Megan Cuilla is a self-proclaimed seeker who regularly asks the questions, “Who am I?” and, “Where do I belong?” She is currently exploring the reconciliation of her feminist beliefs with what she considers a complicated relationship with her body.
She often can be found in her garden, or holed up in her house working on various art projects.
She lives in the Emerson Garfield neighborhood with her husband, Aaron.
“God and other artists are always a little obscure.” –Oscar Wilde
The Rev. Thomas Altepeter is an Ecumenical Catholic priest and pastor of St. Clare Ecumenical Catholic Community in Spokane.
He is also a licensed psychologist and has previously served as pastor of an ECC community in Wisconsin, been employed as a university professor, served as a director of a large behavioral health department, and worked in private practice as a psychologist. He has graduate degrees in spirituality and psychology.
Altepeter is interested in spirituality, the integration of spirituality with emotional well being, and a contemporary approach to living within the Catholic Christian tradition. He is married and has four children.
The Ecumenical Catholic Communion (ECC) is a different way to be Catholic, he said. The ECC is not under the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Church, yet shares a common theological and liturgical history. The ECC ordains married men and women, is welcoming of gays and lesbians, and supports the primacy of individual conscience. The ECC has communities in every region of the US, and through Europe. The ECC is the largest non-Roman Catholic denomination in the United States.
Liv Larson Andrews believes in the sensus lusus, or playful spirit. Liturgy, worship and faithful practice are at their best when accompanied with a wink, she says.
“We cannot hope to help dismantle the world’s oppressive brokenness if we take ourselves too seriously,” she said.
Helping her keep the playful spirit alive is Casey, her spouse, and Arlo, her toddler son.
Thankfully, she said, the good people of Salem Lutheran Church in the West Central neighborhood where she serves as pastor enjoy the call to playful faith, too. In the words of Flannery O’Connor, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd.”
Larson Andrews writes about her experience balancing parenthood and the ministry.
Elizabeth Backstrom majored in journalism at Western Washington University and currently works as a content analyst and grant writer in Spokane. Her background is in newswriting and features, but if an overabundance of caffeine is consumed, she has been known to write a humor piece or two. Backstrom attended various Christian churches growing up in Spokane and currently attends First Covenant Church, an inner-city ministry in downtown Spokane.
“Faith isn’t about words on a page or meeting every Sunday. It’s what we do in every moment in between church services — how we treat others, how we spend our money and time, the relationships we form with others. That’s what people remember. God means nothing to others watching us if our actions don’t back up our beliefs,” she said.
Pastor Eric Blauer is the founder of Jacob’s Well, which he describes as a nondenominational church with a “neighborhood vision and city reaching vision.”
He has a graduate level degree in advanced chair set up and take down and has been known to move from bark to purr over a good dark beer or well crafted latte.
He blogs about spirituality and fitness, about what it means to be a peacemaker, about Burma refugees and even writes poetry once in a while.
He also writes about current events.
“I’m interested in a broad range of issues and find my inspiration on many fronts,” he said, noting he’s an evangelical pastor with moderate political views.
Jamie Brannock describers herself as a quiet, shy, weird, dark, goth, complex, woman whose mood changes constantly.
I can be hard to figure out at times. I stay on the mysterious side, I guess, she said. 'Nothing is as it seems' is a good way to describe me. You'd never guess all my secrets or even believe them when you see me in a normal light.
Brannock is SpokaneFAVS' Pagan writer. She studies and practices witchcraft, which she plans to explain through her writing.
Don't judge me before you know the truth, she said.
She also enjoys writing poetry, stories, songs, drawing, singing and dancing — particularly tribal bellydance, and is a budding musician.
She's a nature nut and an animal lover and won't tolerate cruelty toward animals or humans.
I tend to see things differently from everyone else and I definately think differently from everyone else. I have my own sense of thought and I might post it occasionally, she said.
Since I've been part of the SpokaneFAVS team, I've been getting quite a few emails asking about my nickname, Mynx. How did I get it, how long have I had it and what does it mean? I've decided to go ahead and answer those questions.
Yes, there is a bit of a story behind the nickname. To start, if you look up the word, minx in the dictionary, you will get:
1) a pert, impudent, or flirtatious girl.
2) a bold or scheming woman.
3) darling, beloved.
