Meet Our Leaders

Sterling Allen

Dr. Sterling Martin Allen is the Director of Music and Worship Arts Ministries at Good Shepherd UMC in Cypress, TX. There he conducts the Chancel Choir, the Chancel Orchestra, and oversees the multifaceted music and worship program.

Sterling has a driving passion for sacred choral masterworks and regularly conducts these works with choirs and orchestras in the United States and Europe, and has commissioned a number of works, including Rev. Dr. Brian Wren’s “Glory to God,” a hymn of praise celebrating the 2011 Ordination Service for the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

In demand as a conductor, he has conducted concerts throughout the United States as well as in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and France. With an eagerness to work with young artists, students, and conductors, he regularly adjudicates singing and choral competitions, works with high school choirs in preparation for competition and with church choirs eager to expand their ministry, musicianship, and repertoire.

Sterling holds degrees in music, sacred music, and theology from the Hurley School of Music at Centenary College of Louisiana, the Butler School of Music at The University of Texas at Austin, and from the Webber Institute. He is a protégé of Dr. Will K. Andress (Professor Emeritus of Music at Centenary College of Louisiana where he was the Director of the Centenary College Choir) and the late Dr. Gerre Hancock (Professor of Sacred Music at The University of Texas at Austin and Choirmaster Emeritus at St. Thomas Church on 5th Avenue in New York City, New York). In 2010, he completed his dissertation entitled “Developing a Better Understanding of the Ordo Salutis Through the Lyrical-Theology of Charles Wesley” with Dr. Don E. Saliers (Professor Emeritus of Theology at the Chandler School of Theology at Emory University).

Amy Valdez Barker

Amy Valdez Barker is the director of global mission connections for the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. Previously she was lead executive for the Connectional Table, which coordinates the mission, ministries, and programs of The United Methodist Church. She is an ordained deacon from the North Georgia Conference and holds a doctorate in Christian education and congregational studies.

Amy and her husband, Richard Barker II, were co-authors for the book 365 Devotions for Couples, published by Abingdon Press.

Donna Battle

Donna Coletrane Battle currently serves as the Chaplain at Meredith College in Raleigh, NC. A native of Yanceyville, NC, she previously served as the Executive Pastor of the Way Christian Center in Berkeley, CA, as well as Life Coach and Associate Dean of the Chapel at Shaw University. For the past 15 years, Donna has been engaging and facilitating groups in the areas of building healthy relationships, spirituality, identity, cultivating ethics, values, diversity, conflict resolution and justice. She has led trainings and retreats for groups at Shaw University, NC State University, Intervarsity, UC Berkeley, Catholic Charities, Volunteers of America and various other organizations and churches across the northeast and in California.

On July 15, 2001, Donna was licensed to preach by Blackwell Missionary Baptist Church, and she was ordained in May 2005 by the Cedar Grove Missionary Baptist Association. Donna holds a BA in Public Relations from NC A&T State University, an M.Div. from Duke University and a Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy at Eastern University. She is married to Dedrick Nathaniel Battle and together they have three terrific children: Caio, Coletrane and Calum. Meditating, spending time with her family, reading, movies, counseling, preaching and teaching are among Donna’s greatest joys in life.

Sheila Beckford

Rev. Sheila M. Beckford is the Senior Pastor of Wethersfield UMC in Wethersfield CT. She is an Ordained Elder of the New York Annual Conference. She chairs the Black Methodist for Church Renewal NYAC-Chapter and co-chairs the NYAC Commission of Religion and Race and serves on the worship team for the NYAC as the dance coordinator.

Sheila is a talented dancer who uses her gift of dance as a powerful instrument to minister to God’s people. Her passion is justice, worship, dance and youth and children. She believes how one treats worship, God’s children, and God’s creation, on the whole, is indicative of how one treats God. She loves God and uses every God-given instrument to display this love.

Emanuel Cleaver III

Dr. Emanuel Cleaver III is a dynamic clergyman whose diverse and vast influence stretches from the church he leads in Kansas City, MO, to the outlying areas of West Africa. He has served as the senior pastor of St. James UMC since 2009 and is known for his dynamic sermon delivery.

Dr. Cleaver holds a D.Min. from St. Paul School of Theology and an M.Div. from Methodist Theological School in Ohio. He has been a guest preacher at S.T. Nagbe UMC in Monrovia, Liberia, as well as numerous churches, seminaries, and church organizations across the United States. He also was among a group that visited Turkey to promote healthy dialogue between Christians and Muslims in the area.

Dr. Cleaver was a participant in the Lewis Community Leadership Fellows program at Wesley Theological Seminary and elected a delegate for the 2008 and 2012 South Central Jurisdictional Conferences as well as the 2012 General Conference. In 2013, he received the John and Ruth Mount Alumni Award, Methodist Theological School’s highest honor for former students, specifically recognizing parish ministry.

Brian Combs

Converted by an in-the-gutter low Christology, Rev. Brian Combs was confronted by the incarnate Jesus on the homeless streets where pauper, prostitute and pusher loiter about.

Convicted by John Wesley’s social holiness and the Gospel’s parabolic precedent, he founded the Haywood Street Congregation in Asheville, NC. An unapologetically Christian communion of sober and intoxicated, homeless and housed, sane and unstable, derelict and disciple. A kingdom of God glance that subverts paternalistic evangelism and poverty tourism, while prioritizing the most marginalized, assuming the disinherited are Immanuel.

