FACULTY AND STAFF

FACULTY AND STAFF

Sonya J. Vann, MDiv.

Sonya J. Vann, MDiv.

Executive Director

SONYA JANEEN VANN earned a Master of Divinity degree from Eden Theological Seminary in May of 2015, graduating with Honors, she was recognized by faculty as the student who showed the most promise in congregational ministry related to faithfulness in preaching and pastoral care by receiving the Grauer Award.

Attesting to her leadership as a student, she was called back to Eden in 2017 as the Director of the Master of Community Leadership program of the Walker Leadership Institute at Eden. In this role she was responsible for designing a program that integrated nonprofit management with theological grounding. Today, Sonya serves Eden as their Director of Development for Scholarship where she is primarily responsible for fundraising in the areas of International Student support; Black Alumni relations; Externa Scholarship development for MDiv students and the Lilly Endowment Initiative, “Economics Facing Future Ministers” as Project Leader.

Currently enrolled in the Doctor of Ministry Program at Eden, she is focused on the development of A Womanist Pedagogy of Communal Empowerment through Personal Narrative that engages cultural and ethnic experiences of the arts to inform faith formation and the development of materials for a progressive theological framework in African American settings. Sonya is an Associate Minister on staff at Christ the King United Church of Christ in Florissant, MO. She also served as Sabbatical Pastor of First Congregational Church of Webster Groves in the summer of 2017. She was the first African American woman in the history of this congregation to serve as Senior Pastor.

In addition she is Member-at-large of the St. Louis Association Council and on the Missouri Mid-South Conference Council; a Delegate to the 2017 and 2019 General Synod of the UCC; a member of the Executive Committee of the Vitality Covenanted Committee of the MMSCUCC and Board member of the Missouri Mid-South Conference UCC. She is also proud of her role as Vice-President of the Board of Directors of St. Vincent Home for Children in Normandy, MO where she continues to lift the concerns of community and youth as an active outpouring and response to her call to social justice

Prior to accepting the position at Eden, she held several prominent positions: Development Associate at Deaconess Nurse Ministry; Interim Executive Director of Joint Neighborhood Ministry; Business Manager and Human Resources Administrator for Stevenson Healthcare and Governmental Liaison at the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority.

Sonya feels that her desire to witness to the extravagant love, welcome and mission of God can be summarized in the words of the Old Testament Prophet Micah in verse 6:8, “He has told you, human one, what is good and what the LORD requires from you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God” (CEB).

Pathways Theological Education, Inc.
My statement:
“I am profoundly thankful for the opportunity to serve as Executive Director for Pathways Theological Education Inc. I also feel that coming onboard Pathways provides an opportunity for the Progressive Christian Movement to think about theological education in new and innovative ways. I am particularly excited about the ability to put an emphasis of placing a high-quality theological education within reach of everyone called by God to lead the wider faith community. In addition, Pathways upholds our collective call to be good stewards of our financial resources – including the long-term financial health of our ministers.”

“As the Executive Director of Pathways Theological Education, Inc., I expect challenges ahead, as well as, the potential for growth. Both are necessary for change and change is what we want to see. A change in how our congregations are being led by well-trained and prepared clergy and a change in the community that they serve.”

“Lastly, I am most excited about the call to action for the wider United Church of Christ as we join in with them to think pro-actively about how to train, lead and follow the next generation of faithful leaders into a service of call and covenant. They are facing major struggles both within congregations and in surrounding communities which demand a wholistic response to the needs of people serving in constant change. Now is the time and Pathways poised and positioned to be a part of the answer.”

Melissa Ashmore

Melissa Ashmore

Registrar

Melissa Ashmore is here to help. She completed her MDiv from a distance of over 1,700 miles from her degree granting institution, Andover Newton Seminary. Along the way, she was able to interact in online classrooms from 5 different theological schools. She maintains ordained standing in the North Texas Association of the UCC where she serves in leadership roles and in outreach/community ministry. Prior to ministry, her industry was healthcare administration where she worked primarily on the technology side in clinical research, quality, reporting and data warehousing. She has experience in cooperative elementary and secondary secular education as well as Christian faith formation. She is passionate about interfaith and environmental advocacy. She is known in her community as Running Reverend from serving the running and cycling community while training for the Chicago and Boston marathons. She and her wife Lora have two children that require a completely different type of running.