The nickname was given to me way back when I was 15 year old by a boyfriend. He claimed it described my personality perfectly. The name started out as a joking reference and ended up staying. As we got more involved, he started using it as an affectionate term.
Over the years, I kept the nickname because it still, even now, describes me very well.
So, there you go, now you know. I know the proper spelling of the word is m-i-n-x, but I had to tweak the spelling a bit. Frankly, I think it's looks prettier and more unique spelled my way.
Annie May Brown moved to Spokane in 2011 with hopes of pursuing, creating and cultivating rich and authentic community. Within a year of being in Spokane, her hopes are budding.
She lives in intentional community with six other people in a beautiful historic home in West Central, dubbed ‘The Green House.' She is also actively involved in a small church located downtown called Inland Church.
With her entrepreneurial and visionary spirit she’s had many adventures including church planting, starting her own coffee shop, obtaining a degree in cultural studies, traveling and living internationally, along with doing youth work locally and abroad. Currently she works for Spokane Youth for Christ as its development coordinator, and you can also see her making delightful coffee beverages at Boots Bakery Lounge on the weekends.
Brown said she is, Learning to embrace the fierce and unsearchable love of Jesus, and that love changes everything.
Kurt Bubna has been in pastoral ministry since 1976 and now serves as the senior pastor of Eastpoint Church, a large, vibrant, and community-focused congregation in Spokane Valley.
Kurt published his first book, Epic Grace ~ Chronicles of a Recovering Idiot, with Tyndale Momentum in 2013. He is an active blogger, itinerant speaker, and a regular radio and television personality. He and his wife, Laura, have been married for nearly forty years and have four grown children and four grandchildren.
Josie Camarillo, Intern (Spokane, Wash.)
Josie Camarillo is a senior at Whitworth University. She is getting her bachelor’s degree in English (writing track) as well as in psychology and plans to eventually get a master’s degree in social work. She is currently interning at Anna Ogden Hall, a women's recovery program run by the Union Gospel Mission.
Camarillo has a passion for photography and writing, especially poetry, and is interested in creative counseling methods like narrative therapy and using horses in therapy. Someday, she would like to be a counselor and a published poet. Her favorite poems are "The Singing Woman from the Wood's Edge" by Edna St. Vincent Millay and "The Art of Drowning" by Billy Collins.
During fall 2013, Camarillo worked for Spokane Faith & Values as a copy editing intern, where her specialities included deleting Oxford commas and adding hyperlinks. Since then, she has transitioned into becoming a regular contributor to the site as a writer and photographer.
Andy CastroLang is senior pastor at Westminster Congregational United Church of Christ. She is a proud progressive and serves a dynamic inclusive congregation in the city’s first church, founded 134 years ago. CastroLang and her church are pushing back against the culture of judgment, meanness and corruption that are the stereotype of Christianity, she said. She looks for opportunities to build on the good that is in people and in the world. She moved to Spokane 11 years ago with her husband and two children and she believes in this town of Spokane. She wants to help make it a better place, not just for some, but for all.
Rev. Deb Conklin’s wheels are always turning. How can the church make the world a better place? How can it make Spokane better?
Her passions are many, including social justice in the mainline tradition, emergence and the post-modern and missional church. And those things, she says, “are always colored by my passion for Wesley and Methodist heritage.”
Sarah Conover holds a Bachelor of Arts in religious studies from the University of Colorado, a degree in education from Gonzaga University, and a Masters of Fine Arts in creative writing from Eastern Washington University.
She lives in Spokane where she currently teaches creative writing and meditation. Previous to her role in education, she was a senior producer at Internews, an international NGO committed to fostering open media throughout the world.
Conover is the author of young adult, multigenerational, and adult books. Her books with Skinner House Books include Kindness: A Treasury of Buddhist Wisdom for Children and Parents
Jim Downard is a Spokane native (with a sojourn in Southern California back in the early 1960s) who was raised in a secular family, so says had no personal faith to lose.
He's always been a history and science buff (getting a bachelor's in the former area at what was then Eastern Washington University in the early 1970s).
When legislators in the early 1980s tried to get Young Earth Creationism into public school science courses Downard began to follow that controversy and has continued down to the current Intelligent Design efforts, which he says naturally bumps his study into many issues of religion, politics and philosophy.
He learned about the Spokane Secular Society through a co-worker, and that connected him to the community's atheist/humanist/secular citizenry. In that area he has put a similarly long-standing interest in films to good use by running his S3 movie night socials at his home (sometimes on secular related themes but usually just some ripping good movies).
