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Columnists

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    Andy Pope

    Andy Pope is a freelance writer currently residing in Moscow, Idaho, where he is a member of Moscow First Presbyterian Church. His work on social justice has appeared in Classism Exposed in Boston, Berkeleyside in Berkeley, California, and also in the Bay Area newspaper Street Spirit, where his regular column, Homeless No More, encourages those making the transition from homelessness to housing. An accomplished pianist and lifelong musical theatre person, Andy is also the author of "Eden in Babylon", a musical about youth homelessness in urban America.
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    Cassy Benefield

    Cassandra Benefield mostly goes by Cassy (pronounced like Cassie but spelled with a 'y'). She is a wife and mommy, who married at the age of 37 and had her baby girl just shy of 39. She has moved around all her life, first as an Army brat. She is a returned Peace Corps volunteer to Romania where she taught Conversational English, Modern Literature, Creative Writing, U.S. Culture, U.S. Geography, and U.S. History (the last two subjects she was so not qualified to teach!). She is a Journalism major from Cal Poly Technical University in San Luis Obispo, Calif. She finds much comfort in her Savior, Jesus Christ, and considers herself a Bible nerd who is prone to buy more theology books than she is ever able to read. Morro Bay, California, is her favorite place on earth ... with the exception of being in the center of God's will. From time to time, you will find her writing devotions on her blog underhisshadow.blogspot.com.
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    Chellappa Deva

    My name is Chellappa Deva. In 1968 I found the teachings of Sivaya Subramuniyaswami. He is the founder of Kauai's Hindu Monastary, Hinduism Today International Magazine, Hindu Heritage Endowment and the author of "Dancing Living and Merging" with Siva books. I liked the teachings and have followed them ever since. I am currently helping the Spokane Hindu Temple and Cultural Center to come up.
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    Daniel Pschaida

    Daniel Pschaida hails from San Diego and married into the Spokane area where he has made his home for over two years. Passionate about Spokane’s interfaith movement, the NBA, Harry Potter books, and nature hikes with his wife Tiara, he also teaches comparative religion and humanities at Eastern Washington University and Gonzaga.
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    Danielle Stephens

    Danielle Stephens is a 30-something woman who has happened to find Jesus, a good man, an unlikely career of accounting, and more recently the role of stay-at-home mother to three sweet, rowdy children. She taps out thoughts in spurts of passion on her phone and publishes a tenth of them on her tiny blog, foundmercy.com.
  • Dave Liezen

    Dave Liezen (rhymes with season) might be the latest of late bloomers, earning a BA in English from Whitworth at the age of 52. Long before that Dave kept bumping into Jesus People, who challenged him to lay his life unequivocally into the management and guidance of the Lord Jesus. Dave did. He says Jesus continues to show himself fully capable of handling any situation and need, renovating Dave and leading him to marry happily and raise five fine people known to him as children. Shortly after finishing college, Dave began raising some of his own fruit in the backyard, where he also learned to graft apple and plum trees. They are good, or get replaced via grafting. He hopes to live long so he can taste the fruits of his labor. Dave sings in the Spokane Symphony Chorale and an a cappella madrigal group called Hubbardston Nonesuch.
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    Gen Heywood

    Rev. Gen Heywood has been active in parish ministry for more than 30 years. From small towns to big cities, she always lets the needs of the community and the congregation be her guide. Gen credits the supportive leadership of Veradale United Church of Christ for including her work to overcome racism, poverty, the war economy, and ecological devastation as part of her ministry. “Veradale UCC is a small church with a powerful faith. They are the reason I can be a witness for a world where we do justice, live with compassion, and walk humbly with the Divine.” Gen grow up in rural Maine. She received a BA in Music Therapy and German from Emmanuel College in Boston, MA and her M.Div. from Andover Newton Theological School in Newton, MA. She is a life long learner who lives in Spokane Valley, WA with her three dogs as well as, sometimes, with her amazing young adult children.
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    Hyphen Parent

    Dorothy-Ann Parent (better known as Hyphen) is a writer, a traditional Jew, a seeker of justice, a lover of stories, the self-proclaimed Jewish Molly Weasley, hobbit-sized, and best not left unattended in a bookshop or animal shelter.
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    Jennifer Hicks

    Jennifer was born and raised in Spokane and is one of nine children. She graduated with a BA in music from EWU and plays the piano, violin and organ. She taught private music lessons and worked in non-profit fundraising including serving as director of development for the Spokane Symphony. She left Spokane for 14 years and lived in Hawaii, Italy, Maryland, and Greece. She has been a lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is passionate about her faith.
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    Jim Downard

    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).
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    Jimmy Young