Trish Greeves

Trish Greeves

Course Facilitator

The Rev. Dr. Trish Towle Greeves was ordained a United Church of Christ pastor in 1989. Trish enjoyed a sixteen-year pastorate with Union Congregational UCC, Elk River, Minnesota, and also served as an interim minister in several churches. She served as Contextual Studies Coordinator and adjunct instructor for Church Life and Leadership with United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities.

Ray Jordan

Ray Jordan

Course Facilitator

Rev Ray Jordan has worked in both the public and private sectors as a public-school teacher, university professor, non-profit administrator, corporate trainer, clergyperson and consultant. Considering himself a scholar-practitioner, his education and vocational experiences have been a testament of interdisciplinarity, demonstrating a marriage of theory and praxis.

Ray holds a Bachelor of Science in Health Education, a Master of Arts in Teaching, a Master of Theological Studies from Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology, and is completing his PhD (ABD) from Union Institute and University, with research in public policy and social with a concentration in Martin Luther King, Jr. Studies. Ray has worked within three distinct populations, rural, suburban, and urban, and has enjoyed community engagement, including serving on the boards of the Dallas Chapter of GLSEN(Gay, Lesbian, Straight Educational Alliance) and the North Texas Executive Leadership Council for the United Negro College Fund, for which he received the organization’s Rising Star Award for his outstanding contribution. Ray has taught in higher education since 2008. Previously, Ray taught within the University of Texas at Arlington’s School for Urban and Public Affairs and SMU’s Department of Political Science. Currently Ray teaches classes in Interdisciplinary Studies and African American Studies at the University of Texas at Arlington and leads the Southern Methodist University Civil Rights Pilgrimage, which he has done for the past 11 years.

Valerie Coe Lowder

Valerie Coe Lowder

Course Facilitator

The Rev. Valerie Coe Lowder is an authorized minister in the Southeast Conference, United Church of Christ.  Ordained as a Baptist, she came to the UCC by privilege of call, after sojourning among Methodists, Moravians and other ecumenical exploits. She served as a pastor in North Carolina and Virginia, a campus minister in Delaware, and a youth minister in Indiana and Pennsylvania. As an educator, she has taught Spanish to elementary and middle school students; religion, philosophy and ethics to college students; and served as administrator of two preschools. She regularly teaches two-year olds in Sunday School. She holds a B.A. from Wake Forest University, a M.A. in Religious Studies from Indiana University, a M.Div. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, with further studies at the Divinity School of Duke University. She earned a certificate in Clinical Pastoral Education and is trained in therapeutic parenting and emergency response. For decades she has been a mentor to many women and men preparing for ministry, including chairing the Commission on Ministry of Southeast Conference and serving on the Members In Discernment committee at Kirkwood UCC in Atlanta, Georgia. She is also a mental health advocate, a hand-weaver and quilter. She is married to Dr. Patrick Lowder. They have two almost-grown sons, an old black cat, and a xoloitzcuintli puppy.

Kathy Harvey Nelson

Kathy Harvey Nelson

Course Facilitator

The Rev. Kathy Nelson is an ordained Elder in the Susquehanna Conference-UMC, serving as the Director of The Center for Spiritual Formation, Inc., an ecumenical retreat center offering space for spiritual exploration and growth, as well as offering a two year Ministerial Direction program.

She has been a Spiritual Director for numerous people since being certified by the Center for Spiritual Formation in 2006. As a spiritual director, Kathy is committed to walking the journey of deepening spiritual relationships and exploring creative ways of practicing the presence of God.

Kathy has done doctoral writing on the spiritual formation of pastors, particularly of small churches and the impact seen in their churches and communities. She believes that spiritually passionate pastors of small to mid-size congregations are the hope for the world and as such loves seeing all that God is doing through them.
Kathy is married and mother of two grown children. In her spare time she enjoys reading, travel, and hand-crafts. She is also the author of a children’s book, “Eva: The Perfect Little Puppy,” a reflection of the love brought into her life by her current fur-baby.