Epictetus said, Content yourself with being a lover of wisdom, a seeker of the truth. One could say this is the very purpose of Ryan Downie's life. What drives him, he said, is knowledge and understanding, an insatiable desire to learn.
Truth has always been important to me. I was raised in the evangelical Christian tradition and became a Christian at a very young age, he said. By the time I graduated high school I believed the ministry was my calling, specifically theology and apologetics. But in my pursuit of truth, knowledge and understanding I began to harbor deep doubts and ironically Bible college became something of an incubator for those doubts.
Instead Downie began to focus his studies on science, philosophy and logic and as a consequence of these studies said he fell in love with the beautiful and rigorous world of mathematics.
Besides acquiring a love of mathematics, my continued studies have also overturned my Christian persuasion and have brought me to a place of agnosticism with respect to the existence of God. This was very difficult for me, but God's continued silence causes me to think that such a being likely does not exist, he said.
He enjoys reading, writing, debating, music and most of all learning. Some of his favorite subjects are, of course, mathematics (all of it), cosmology, quantum physics, possible worlds philosophy, philosophy of religion and logic. He holds a bachelors degree in biblical studies and holds a master's degree in mathematics with plans to get a PhD as well.
Downie is married with two children.
The Rev. Martin Elfert is an immigrant to the Christian faith. After the birth of his first child, he began to wonder about the ways in which the Divine was at work in the world. Shortly thereafter, he joined Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, BC, where he and his new son were baptized at the Easter Vigil in 2005 and where the community encouraged him to seek ordination.
Elfert now serves as a pastor at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. Through his writing he seeks to minister with, and to learn from, all those who hope to get to know God better, he said.
Elfert and his wife, Phoebe, have three children.
Rev. Bill Ellis is intrigued by how the Bible was put together. How come some texts were included and some weren’t? What about the Dead Sea Scrolls? The Gnostic Gospels? What does the inclusion and exclusion of certain texts mean, exactly? These are the questions that keep his wheels turning and what he writes about for SpokaneFAVS.
Ellis is dean of St. John’s Cathedral. He has a bachelor’s degree in history, a Master of Divinity and holds an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Church Divinity School of the Pacific.
The Rev. Alan B. Eschenbacher is a businessman. Insurance and investments were his speciality for 22 years. But in 2004 he left all that and entered Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary.
Currently he serves as pastor of All Saints Lutheran Church. He’s been there since 2002 (was serving there as a seminarian) and in that time has developed a deep concern for the homeless. For SpokaneFAVS he plans to write about the mental health issues many of them battle every day.
In his spare time he serves on the board of All Saints, Spokane Urban Ministries and Green Progressive Archives.
Eschenbacher and his wife, Laurel, have been married 32 years. They have three children and three grandchildren.
Kyle A. Franklin is a recent graduate of Gonzaga University, where he earned his Master's in Religious Studies. He completed his bachelor's degree in history and religion at Pacific Lutheran University in 2007 and has worked in both the ELCA Lutheran Church and the United Methodist Church.
While Franklin's focus in school was 1st Century Judaism and Christianity, he is also interested in the impact of belief systems on current society and societal perceptions of religion.
Hee is a long-distance runner and enjoys a good glass of wine with friends.
Emily H. Geddes was born to two physicists and grew up as a Navy brat. Born-and-raised as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she holds a bachelor's degree in theatre from Brigham Young University, and earned an MBA from Eastern Washington University. She has, at various times, jumped out of an airplane at 10,000 feet, worked in health care administration, lived in and traveled around Europe, and interned at an electron beam accelerator facility.
Geddes lives near Spokane with her husband Gene, their three sons, 10 chickens, a cat, a dog and her two library cards. She blogs about books, religion, feminism and family at www.buildenoughbookshelves.com.
Melissa Gish is a former elementary school teacher who now spends her days educating her children on how to be decent human beings, which is loosely defined in the Gish household as washing your face before leaving the house and turning your homework in on time.
She is a member of First Presbyterian Church and strives to be the kind of Christian that doesn’t give Christianity a bad rap.