    Jim, a Union Bricklayer by trade, was born in Spokane and has lived there the majority of his life and is associated with a few Christian churches in the area through weekly Bible studies, recovery meetings, opportunities to serve the vulnerable, and as a parishioner. He has a checkered past because of bad choices, but has since gained a foothold on a better way to be alive and seeks to share his 'experience, strength and hope with others. He has decided to make it his business what it is that is his business, and what it is that is best not to be. He is also proud to say he has an Environmental Science degree,(an A.S. in Water Resources), obtained from Spokane Community College, a father to six wonderful children and grandfather to five, and loves learning how it is to live right.
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    Jody Cramsie

    Jody Cramsie has a background in history, theology, ethics and law. In her free, time she enjoys music, reading and hosting dinner parties for family and friends. She lives in Spokane but prefers to be on the Olympic Peninsula or in the south of France.
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    Kurt Queller

    Kurt Queller, Senior Instructor Emeritus, taught linguistics, history of English, Bible as literature, German and occasionally other languages at the University of Idaho.
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    Lace Williams-Tinajero

    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.
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    Luke Grayson-Skinner

    Luke Grayson-Skinner is a 20-something, disabled, nonbinary trans-person who has been in Spokane since 2012 and is an advocate for the LGBT community and for transgender people. They are also a slam (performance) poet who went to Atlanta for National competition in 2016 as a part of a team representing Spokane, and continues to be apart of the local writing and arts communities. Luke doesn't currently know what faith-base they "belong in" but grew up in an Evangelical church that they left when they moved to Spokane and has attended an open and affirming UCC church off and on since they were 20. Luke uses they/them pronouns.
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    Mackenzie Draper

    A self-described "Ex-vangelical," Mackenzie Draper loves to expand her spiritual and theological horizons on her travels, particularly to the bookstore. She grew up a pastor's kid and missionary kid living in Bosnia and Serbia as child, and then moved back to Spokane her freshman year of high school. In the interest of saving time, she decided to have a crisis of sexuality as well as a crisis of faith around the time she graduated from Spokane Falls Community College and began attending Gonzaga University. Draper has now come out as a lesbian and has the most amazing partner and life she could imagine. While she still wrestles with faith and the ramifications conservative Evangelical theology has on her relationship to family, she is a passionate, lifelong learner and is devoted to living well and doing good in her world. You can find her in various thrift stores around town scouring the bookshelves or huddled over a crochet project trying to count stitches.
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    Maimoona Harrington

    Maimoona Harrington was born and raised in Pakistan moved to the United States with her family in 2008. She is married and a mother of two sons. She has a bachelor’s degree in Islamic studies and sociology from Pakistan and a bachelor’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies from United States. Along with her career as an interpreter, translator and monitor she is also an Islamic and Pakistani Culture Adviser. As a practicing Muslim with the extensive world travel and living in the West, she has devoted herself to spread awareness of Islam as a goodwill gesture. In an effort to do this she started writing from her own personal experiences with religion, beliefs and life in a different culture. She also has special interest in all the religions and how and why they are all important to its followers. Her primary focus is on the co-existence and harmony between all human beings. Her message is to spread peace not division. She strongly believes that if you want to be closer to your creator then love His creation unconditionally and expect nothing in return for He loves us unconditionally and forgives us no matter how sinful we are!
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    Matthew Kincanon

    Matthew Kincanon is a former Digital Content Producer with a journalism and political science degree from Gonzaga University. His journalism experience includes the Gonzaga Bulletin, The Spokesman-Review, and now SpokaneFāVS. He said he is excited to be a freelancer at SpokaneFāVS because, as a Spokane native, he wants to learn more about the various religious communities and cultures in his hometown.
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    Mindy Wright

    Mindy Wright was born and raised in Richland, Washington. She moved to Spokane Valley when she married Kevin in 2004, inheriting four wonderful stepchildren. Mindy graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor’s degree in Communications and served a proselyting mission in Tokyo Japan for 18 months, learning the language to communicate in their native tongue. She worked at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for 20 years as a technical editor, operations manager for the Japan office, and finishing up in Public Relations as a community relation’s specialist. Currently, Mindy is raising two daughters adopted from China and has fostered over 50 motherless kittens for SCRAPS. Mindy remains active in church and currently serves as the choir director.
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    Mitch Finley

    Mitch Finley is the author of 30+ books on Roman Catholic theological topics and spirituality, all written to appeal to both non-academic and academic readers. Mitch holds a B.A. in Religious Studies from Santa Clara University and an M.A. in Theology from Marquette University. He and Kathy Finley have been married since 1974 and are the parents of three grown sons. To learn more visit mitchandkathyfinley.com.
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    Nick Gier

    Nick Gier of Moscow was coordinator of religious studies at the University of Idaho from 1980 to 2003. Read his articles on civil rights at webpages.uidaho.edu/ngier/CivilRights.htm. Email him at ngier006@gmail.com.
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    Nicholas Damascus

    Nick Damascus is one who seeks to discover and apply the proverbial question of what is truth and wisdom, to fill that gaping hole, to become complete and to become realistically and synergistically functional. In an attempt to live the Christian life, which he says is a definite work in progress, he has discovered that he's created the Christ that fits his lifestyle and agrees with his ego (and boy what an ego, he says), often finding himself avoiding what God intended him to be.
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    Paul Graves

