Former UCCDM Board Members
have much wisdom and experience to add to the on-going work of inclusion and accessibility within our churches. They are persons who have worked diligently to move the inclusion and accessibility movements within the church along. We honor their service, dedication, and ministry to the churches and to the inclusions and accessibility movement.
REV. NANCY ERICKSON (Class of 2017 served until 2016)
Before being ordained into the UCC, I had a career in human services. I was a counselor for our state’s vocational rehabilitation services, Planning Director for the local United Way, and the Director of one of the first Independent Living Centers in the country. After ordination I served in several non-parish roles as hospital chaplain, jail chaplain (a program I started), Director of a homeless shelter, and therapist/spiritual advisor in a drug and alcohol treatment center for women. In my current position as Associate Minister, aside from the typical pastoral duties, I am staff for our Women’s Board and Plymouth Pride (our LGBT Ministry), and the new Mental Health Ministry team.
Avocationaly, I am charter member of an organization called The League of Human Dignity. As part of that group, I procured a grant which started the para-transit transportation in Lincoln, Nebraska. It is now integrated into the transportation system of the city. I took part in many social actions related to disability issues on a local level, and even some on the national level. I helped advocate for the first curb cuts and other accessible features in downtown Lincoln. I helped write and advocate for the first accessibility legislation in Nebraska.
I hope I am a role model for young people with significant disabilities. They need to understand that having a disability doesn’t five them license to be part of the problem of our world, but rather it means they have a responsibility to be part of the solution for those down the pipeline.
MINISTER BRENDA WALEFF (Class of 2017, In Memoriam)
Brenda Waleff was the Minister of Communications for the Penn Central Conference UCC. She served in this position since 2000 till the summer of 2016. Brenda became the first commissioned minister of communications in the UCC in 2011. She was responsible for all communications with the 195 local churches in the conference, clergy and members. She coordinated the conference’s Congregational Vitality Ministry Team and helps churches find unique ways to market themselves and become churches of extravagant welcome. Brenda was also the Resource Center Director and the Coordinator of the conference annual meeting. A member of Faith UCC, Grantville, she served on the consistory at Faith and chairs their Outreach Team. Brenda was active in the community and served as the PTSO President of the high school her son attends and the President of the Central Dauphin Ice Hockey Club. Brenda had fibromyalgia and it had made her more aware of physical limitations in some of our churches. Her brother in-law, Gary, has Downs Syndrome and she had seen all the things Gary can accomplish when people give him a chance. Brenda was married to Lou and the mother of Megan (19) and Dustin (14).
REV. SUSAN BURNS (Class of 2019, Vice Chair 2015-2016 Served until 2016)
Rev. Susan Burns writes “My name is Susan Burns, and I am a wife, a mom, and an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, living in Mahtomedi, Minnesota. I love my family, nature, long walks, running, my dogs, cross country skiing, reading, learning about everything, spiritual growth, religion, church, music, science, sewing, machine embroidery, too many hobbies, and a whole lot more.
I am also a person who lives with an incurable, neurological illness called narcolepsy with cataplexy. Living with narcolepsy is difficult. An important part of my brain is broken, and I am missing a key chemical, hypocretin, that controls wakefulness, consolidated restorative sleep, metabolism, temperature regulation, and more.
In addition, my brain sometimes interprets strong emotions, such as laughter or anger, as meaning that I’m in REM sleep and, since the brain paralyzes the body during REM, paralyzes me. That condition is called cataplexy and is unpredictable and weird. Fortunately that part has been relatively easy to manage, not like the lingering daytime sleep attacks that defy medication.
Due to difficulties fitting into the life of a regular Sunday morning church community, I am in the process of starting a worship and support community for people with invisible chronic illnesses and disabilities, that will meet in the afternoon or evening, and feature non-traditional means of getting together, such as through live-casting worship and meeting on Skype or Google Hangouts.
I believe that people have been excluded for too long from religious community by rigid schedules that only accommodate people with “normal” sleep schedules, and by prejudice and misunderstanding about the nature of chronic illness. That community is tentatively called Journey of Hope, and it is my hope to find people who are isolated due to illness or disability and bring them together in a supportive community.”
REV. LYNDA BIGLER (Class of 2015, Chair 2013-2015)
Lynda is currently a pastor of disability ministry in Portland, OR. She received a B.A. from Brown University in 1974 and an M. Div. from Yale Divinity School in 2007. She served as pastor of the Congregational UCC in Humboldt, Iowa from 2008-2012. During that time she served as the first woman president of the Humboldt County Ministerial Association, chair of her Clergy Cluster, mentored two pastors, and led the annual CROP Walk.