Presently Julia Hayes is a hobby organic farmer living one of the most traditional roles she can imagine; stay at home mama, full-time cook and housekeeper, seamstress extraordinaire, boo-boo fixer-upper, and constant child negotiator and mediator. When she's not doing all of that, she's a writer and textile artist. Her favorite area of study, however, is the vast concept called spirituality. By far all matters pertaining to spirit is what she likes most to discuss and write about. But she's also fairly knowledgeable about chickens, tractors and drip systems. She lives a very simple contemplative life that challenges her to her core.
Scott Kinder-Pyle is a nine-fingered struggling poet and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Following his upbringing, as the youngest of five in a working-class family, he received degrees from Penn State University (BA, English), Princeton Theological Seminary (Mdiv, Philosophy) and in 2008 a Doctor of Ministry (DMin) from Columbia Theological Seminary with a dissertation entitled, "Pastor as Struggling Poet — Exploring An Alternative Mode of New Church Development." Kinder-Pyle is married to Sheryl, his spouse for over 25 years, and together they have two grown boys (Ian and Philip). Most recently, this former new-church development minister pursued and received yet another degree (a Master of Fine Arts) from Eastern Washington University. "Of God Gone Bust" is the title of his 80-odd-page thesis, which invites a suspension of ideological certitude (among both theistic and atheistic crowds) as well as the hope of an ineffable meta-narrative, which no autonomous individual can fully comprehend or name. Sheer-embodied self-consciousness has been the name of Scott's game since losing the ring-finger on his left hand in a freak accident, re-stringing a soccer net. And you might say the rest of his journey is comprised of a looser grip(e) on theology, contemporary culture and ethics.
Diane Kipp is a lifelong member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She graduated from Brigham Young University, “Long ago in the previous century,” she said.
Kipp currently lives in Spokane Valley with two of her four adult children, her mom, one dog, three cats and her “extraordinarily patient husband.”
“I look forward to writing about how living the LDS faith looks in my daily life,” she said.
Her daughter, Laura Kipp, is also a SpokaneFAVS contributor.
Editor's Note: Laura Kipp is currently serving on a Mormon mission and will not be writing for SpokaneFAVS until she returns. Read her going away post here.
Laura Kipp is a 22-year-old Mormon living in Spokane Valley. Like many young adults, she’s interested in pop culture. Sure, TV, movies and celebrities make her wheels turn, but she’s also fascinated by the latest Internet trends. You know, like those YouTube videos that go viral.
She’s a freelance writer, has worked as a nanny in New York, has a strong interest in psychology and has done a lot of volunteer work, helping people who have developmental disabilities.
Though pop culture is her focus, from time to time she writes about various trends she sees among her generation.
A few years ago Bethany Mahan picked up a camera and started taking pictures of Spokane's Marginalized community members.
These pictures turned out beautifully, and in a split second she realized she had a knack for finding beauty in all things deemed broken.
My life is forever transformed because of my new sight, she said.
Anna Marie Martin has been a Spokanite since December 2006, when she moved here just in time to experience some of the worst snowstorms in recent history. She dislikes snow (hate is a really strong word). She grew up in Nebraska, and therefore has no need to be exposed to neither more snow nor more football. Yet, each of these happen every fall and winter, she says.
Martin has experienced many religious traditions, including: Wicca / WomanSpirit; Unitarian Universalist; Zen Buddhism; Presbyterianism; non-denominational Christian; and the growing denomination of former Catholics. She is deeply interested in the healing of traumas, especially traumas aided and abetted by religions. Currently, if she were pushed to reveal her denomination, she would reply, “Syncretism, she says.
Her main interests are wholeness and healing; comprehensive sexuality education; religious tolerance and acceptance of other’s beliefs (towards a more comprehensive peace); good science fiction and fantasy; and humor.
Jan Martinez writes about poverty issues in the area.
She’s the director of Christ Kitchen, a non-profit restaurant and gift shop that employs women trying to climb out of poverty.
The ministry is Martinez’s brainchild and, according to its website, was created in 1998 to “employ low-income women from backgrounds of abuse, addiction and poverty and offers a nurturing, healthy, caring environment in which they learn work skills, life skills, and meet relational needs.”
Colleen McLean is a life long Roman Catholic with a few pagan adventures along the way. She has been active in lay ministry in two states and four dioceses.
She completed a master's degree in theology from Gonzaga University and lives in Spokane with her family and one amazing bulldog.
She can be found blogging at My Forsythia.