    Paul Graves is a retired and re-focused United Methodist pastor and a long-time resident of Sandpoint, Idaho, where he formerly served on city council and mayor. His second career is in geriatric social work, and since 2005 he's been the Lead Geezer-in-Training of Elder Advocates, a consulting and teaching ministry on aging issues. Since 1992, Graves has been a volunteer chaplain for Bonner Community Hospice. His columns regularly appear in the Spokesman-Review's Faith and Values section and he also writes the Dear Geezer column for the Bonner County Daily Bee and is the host of the bi-weekly Geezer Forum on aging issues in Sandpoint.
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    Pete Haug

    Armed with an AB in English literature, Pete Haug plunged into journalism fresh out of college. That career lasted five years while he reported for a metropolitan daily, edited a rural weekly, and worked in industrial and academic public relations. He abandoned all for graduate school, finishing with an MS in wildlife biology and a PhD in systems ecology. Pete taught college briefly, then for a couple of decades he analyzed environmental impacts for federal, state, Native American, and private agencies. His last hurrah was an 11-year gig teaching English in China. After he retired in 2007, curiosity led Pete to explore climate change and fake news and to give talks about both. About five years ago he returned to journalism to write columns under the watchful eye of his draconian live-in editor and wife Jolie. They’ve both been Baha’is since the 1960s. Pete’s columns on the Baha’i Faith represent his own understanding and not any official position.
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    Becky Tallent

    An award winning journalist and public relation professional, Rebecca "Becky" Tallent was a journalism faculty member at the University of Idaho for 13 years before her retirement in 2019. Tallent earned her BA and M.Ed. degrees in journalism from the University of Central Oklahoma and her Educational Doctorate in Mass Communications from Oklahoma State University. She is of Cherokee descent and is a member of both the Native American Journalists Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. She and her husband, Roger Saunders, live in Moscow, Idaho with their two cats.
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    Scott McIntyre

    Scott McIntyre is glad his parents didn’t name him Vladimir or he’d be listed last on this page. While a long time California resident, he was the Oakland Spirituality Examiner for Examiner.com from 2011-12 and about the same time began blogging on several topics. The first, teaching Christians how to lovingly share their spiritual beliefs, emphasized skills that can benefit all forms of one-to-one interaction. He also writes on marriage, travel, downsizing, humor, and the motive behind people’s words and actions. After retiring in 2016, Scott embarked on some major ‘R & R’; Relocating and Rebranding. Following in his sister’s footsteps from the early 80’s, and later in the decade, his parent’s, Scott left the Golden State to become a Washingtonian in a small town just west of Spokane County.
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    Sophia Kesler

    Sophia Kesler is a lifelong intersectional feminist. She has been Pagan most of her adult life, and is looking forward to sharing her faith and knowledge about Paganism with the SpokaneFaVS community. Kessler is a freelance copy editor, freelance internet research specialist, and an aspiring novelist. When she’s not writing, reading, or exploring her faith, she can be found learning how to be a better kitchen witch without making a mess.
  • Steven A Smith

    Steven A. Smith is clinical associate professor emeritus in the School of Journalism and Mass Media at the University of Idaho having retired from full time teaching at the end of May 2020. Smith is former editor of The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington. As editor, Smith supervised all news and editorial operations on all platforms with a staff ranging from more than 140 in 2002 to 104 at the time of his resignation in October 2008. Prior to joining The Spokesman-Review, Smith was editor for two years at The Statesman Journal, a Gannett newspaper in Salem, Oregon, and was for five years editor and vice president of The Gazette, a Freedom Communications newspaper in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Newspaper Management Center Advanced Executive Program and a mid-career development program at Duke University. He holds an MA in communication from The Ohio State University where he was a Kiplinger Fellow, and a BS in journalism from the University of Oregon. Smith serves on the SpokaneFāVS Board.
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    Susie Weller

    Susie Leonard Weller holds a master's degree in pastoral ministry and works as a certified life and spiritual coach. Learn more about her at https://www.susieweller.com/index.html
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    Tracy Simmons

    Tracy Simmons is an award winning journalist specializing in religion reporting, digital entrepreneurship and social journalism. In her 15 years on the religion beat, Simmons has tucked a notepad in her pocket and found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti. Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas and Connecticut. She serves as the executive director of SpokaneFAVS.com, a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Wash. She is also a Scholarly Assistant Professor at Washington State University.
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    Walter Hesford

    Walter Hesford, born and educated in New England, gradually made his way West. For many years he was a professor of English at the University of Idaho, save for stints teaching in China and France. At Idaho he taught American Literature, World Literature, and the Bible as Literature. He currently coordinates an interfaith discussion group and is a member of the Latah County Human Rights Task Force and Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Moscow. He and his wife Elinor enjoy visiting with family and friends and hunting for wild flowers.