Lynda is a member of the UCC Board, where she is a member of the Endowment & Investment Committee and Local Church Ministries. She is a member of the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Disability Advocacy Network of North America. She is also an ex-officio member of the UCC Mental Health Network. Among her numerous community activities are BHA Education Consultants, the Disability Services Advisory Council of Multnomah County (Oregon), and the Interfaith Disability Network of Oregon. She is a former member of the Interfaith Council of Greater Portland and hospice volunteer.
Lynda has been visually impaired (legally blind) since birth. She takes particular interest in the emotional impact exclusion has on those in the disability community, and looks forward to using these skills providing pastoral care for the UCC’s new online church, Extravagance UCC. Lynda notes that “accessible to all” should include the pulpit as well as the congregation itself and is an advocate for UCC seminaries to be more inclusive of students with disabilities.
REV. CRAIG MODAHL, (Class of 2015, Treasurer 2009-2015)
Rev. Craig Modahl (MDiv, MSW) has been engaged in the lives of people with developmental disabilities professionally and personally for more than 25 years. He teaches Theology, Ministry and Developmental Disabilities at Chicago Theological Seminary. He founded a nonprofit organization serving individuals with developmental disabilities and their families in 1991. He currently serves as a Specialized Minister in the UCC in Wisconsin helping churches include people with developmental disabilities in congregations. He also is owner/director of NextBreath, LLC, a consulting firm called in Port Washington, WI.
REV. JEANNE TYLER (Class 2015, Co-Chair 2009-2013, Vice Chair 2013-2015)
REV. FELICIA WALKER-WILSON (Class of 2017, served until 2015)
REV. ALAN JOHNSON, (UCCDM Board Member 2009-2013, Ex-Officio 2014-2015; Current Chair of UCC Mental Health Network)
Alan has long been friend of UCC DM Board as Chair of the Mental Health Network. Alan is from Boulder, Colorado. He has family members with mental illnesses. He is a retired UCC minister who does freelance ministry and chaplaincy now. In 1968, he joined UCC. From 1979 to 1995, he served on the Board for Homeland Ministry.
REV. DR. PEGGY WOLFE DUNN DAVIS (Class 2015, Co-Chair 2009-2013, served until 2014)
Peggy co-chairs the UCC DM and is its representative to the Local Church Ministries Board. She is fully committed to working with others to have A2A roll off UCC tongues as easily and strongly as other familiar acronyms.
Dr. Dunn lives and works in Maine, where her work is spread between serving the Gardiner Congregational UCC and directing the Maine Conference
UCC Academy of Congregational Life and Leadership. She has three children, five grandchildren and one great grandchild. Among her loves and interests are gardening and photography, sometimes travel. She has learned some ins and outs of living with disabilities through her son’s experiences.
REV. DR. LESLIE CAROLE TAYLOR (Class of 2017, Served until 2014)
Leslie Taylor received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from UCC-Related Grinnell College (Grinnell, IA), her Master of Divinity (M.Div.) from Chicago Theological Seminary, and her Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) from Methodist Theological School in Ohio. She serves as the Director of Student Services and the United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Minister in Residence at Methodist Theological School in Ohio, located in Delaware, OH. Among her responsibilities as Director of Student Services, Leslie serves as the ADA and Disabilities Services Coordinator at MTSO. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Ohio Chapter of the Association of Higher Education and Disabilities (OH-AHEAD). She coordinated a four week series on Disabilities, Theology and the Church at MTSO. She served on the planning committee and was a presenter at Widening the Welcome: Inclusion for All (2012). She currently serves as a member of the United Church of Christ Mental Health Network.
Leslie has served as a member of the staff of the national setting of the United Church of Christ, has served as a pastor or interim pastor of four congregations, and has worked in non-profit settings. She currently serves as the Interim Pastor of Advent United Church of Christ in Columbus, Ohio.
A competitive walker, Leslie has completed several 5K races, 10K races, and half-marathons. She completed her first full-marathon in Anchorage, Alaska in June 2009, in celebration of her 50th birthday. She has a particular interest in being an advocate for people living with mental illness and other challenges because her biological father and maternal uncle both lived with mental illness, eventually completing suicide. Her brother, who was recently incarcerated, lives with mental illness and currently lives with Leslie.
ANN ITO (Class of 2013)
Ann represented UCCDM concerns on The UCC Executive Committee.