Jo Miller grew up in Southern California, but came up to the Northwest to attend Whitworth University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in journalism and philosophy. She now works as a freelance writer for the Inlander. When not writing, playing roller derby or eating cookies, you can find Miller sitting by bodies of water thinking about the meaning of life.
Tamara Milliken has been practicing yoga for nearly 10 years and teaching yoga and meditation for a little more than four.
She received her training from Shoshoni, an ashram in Colorado, and returns every other year to take a new training, her favorite by far being the meditation training.
“Since finding a consistent yoga practice I have learned to detach from that which I can’t control and to trust in the universe around me.”
Through SpokaneFAVS Milliken hopes to share her insights on what meditation means to her, her ups and downs, and the benefits of the daily discipline.
Joe Newby is an IT professional who also writes as a conservative columnist for Examiner.com covering politics, crime, elections and social issues, and offers hard-hitting commentary at his blog, the Conservative Firing Line.
He has been involved in conservative politics for years, having run for office in Riverside, Calif., and serving as campaign manager for other candidates. He currently lives in north Idaho with his bride of 26 years.
Newby writes from an Evangelical Christian perspective.
Walking the spiritual path has been part of the Rev. Toni Niemiec's life as long as she can remember. She said as a child she was not raised in a “traditional” religion.
She began attending the Religious Science Church in 1987. In 1993, became a licensed practitioner with Religious Science International. She completed her ministerial training with Dr. James Golden and became a staff minister at the Redding Church of Religious Science in 2001, and an assistant minister in 2002. In the fall of 2006 she and her husband, Rev. Joe Niemiec Jr., became the pastors at the Center for Spiritual Living Spokane.
Empowering others through discovery of their own spiritual truth and understanding is my passion. I am blessed with so many opportunities for doing this through: co-pastoring this center, teaching adult Science of Mind® classes, developing and writing youth curriculum, training those who implement this curriculum for the youth of the International Centers for Spiritual Living and other New Thought organizations, speaking and sharing in the Spokane community and beyond, she said. It is my purpose to bring greater understanding, compassion, and love to the world through speaking, teaching, and simply being.
The Rev. Joe Niemiec Jr. began his spiritual quest in 1986 when he walked out of a Houston jail and was struck by the realization that his life was in shambles.
He began his quest for ‘getting back on track’ with 12 step programs, followed by learning and practicing meditation with a local Redding, California, teacher.
Spiritual growth continued to be a major focus for him as he explored meditation, shamanic quests and sweat-lodge work. In 1993, he discovered the (then) Redding Church of Religious Science and began to study the Science of Mind as a means of expanding his personal growth. He began taking classes and serving on different SEVA (a Sanskrit term meaning selfless service to God) positions. Niemiec also studied with various clergy, which led to his becoming licensed as a practitioner, and, in 2003, a staff minister at the Redding church.
It was during this period that he met and married Rev. Toni Niemiec.
In October of 2006, the couple accepted position as co-pastors at the Spokane Center for Spiritual Living.
Since moving to Spokane, I have become active in the local Interfaith Council, participating in events such as Unity in the Community and the Interfaith Thanksgiving Service. In the spirit of SEVA, I also serve Centers for Spiritual Living the international organization we are affiliated with, he said. My deep belief is in service to the individual, the Center for Spiritual Living Spokane, and to the greater world. My focus for the individual is empowering each to achieve his or her own personal greatness. For the Center for Spiritual Living Spokane, it is to grow a spiritual community through Sunday talks and classes, in a place where people from all faith paths will find an open and loving spiritual community. For the greater world, I am committed to doing my part to deepen our individual and collective knowing and understanding of ourselves and, therefore, God.
R. Skyler Oberst, is the Special Projects Coordinator for the Office of Global Initiatives at Eastern Washington University. He is an active leader in the interfaith movement, both locally and nationally. Recently, he attended NAIN Connect in Atlanta and had the opportunity to meet with Ambassador Andrew Young on interfaith issues. Oberst has been a research contributor for the Pluralism Project at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., where he worked closely with Diana Eck and other faith leaders.
He wanted nothing to do with religious diversity, until one day he saw attackers assault a group of his Muslim peers.
“Something shifted inside of me after that evening. I realized that the anguish and torment occurring in front of me was happening all over the world, and that in order to create a lasting peaceful world, action started not on the floor of the United Nations or the United States Senate, but in my heart and through my actions,” Oberst wrote in a recent letter to Harvard.