Michael Malcom

Michael Malcom

Course Facilitator

The Reverend Michael Malcom is an ordained minister in the Pentecostal Holiness Church tradition, with Privilege of Call in the Southeast Conference United Church of Christ. He is a native of Atlanta, Georgia. He is the former founding pastor of Fellowship Christian Ministry in Lithonia, Ga. He was a Chaplain in the United States Air Force Reserves. Handling several responsibilities, he is now serving as Senior Pastor at Rush Memorial Congregational United Church of Christ.

In addition, Rev. Malcom now serves as the Environmental Justice Representative for the Southeast Conference, UCC. He is also the Founding Executive Director of Martha’s Corner and The People’s Justice Council, a 501C-3 outreach component of Rush Memorial which specializes in education efforts for Human Services, Environmental Justice and Advocacy. He is also the Director for Alabama Interfaith Power and Light. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Beulah Heights University, a M.Div. degree from Interdenominational Theological Center, and a M.B.A, from Terry School of Business, University of Georgia. He has completed five units of Clinical Pastoral Education at The Atlanta VA Medical Center and AnMed Health Hospital in Anderson, SC. He is currently enrolled in the Convergence Leadership Project with the Center for Progressive Renewal and the Just Energy Academy with Partner’s for Southern Equity.

Julie Mavity Maddalena

Julie Mavity Maddalena

Course Facilitator

The Rev. Dr. Julie Mavity Maddalena is the interim pastor at First Congregational of Georgetown, Massachusetts. Previously, she has served as School Minister and Director of Christian Education. She completed a Ph.D. in Religious Ethics from Southern Methodist University. Outside of the parish, she consults with churches, community groups, and schools doing cultural competency education around race, gender, sexuality, ability, and intersectionality. Julie lives with her spouse, Mike, and two sons. They love spending time in the mountains and at the ocean.

Ruth Shaver

Ruth Shaver

Course Facilitator

The Rev. Dr. Ruth E. Shaver is the Interim Senior Pastor of First Church of Christ, Congregational, United Church of Christ, in North Conway, New Hampshire. She completed phase three of the Interim Ministry Network training as an interim/transitional specialist in June, 2018. In addition to her pastoral role, she is actively involved in ministerial education and formation as a course facilitator and secretary of the board of directors for PATHWAYS Theological Education, Inc. She previously served for five years as Minister of Christian Education and Family Life at Second Congregational Church United Church of Christ in Attleboro, Massachusetts (Old Colony Association) and for ten years as Pastor and Teacher of The United Church of Schellsburg, Pennsylvania (Juniata Association, Penn West Conference). While in Schellsburg, she was the Instructor in Old Testament for seven years and New Testament for five years at the Penn West Lay Academy for Ministry. She completed her Doctor of Ministry at Lancaster Theological Seminary in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 2016 with a dissertation project titled, “I Wonder: Scientific Exploration and Experimentation as a Practice of Christian Faith.” As a result of her doctoral work, she was selected as a Sinai and Synapses Fellow in the Class of 2017-2019, working there with other faith leaders and scientists, engineers, science educators, and science writers to develop resources for communities of faith and the public around the idea that science and faith, in the words of the United Church of Christ, “not mutually exclusive.” She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Soviet and East European Studies from the College of Liberal Arts (now College of Arts and Sciences) and a Master of Divinity degree from the School of Theology at Boston University.

Danny Spears

Danny Spears

Course Facilitator

The Rev. Dr. Danny A. Spears has served as pastor of several Metropolitan Community Church congregations, and is a certified MCC Interim Specialist and Supervising Pastor. He holds a B.S. from Clayton College and State University, and M.Div. and D.Min. degrees from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