Ann is blind and is becoming increasingly hard of hearing. She has been a caregiver to family members with cancer, depression, dementia and post-stroke disabilities.
She is a member of the Nu’uanu Congregational Church in Honolulu. Blessed by the cultural richness and natural splendor of her home state of Hawaii, Ann is privileged for more than four decades to have served college students with disabilities toward equity of opportunity.
She has advocated for equal access for persons with a wide range of disabilities in public transportation, communication, rehabilitation, library services, employment, higher education, etc. Her approach has been one of conversion by education rather than coercion, believing that ignorance rather than malcontent is behind acts of exclusion and discrimination.
NORMA MENGEL (Class of 2013)
Norma served as the Disabilities Ministry representative the General Synod’s Nominating Committee. UCC DM history – (Past DM chair, treasurer, secretary). UCC Mental Illness Network—Treasurer; Authored General Synod Resolution on Brain Disorders, 1999.
Disabilities – Have clinical depression; husband has narcolepsy; family members with brother (suicide), nephew, uncle with serious bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses. Teacher for NAMI’s Family-to-Family Program; Helped to start the UCC Parish Nurse Network.
Professionally-Retired – Previously-Pastor, Maytown UCC, PA; Program Associate, UCC Council for Health and Human Service Ministries; Executive Director, State of Virginia HomeCare Association; President/CEO, Visiting Nurse Association, York County, PA; Director of Home Health Services, Community Health and Counseling Center, Bangor, Maine; Missionary, Taegu, South Korea.
Education -S, Nursing from Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio; MPH, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health; M.Div., Lancaster Theological Seminary (UCC).
CRAIG RENNEBOHM (Class 2013)
Craig R. served the UCC DM board as a representative from the Mental Illness Network of the UCC.Craig writes:
I serve as a Mental Health Chaplain in Seattle, working with persons on the street who are homeless and face mental illness.
I’m a graduate of Chicago Theological Seminary, with a D.Min. in pastoral care from Pacific School of Religion. I’ve served as a minister to the community at Christ Church United in Lowell and as pastor of Pilgrim Congregational Church in Seattle, with a deep interest in urban ministry and how our congregations can be inclusive of our most fragile and vulnerable of our neighbors.
I take inspiration from Jesus’ ministry with our sisters and brothers on the margins and in such parables as the Samaritan and the Great Feast. I have shared my faith in Souls in the Hands of a Tender God.
RYAN MATHEWS (Class of 2017, In Memoriam)
Originally from the Akron, Ohio area and a member of First Grace UCC, Ryan moved to St. Louis in August, 2008 to study at Eden Theological Seminary to pursue an M.Div. degree.
After graduating from The University of Akron with a Bachelor’s of Music Education degree, he began to acknowledge a call to ministry that he had set aside in the past. Upon graduation, Ryan hoped to serve as an ordained pastor in a UCC congregation.
When not in class or involved in ministry activities, Ryan enjoyed playing his trumpet and reading about his two loves, music and theology. Ryan was secretary for the UCC DM Board.
DALLAS (DEE) BRAUNINGER (Class of 2011) is past secretary of the board and served as editor of the former UCC DM newsletter and UCC DM web site.
Dee understands the art of choosing hope. Blindness, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis have taught her that the goal is not the impossibility of overcoming a challenge but to live fully within it, adjusting and adapting as one goes along.
Dr. Brauninger has served churches in Colorado and, as co-pastor with her husband, in Nebraska. She is the author of Talking to your Child about Change and numerous inclusive worship resource books and articles.
DAVID CLARK (Class of 2011) is a life long UCCer who has always found a home in the church. After growing up a member of Orange Congregational Church in Connecticut, where both his parents and grandparents were married.
David was a member of First Congregational Church of Berkeley while attending the University of California at Berkeley. He is now active in Old South Church. David lives with his wife in the Copley Square area of Boston.
David managed the first UCC DM web site.
HEATHER LUHRS (Class of 2011)
GAY McCORMICK (Class of 2011) served the board as treasurer.
I live in Alpharetta, GA and belong to Church of the Savior UCC in Roswell, GA. We are a small struggling congregation of members who love the church and want it to be viable.
Thanks to the support of the Cornerstone Fund, it has made us able to pay on our mortgage despite our financial difficulties. GA is in the Southeast Conference and I have lived here six years. She served as the first editor of the newsletter.
Dea (Deathrice) DeWitt
Jo Clare Hartsig