That event, he said, prompted him to start the Compassion Interfaith Society at EWU. He described the student group as a forum for understanding and appreciation. He’s also involved in Friends of Compassion, a group of Spokanites interested in exploring compassionate action.
Christi Ortiz is a licensed marriage and family therapist by profession and a poet by passion. She enjoys trying to put to words to that which is wordless and give voice to the dynamic and wild spiritual journey called life. She lives in Spokane with her husband and two children, Emmanuel and Grace. She loves the outdoors and meditating in the early mornings which gives rise to her poetry.
Ortiz will be posting poetry to stir you to reflection and invite you into prayer. Poetry has been called the language of the soul, a language that unites many traditions and creates a place where different faiths can come together in shared experience. Just as in inter-religious dialogue, the silence between the words are just as important as the words themselves. Poetry offers us an opportunity to hear and express our deepest fears, longings and religious experiences. Her poems echo the story from various faith traditions, yet many diverse seekers find themselves in the verses. The paucity of words in poetry offer us an opportunity to meditate and explore what they mean to us. Reading poetry is never just reading, she says, but is instead an intrapersonal and interpersonal experience that draws from our deepest source.
Jocelyn Paluch is the volunteer committee chairperson for the American Cancer Society's "Bark for Life" event.
She's also a founding member of Eastern Washington's Compassionate Interfaith Society and is an active SpokAnimal volunteer.
Paluch has been married a really looooooooong time, she says. Together they have three furry children, two sons, two daughters-in-law, three grandsons, and five furry grand-doggies.
Amy C. Rice is a technical services and systems librarian at Whitworth University. She has been attending Nazarene churches for most of her life. As a result, she often approaches issues through a Wesleyan-Arminian perspective. She believes a person’s faith journey may benefit from conversing with people from a wide variety of belief systems.
Rice seeks to understand the practical applications of following Jesus. She often asks questions such as: “How do people practice Christ’s command to love God wholeheartedly and love others as themselves?” and, “How can Christians improve and sustain respectful dialogue with those who have different beliefs?”
She is interested in the ways in which religion and faith are portrayed in popular culture, including literature, film and television. Her current research explores the ways in which young adult paranormal novels depict religion.
Rice holds a bachelor’s degree from Northwest Nazarene University and a master’s degree from Simmons College. Additionally, she is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation from Northwest Nazarene University.
Originally from the Netherlands, Sicco Rood has lived in the United States since 1992.
He began exploring spiritual ideas in his teenage years and was drawn to those who followed a path of understanding, kindness, compassion and non-separation. This led him to Zen Buddhism and the practice of meditation. Rood is an active member of the Zen Center of Spokane.
He hopes that people regardless of faith, persuasion and wisdom tradition will come together to help heal the divisions among people and the systems created, as well as animals and the earth. He believes that authenticity, compassion, tolerance and the realization we are not separate are essential in understanding each other and as responsible caregivers to the planet, he said.
He is married to Kristina. They have three rescued dogs.
Thomas Schmidt is a retired psychotherapist and chemical dependency counselor who belongs to the Sufi Ruhiniat International order of Sufi’s and is a drummer in the Spokane Sufi group and an elder at the Country Homes Christian (Disciples of Christ) Church. He is a member of the Westar Institute (The Jesus Seminar people). He studied for the ministry in the late 1950’s at Texas Christian Church and twice married Janet Fowler, a member of a long tern TCU family and a Disciple minister. He was active in the Civil Rights Movement, studying philosophy at Columbia University and psychology in the University of North Carolina university system. He has taught philosophy and psychology, and was professionally active in Florida, North Carolina, and, for 25 years in Spokane. He has studied and practiced Siddha Yoga, Zen Buddhism and, since the mid 1970’s, Sufism and the Dances of Universal Peace. He has three sons and three grandchildren. With the death of his wife, Janet, he is continuing their concentration on human rights, ecology, and ecumenical and interfaith reconciliation.
A native of Detroit, Neal Schindler has lived in the Pacific Northwest for more than 10 years. He has held staff positions at Seattle Weekly and The Seattle Times and has been a freelance writer for Jew-ish.com since 2007.
Schindler was raised in a Reconstructionist Jewish congregation and is currently a member of Spokane's Reform congregation, Emanu-El.
He is a graduate student in mental health counseling at Eastern Washington University and continues to work as a freelancer.
