2020 Chaplains of the Week

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Week 1:

The Rev. Dr. Brita Gill-Austern

The Rev. Dr. Brita Gill-Austern is the Austin Philip Guiles Professor of Pastoral Theology and Psychology, Emerita at Andover Newton Theological School.  She retired from teaching in 2019. She founded the program in Faith, Health and Spirituality at Andover Newton and was Founding Director of the Border Crossing Program. Brita seeks to be a contemplative activist in her later years. She is an active board member of the Massachusetts Baptist Multicultural Ministries and is actively engaged with Communities for Restorative Justice. She is also concerned with climate change. 


Brita is grateful to be married to Gary, (for 41 years).  They have three awesome sons, one amazing daughter-in-law, and a year old grand-daughter who is the joy of their life. Brita loves playing with her granddaughter and helping with her childcare, learning more about gardening, hiking with friends and enjoying the outdoors, swimming in the lake by the family cabin in Maine, travel, reading fiction and non-fiction, attending theatre, listening to music and playing Rumikub.

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Week 2: 

The Rev. Meredith L. Onion

After 20 years of working in business, Meredith heard the call to ministry. She received her Masters of Divinity in 2013 from Loyola University Chicago, Institute of Pastoral Studies and was ordained in the United Church of Christ.  She is currently the Associate Minister of Pastoral Care with the First Congregational Church of Western Springs. Meredith’s ministry focuses on pastoral care and small group leadership, including being the staff liaison for two women’s book studies, a Moms of Teens support group, their Mission and Outreach board, and Diaconate. She served as the lead staff liaison to the churches Strategic Visioning process in 2017. She has co-facilitated a Caregiver Support Group and Grief Support Group.  Involvement in the community is important to Meredith – she serves as the President of the Board of Directors of NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) – Metro Suburban; Community Memorial Foundation (CMF) Regional Health & Human Services Implementation Council; and the CMF 25th Anniversary Committee. She formerly served on the Board of BEDS Plus, an agency striving to prevent homelessness, and served on the Advisory Board of Loyola University of Chicago Institute of Pastoral Studies. Meredith and her husband Dave are proud parents of three adult children and a new grand-puppy.


Week 3: 

The Rev. Dr. Rebecca A. McElfresh

Rebecca McElfresh serves as the Minister of Pastoral Care and Spiritual Growth at The Good Shepherd United Church of Christ in Sahuarita, Arizona, where the congregation is deeply immersed in justice ministries supporting those experiencing food insecurity and those who are migrating across the US / Mexico border.   She is also an experienced educator who served students in the public schools of Ohio and Massachusetts in roles that encompassed pre-kindergarten through graduate studies. During doctoral study, she explored the experiences of artists who created their work with social change as the end in mind. Rebecca calls Lakewood, Ohio her hometown.  Currently, she lives in Green Valley, Arizona with her husband, Jim Armstrong. In the summer months, Rebecca and Jim return to the midwest to be near their children and grandchildren in Indiana and Ohio.

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Week 4: 

The Rev. Dan Schifeling

The Rev. Dan Schifeling is passionate about many things: three wonderful grandchildren; his wife, Barbara, and their children and family; supporting the Buffalo Peacemakers, a gang-intervention program in Buffalo, NY and working on issues of racial justice; gardening; politics; and riding his bike.


Dan is the Pastor Emeritus of Church of the Nativity UCC in Buffalo, where he served for 34 years as Co-Pastor. During his time at Nativity the first-ring suburban congregation joined VOICE-Buffalo, a Faith In Action affiliate, to have a greater impact on issues like combatting too many rats, eliminating drug houses, and curbing urban sprawl. Nativity also helped to resettle 13 immigrant families, developed extensive small-group and youth programs, added a Praise Service, and did three building renovation and expansions. 


Dan grew up loving nature and creating terrariums. He later studied a pre-med curriculum at Washington University in St. Louis before rather suddenly deciding to enroll in the Chicago Theological Seminary. There his science background led him to study process theology and later, the writings and ideas of Carl Jung.

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Week 5: 

The Rev. Julie Peeples

Julie Peeples was born and raised in Charleston, SC, one of six children. She is a graduate of Furman University and Andover Newton Theological School, and was ordained in 1988.

Julie has been the Senior Minister of Congregational UCC since 1991; her previous experience includes serving as an assistant minister, and as a Chaplain at the International Headquarters for Habitat for Humanity in Americus, GA with her husband, the Rev. Paul Davis. She has been a strong advocate for equality and justice issues, particularly for LGBTQ and immigrant rights, and has been an active leader in the Moral Monday Movement and the NC Sanctuary Coalition.

Julie is a recipient of various local and state awards, and was honored by the United Church of Christ with the Antoinette Brown Award. She and her husband, Rev. Paul Davis have two daughters, one son-in-law, one beautiful grandson, and one crazy puppy.


Week 6: TBA

Coming soon. Come and join us!


Week 7: 

The Rev. Quinn G. Caldwell

Rev. Quinn G. Caldwell is a United Church of Christ pastor and author.  He is co-editor of The Unofficial Handbook of the United Church of Christ.  He is also a contributor to The Christian Century, the UCC’s Stillspeaking Daily Devotional, and Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary.  His most recent book is All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Having served congregations in Boston and Central New York, his current call is as a stay-at-home dad on the small homestead in rural Central New York he shares with his husband, their two sons, and an alarming number of heritage-breed animals.


Week 8: TBA

Coming soon. Come and join us!


Week 9: 

The Rev. Kate Forer

The Rev. Kate S. Forer is currently Senior Pastor at the Presbyterian-New England Congregational Church in Saratoga Springs, New York. Kate has served this federated UCC and PCUSA congregation since the spring of 2016. Kate was attracted to PNECC because of its warm community and strong emphasis on social justice and service. Since 2016, PNECC has become further involved in the life of the larger community of Saratoga Springs, namely helping to launch a conversation about homelessness and income inequality that has led to major changes in her city.

Kate graduated from Duke Divinity School in 2008. In 2018, Kate was named a “Woman of Distinction” by Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner. She has also received awards from the New York Council of Churches for her work with faith formation, and from local nonprofit organizations in her city for her church’s dedication to social justice service in the community. Kate enjoys time with her husband and two sons, gardening, hiking, running and reading Stephen King novels.