need and want to build a whole new way of doing youth ministry, so they are thrilled about the Log College Project!
THE DESIGN TEAM
First Presbyterian Bethlehem’s Design Team includes four high school students, two middle school students, an entrepreneur, three grandparents, a retired organizational leadership teacher, the church’s senior pastor, a retired home economics teacher, and dedicated parents.
First Presbyterian Church serves a post-industrial town of about 48,000 people that was recently described in the book Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. The congregation holds a vision to become more outward looking and to better equip one another to understand how God has called us to serve as the body of Christ in this changing community. Participating in the Log College Project offers the hope of nurturing big dreams and designing new ways for people to connect with one another and encounter the transformational power of God’s unconditional and everlasting love.
DESIGN FELLOW: MRS. LISA KAUFER
Lisa Kaufer serves as Director of Faith Formation at First Presbyterian Church, Middletown. Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, Lisa ventured to the beautiful Southwest to attend the University of Arizona, where she earned degrees in communication and Spanish. Throughout her 17+ years of work and ministry, Mrs. Kaufer has always felt called to help people grow in their personal journey. She has responded to this call by planning large-scale conferences, tutoring students with dyslexia, and serving in faith formation ministry with all ages.
THE DESIGN TEAM
First Presbyterian Middletown’s Design Team includes their pastor and director of faith formation, new and long-time members, recent high school graduates, a youth ministry volunteer, and a youth ministry parent.
Healdsburg Community Church seeks to build a community of people who live like Jesus did so that others may experience God’s love. They are deeply rooted in their small agricultural community in the heart of California wine country. Young people participate in their youth group from a variety of area churches. Healdsburg sees their youth ministry as broadly ecumenical and invested in the thriving of young people throughout their community. This ecumenism and community-wide impact means that innovations in their church life often times has a widespread effect. Through the Log College Project, their congregation hopes to find ways to experiment with the future of youth ministry in their context and have a broader impact on the youth of their community.
DESIGN FELLOW: KYLE PRICE
Kyle Price is the youth and children’s director for Healdsburg Community Church and the only youth worker on staff at a church in the area. He is passionate about helping young people connect with God via strong relationships and an awareness of God’s presence in nature and the world around them. Kyle earned his B.S. in psychology at Illinois State University. What excites Kyle most about entering into the Log College Project with his team is the opportunity to be coached in thinking outside the box about ministering to the youth of his community.
THE DESIGN TEAM
Healdsburg’s Design Team includes their youth & children’s director, their pastor, a high school student, a college student, two high school teachers, a parent, and one of their long-tenured members.
West Windsor, NJ
NextGen Church has been worshiping in West Windsor, New Jersey for the past nine years. Being a multi-ethnic community of families and young adults, NextGen’s mission is to love, serve, and impact their world by reaching out to their neighbors and building up the next generation. They embrace the diversity and differences in their heritage and culture and celebrate their unity in Jesus Christ. NextGen Church seeks to plant new churches and ministries in the local and global communities.
DESIGN FELLOW: REV. MIA CHANG
Rev. Mia Chang serves as the lead pastor of NextGen Church. She is a church planter who utilizes her entrepreneurial gifts in creating new ministries, both locally and globally. Rev. Chang’s love for young people led her to work as a public school teacher for nearly 10 years in New York City and New Jersey. She earned her B.A. in education at Pace University, her M.Div. at Alliance Theological Seminary, and her D.Min. at Palmer Theological Seminary. She also enjoys cooking and spending time with her husband and two teenage daughters.
THE DESIGN TEAM
The NextGen Church’s Design Team includes their senior pastor, a parent, a middle school student, church administrator, three high school juniors, the children’s church director, and one high school sophomore.
Central United Methodist Church in Sacramento was forced to imagine closing just a decade ago. Worship attendance had dwindled to below 20 people, and the congregation was aging. A new United Methodist community of faith began taking shape alongside Central UMC and the once-dying church found new life. Since 2010, The Table at Central UMC has celebrated the baptism of 36 adults and 54 children, while growing in average weekly worship attendance to just over 250 people. The Table seeks to create a community of faith in Sacramento that is rooted in grace, growing in faith, and reaching in love.
THE DESIGN FELLOW: REV. MATTHEW MORGAN SMITH
Rev. Smith is one of the founding co-pastors of The Table in Sacramento. He’s continually amazed by the way this beautiful and eclectic community of faith has grown by following God’s unfolding grace over these last eight years. He earned a B.A. in religion from Drake University, an M.Div. from Union Theological Seminary in New York City, and was ordained as an elder in the United Methodist Church in 2011. Matt lives in East Sacramento with Sarah and their daughter, Eleanor. He loves cooking, Crossfit, and habanero peppers—but won’t touch a pickle. Matt’s thrilled to see how The Table might re-imagine ministry with young people through collaboration with the Log College Project.
THE DESIGN TEAM
The Table’s Design Team includes their co-pastors, two third graders, two junior high students, two high school students, two young adults, a teacher, a spiritual director, and three parents of youth.
Tualatin Presbyterian Church is a creative, welcoming community nestled in the Doug firs just outside of Portland, Oregon. They have found that three gathering points mark their community—adventuring, buoyancy, and generous community. Tualatin sees faith not as something to be kept or guarded, but as an adventure in following the way of Jesus Christ wherever the Holy Spirit leads. They love to try new things and the freedom to experiment.
DESIGN FELLOW: MS. SARAH BECK
Sarah Beck serves as the director of family ministries at Tualatin Presbyterian Church. She has a long history of working with children of all ages, including the Boys and Girls Club and over 15 years of experience mentoring high-risk kids. Ms. Beck is a single mother of twin boys with special needs. She’s an advocate for Early Intervention and the local school district. Some of Sarah’s hobbies include painting murals, summer softball, and blogging about her hilarious adventures raising two mischievous sons. She practices an open door, holistic approach to family ministry. Learning in conversation with God and others, she is dedicated to building community in sustained relationships and embodying Christ-like hospitality.
THE DESIGN TEAM
Tualatin’s Design Team is made up of their director of family ministry, three elders, a deacon, a grounds caretaker and grandfather, three awesome young people, an artist and parent, and a grandmother and adult education leader.