His interests include movies, tennis, yoga and Scrabble.
He is engaged to be married and has a kitten.
After a career in marketing and public relations in New York City and Santa Barbara, Calif., Judith Shadford moved to the Northwest to focus on writing.
She received her MFA in Creative Writing from the Rainier Writing Workshop of Pacific Lutheran University of Tacoma in 2009. She's had essays and short stories published in literary and mystery journals.
The rest of the time, she edits the e-newsletter, “News from St. John’s” and sings in the Cathedral Choir.
Shadford has two grown children and four grandchildren.
Jan Shannon is the part-time assistant pastor at Westminster UCC, a full-time student at Eastern Washington University and hopes to attain ordination before the age of 60. When she isn’t studying you can find her at Westminster sharing preaching and worship duties with Pastor Andy CastroLang, leading a book study, new member class, or sharing leadership with her partner, Deb, in the Middle-High Youth Group.
Shannon is a joyous optimist, with articles that can be humorous while at other times emphasizing the seriousness of personal piety.
She can be reached at email@example.com
Tracy Simmons serves as the editor and community manager of SpokaneFAVS.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in print journalism and a master’s degree in communication.
She’s reported on religion for about a decade and has written for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas and Connecticut.
Over the years Simmons has won several journalism awards including the 2009 American Academy of Religion’s first place award for best in-depth reporting on religion, and the 2011 Religion Newswriters Association’s Schachern Award for Online Religion Section of the Year.
Eli Sowry was born and raised in Southwest Ohio and spent the first 18 years of his life there. Today he is a student at Moody Bible Institute-Spokane where he is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in biblical studies with a minor in psychology.
He will be graduating in May and plans on attending graduate school to study clinical psychology. When it is all said and done, he would like to have his own private practice counseling those who are broken, and possibly open a drug rehabilitation center in the Pacific Northwest.
My interests include music from heavy metal to hip-hop and everything in-between, playing guitar, reading, and most of all, changing American Christianity's focal point back to Jesus Christ, he said.
Laura Stembridge is a recent graduate from Gonzaga University where she earned a degree in English Literature with a concentration in Women's and Gender Studies. Before attending Gonzaga she worked for the United States Army, Spokane County Fire District 8 and various other jobs too numerous to list.
Aside from a strong interest in gender issues within the church, Stembridge is interested in intellectualism and reclaiming the art of conversation.
Because he grew up in El Paso, Texas, on the edge of Juarez, Mexico, Ernesto Tinajero understands what it means to live on the border.
Art, he says, comes from the border of what has come before and what is coming next. Tinajero uses his experience studying poetry and theology to write about the intersecting borders of art, poetry and religion.
He studied at Fuller Theological Seminary, where he was the associate editor of Offerings literary magazine and also served as associate poetry editor for Rio Grande Review. He has blogged for the Christian Social Justice Site Sojourners, currently a Christian Century Blogger network, and has blogged for Salon.com.
John VanDerWalker II serves as a Mission Research, Assessment and Support Specialist with the Western USA Mission Field of the Community of Christ.
He received his field minister’s certificate and graduated with honors and a bachelor of arts in history from Marietta College in Ohio. He also received a master of religion from the Graceland University’s Community of Christ Seminary in Independence, Mo.
VanDerWalker also worked as a self-employed beekeeper, operating his business in Idaho, California, and Washington.
He's interested in writing about Christian unity and how congregations can focus on commonalities and strengths, rather than differences.
Dr. Lace Williams-Tinajero, author of “The Reshaped Mind: Searle, the Biblical Writers, and Christ’s Blood,” (Brill, 2011) writes about the connection between language and the diverse ways people think of, speak of, believe in and ultimately worship God.
Her other interest is spirituality and parenting a child with special needs, especially learning to manage the fear in relation to her son’s incurable tumor condition, she said.
Williams-Tinajero is a native of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and grew up in the Catholic and Lutheran traditions. She completed a masters in doctrine and theology at Luther Seminary in St. Paul (2000). She earned a Ph.D. in theology, with concentrations in New Testament and systematic theology, at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. (2008). Her areas of research include biblical interpretation and speech act theory, and the ‘blood’ language in scripture.
In 2005 she authored ”Christian Unity: The Communal Participation in Christ’s Body and Blood.”
She resides in Spokane Valley with her husband Ernesto (Tito) and son Tito Jr.