Brice Thomas

Brice Thomas

Course Facilitator

Rev. Dr. Brice Thomas attended United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio (UMC) for his MDiv (2004) and DMin (2015). He was ordained into the UCC in 2005, and is currently serving a UCC church full-time in Nashville, TN (Holy Trinity Community Church). In 2012, he published a pastoral care resource for gay/lesbian couples called “Committed to Love: Pastoral Care for Same-Sex Christian Couples.”  His ministry of reconciliation includes emceeing a Gospel Drag show on the first Sunday each month at a local gay dance club where he also sings with the HTCC choir and serves communion. His passion is biblical storytelling–connecting progressive Christians to the power of the sacred stories–and helping folks who have suffered religious trauma find their way back to God and the church. In addition to ministry, Brice loves to sing, ballroom dance, acting in theatre and commercials, and playing the mandolin in worship on occasion.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Marian Plant

Marian Plant

Board President

Rev. Dr. Marian R. Plant joined PATHWAYS leadership in 2016 as a member of the PATHWAYS Advisory Committee.  She was elected to the first Board of Directors in March 2018, serving as Board Vice President 2018-2019, and now President (2019-2020). 

Marian is an experienced pastor-teacher, passionate practitioner of and advocate for faith formation, distinguished college professor, skilled workshop and conference planner and participant, published author, creative writer and poet.  An ordained minister of the United Church of Christ, Marian served small rural, and medium to large suburban churches in Ohio and Illinois; Marian and husband Rev. David G. Plant served several as co-pastors.

Through the years Marian has been blessed to have served in the United Church of Christ’s wider church ministries as an Education Consultant and Partner in Education (UCC), curriculum writer for Imagining the Word, member of the committee responsible for Certification of Church Educators, and member of the Association of United Church Educators. Marian continues to be deeply involved with Great Lakes Association of United Church Educators (GLAUCE), the Heartland Conference (UCC) Faith Formation Working Group.  She has been recognized for her contributions with GLAUCE’s Robert L. Johnston Award (2007), the UCC’s Excellence in Teaching award (2009) and the Association of United Church Educators Founders Award (2017).

In 2002, Marian returned to her alma mater as the Assistant Professor of Christian Education, Schauffler Chair of Christian Education, and Coordinator of the Design for Leadership.  The Design for Leadership provided undergraduate distance learning in Christian education for those serving as leaders of Christain education in local churches.  Marian retired in 2019 from her positions as Professor of Religious and Ministry Studies and Schauffler Chair of Christian Education.  In 2018, she received the Distinguished Faculty Award, and was named the Schauffler Legacy Award recipient for 2019.

Marian received a B.A. Religion and Philosophy from Defiance College (OH), M. Div. from Methodist Theological School in Ohio, and Ed. D Educational Psychology from Northern Illinois University (IL).  She is a Certified Church Educator of the United Church of Christ, the author of Faith Formation for Vital Congregations (Pilgrim Press, 2009) and co-author with Rev. David G. Plant of Surprise! Surprise! Surprise! Cycle A Gospel Sermons for Lent and Easter (CSS Publishing Company)

Ginnie Ferrell

Ginnie Ferrell

Board Vice President

Rev. Ginnie Ferrell joined the PATHWAYS Advisory Committee in 2014 and became chair of the PATHWAYS Advisory Committee in 2016 while PATHWAYS was a program of the Southeast Conference. In March 2018, Ginnie was elected as Vice President to the initial Board of Directors of PATHWAYS Theological Education, Inc., followed by a year as the Board President (2018-2019), and then in the Fall of 2019 elected as the Board Vice President and Chair of the Personnel Committee. 

Ginnie is a retired UCC clergy and long-time church educator. She served churches in Maine and Georgia, in particular as Associate Minister of Central UCC in Atlanta for many years. During that time, she became an Environmental Educator and worked with the congregation to start a children’s nature camp. Over the years, Ginnie worked as a field geologist, geophysics field tech, a ski technician at Maine Adaptive, an elementary science teacher, and studied Chemistry among other things.

Presently, she is a member of both the Board of Directors and the Commission on Ministry in the Southeast Conference UCC. In 2012, Ginnie became a part of a life-changing and ongoing ecumenical clergywomen group, Women Touched by Grace III, hosted by Our Lady of Grace Monastery (OLOG) in Beech Grove, IN and funded by the Lilly Foundation. Ginnie is married to Jack Raymer. She enjoys friends, family, gardening, cooking, and the outdoors.

Ginnie received a B.A. Geology from Hampshire College (MA), B.S. Chemistry from University of Alaska Fairbanks, M. Div. from Bangor Theological Seminary (ME), and M.S. Chemistry from Georgia Institute of Technology. She was a Certified as an Environmental Educator in 2016.

Ruth E. Shaver

Ruth E. Shaver

Secretary

The Rev. Dr. Ruth E. Shaver is the Interim Senior Pastor of First Church of Christ, Congregational, United Church of Christ, in North Conway, New Hampshire. She completed phase three of the Interim Ministry Network training as an interim/transitional specialist in June, 2018. In addition to her pastoral role, she is actively involved in ministerial education and formation as a course facilitator and secretary of the board of directors for PATHWAYS Theological Education, Inc. She previously served for five years as Minister of Christian Education and Family Life at Second Congregational Church United Church of Christ in Attleboro, Massachusetts (Old Colony Association) and for ten years as Pastor and Teacher of The United Church of Schellsburg, Pennsylvania (Juniata Association, Penn West Conference). While in Schellsburg, she was the Instructor in Old Testament for seven years and New Testament for five years at the Penn West Lay Academy for Ministry. She completed her Doctor of Ministry at Lancaster Theological Seminary in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 2016 with a dissertation project titled, “I Wonder: Scientific Exploration and Experimentation as a Practice of Christian Faith.” As a result of her doctoral work, she was selected as a Sinai and Synapses Fellow in the Class of 2017-2019, working there with other faith leaders and scientists, engineers, science educators, and science writers to develop resources for communities of faith and the public around the idea that science and faith, in the words of the United Church of Christ, “not mutually exclusive.” She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Soviet and East European Studies from the College of Liberal Arts (now College of Arts and Sciences) and a Master of Divinity degree from the School of Theology at Boston University.

Mike Clawson

Mike Clawson

Board of Directors

Mike Clawson (Austin, TX), is founder of the Spiritual Transformation Project, working to create transformative events at the intersection of spirituality and social change – including the New Story Festival, a new annual event for creativity, spirituality, and social action in Austin, Texas. A former pastor, church planter, and leader in the Emerging Church Movement, Mike received his MA in Theological Studies from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary (APTS) in 2010 and completed his PhD in Religion at Baylor University in 2017 studying the ways Christianity is evolving in the twenty-first century. He has served as an adjunct faculty instructor at APTS, Baylor University, the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest, and Wake Forest School of Divinity. Mike is passionate about personal growth and collective liberation, and enjoys exploring Austin and watching 80s adventure films with his two children.

Satoya Foster

Satoya Foster

Board of Directors

Satoya Foster is a multi-passionate creative. She’s an artist, speaker, writer, podcaster (The Emergent Experience Podcast), entrepreneur, PCOSAA Co-Founder, trauma recovery advocate, and working toward a second master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Satoya is also the Director of Worship Arts at Mission Chattanooga. As a licensed minister, Satoya leads the congregation in worship, leads the children and adult choirs, and helps to care for the congregation. Satoya has a Masters Degree in Ministry with a concentration in Anglican Studies. She currently resides in Tennessee with her partner, daughter, and pup. Satoya loves jamming to loud 90’s music OR Reggae OR Afropop in the car, watching Doc McStuffins with her kid, and writing.

Rev. Dr. Salome As-Salaam

Rev. Dr. Salome As-Salaam

Board of Directors

Reverend Salome As-Salaam is a graduate of the Samuel D. Proctor, School of Theology at Virginia Union University. She has also completed a residency in Clinical Pastoral Education at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia.  She received her certification as a Pastoral Counselor from the College of Pastoral Supervision & Psychotherapy. In addition, she has a certificate in Health Care Ethics, from the University of Virginia and she received a certificate in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, (PTSD), from the Chaplaincy Academy, United States Navy.

Reverend As-Salaam has held several ministerial positions to include serving as the Senior Pastor for the First Church of North Miami Congregational, United Church of Christ, Police Chaplain for the North Miami Police Department and Trauma Chaplain for Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.

Currently, she is serving as the Pastor of the Shalom Spiritual Center a teaching ministry of the United Church of Christ.