Carla Swank Fox

Carla Swank Fox is the Communications Director for The Fellowship and an adjunct faculty member in Interactive Media and Journalism in the College of Media and Entertainment at Middle Tennessee State University. She is co-founder of Craft Content Nashville, an annual “un-conference” event for digital content creators in the Mid South, and also serves as a member of the community board and marketing lead for the Technologist Federation of Nashville.

An accomplished writer, producer and social strategist, Carla was a reporter, copy editor and webcast producer for the Beaver County Times near Pittsburgh, where she won a Bronze Telly Award for webcast production. She also worked as a writer, editor and network producer for Rivals.com and Yahoo! Sports.

Carla has been a church musician for more than 20 years and currently is active in the music department at West End UMC in Nashville, TN, as a member of the Chancel Choir and Joy Ringers, and director of the youth handbell ensemble. Previously, she served seven years as resident pianist at Coraopolis UMC outside of Pittsburgh, PA, where she also directed the contemporary ensemble, “Two or More.”

Carla holds a BA in Communication, Media Production and Corporate Communication as well as an MS in Organizational Studies and Leadership, both from Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh. She lives in Nashville with her husband, David.

Adam Hamilton

Rev. Adam Hamilton is the founding pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, KS. The church began in 1990 with four people (Adam’s wife, LaVon and their two small children) and a dream of creating a congregation where thinking people – non-religious and nominally religious people – would become committed followers of Jesus Christ. In the years since, the church has become the largest United Methodist Church in the denomination with over 20,000 children, youth and adult members and an average weekend worship attendance of 10,000.

Adam is the author of 22 books published by Abingdon Press and Harper. His writings are known for helping readers to make sense of challenging theological questions, to explore the significance of the biblical stories, and equipping Christian leaders to be more effective in their work. His books have received numerous awards and have been used in over 20,000 mainline churches across the country.

Adam believes that vital mainline churches are key to reaching new generations of young adults who have been turned off by more fundamentalist expressions of the Christian faith. In the last eight years he has spoken to over 70,000 Christian leaders in 40 states on leadership and strategies for missional outreach. In 2012 he was asked by the White House to deliver the message at the National Prayer Service, a part of President Obama’s second inaugural activities.

Recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees, Adam earned his Master of Divinity Degree at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University where he received the B’nai B’rith Award in Social Ethics. He graduated with honors from Oral Roberts University with a degree in Pastoral Ministry.

Adam has been married to LaVon since 1982, and she has been a critical partner in every dimension of Adam’s work. They have two daughters and one granddaughter.

Gretchen Harrison

Now in her 30th year of teaching choral music, Gretchen Harrison is currently the choir director at Frontier Middle School in the Olathe School District in Olathe, KS. She also has been part of the artistic staff of Allegro Choirs of Kansas City since 2005, directing one of the choirs (Vivo) and assisting with two additional choirs (Moto and Brio).

She earned a Bachelor’s in Music Education from Wichita State University and a Master’s in Music Education from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She has completed her Level III endorsement in CME (Choral Music Experience). After serving in various district and state-level leadership positions, she is the past National Chairperson for Junior High and Middle School Repertoire and Standards for the American Choral Directors Association and is currently the National ACDA Repertoire and Resources Chairperson for Youth Services. She was recognized in 2003, 2009, 2015 and 2016 as “Outstanding Middle Level Choral Educator” for Northeast Kansas Music Educators Association. The Olathe Education Foundation honored her in 2015 with their “Outstanding Educator” designation.

Gretchen also enjoys serving the profession as a guest presenter and clinician and has served in Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi, Illinois, North Carolina State Treble Honor Choir and the Georgia All-State 6th Grade choir. She is on staff with VanderCook University (Chicago) as MS Choral Music Education teacher and is active in ACDA, KCDA and NAfME and KMEA.

Kathy Leonard

Kathy LeonardChurch and music have always been a part of Kathy Leonard’s life, starting with her baptism as an infant on Christmas Day, and cementing itself as a calling when she requested the 1966 Methodist Hymnal as her confirmation gift from the church at age 11-1/2. (She already had two Bibles, and what she really wanted was her own hymnal!) She participated in children’s choir, youth choir, adult choir, and accompanied various groups from her hometown Simpson UMC in Alta Vista, KS, through her Bethany College years (Music Education – Choral Concentration major), while teaching in Minneapolis, KS, and Holton, KS, and in Manhattan, KS, where she has lived and worked since 1981.

Marrying Evan Leonard in 1982 (they met in 1972 at a Sub-District UMYF meeting), they found their church home at First UMC, Manhattan, and have been active in many facets of church life.

Kathy found her true church music passion in the handbell ministry, learning to ring in 1990. She rings with Allegro Ringers, and since 2007 has directed the children, youth, and adult beginning bell choirs. In January 2015, she began directing Spirit Ringers (day-time adult choir), and she loves the challenge of working with all ages and stages of ringers. Kathy served as AGEHR/HMA Kansas Chair (2007-2010), Area 8 Membership Chair (2011-2012), and Area 8 Secretary (2012-2016). Days are spent as the IT Contracts Administrator for Kansas State University. Evenings and weekends not spent at church are filled with working K-State sporting events, quilting, reading, and spending time with Evan, their daughter Amanda and her special guy Brent, and grandpuppy Brie.

Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi

Bishop Moore-Koikoi was elected bishop of The United Methodist Church in July 2016 and began her assignment in the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference on September 1 of that year.

She earned a BA in psychology from Loyola College in Maryland, and an MA and advanced certification in school psychology from the University of Maryland. She worked as a school psychologist for Anne Arundel County Public Schools for 17 years before answering her call to ordained ministry. She completed her M.Div. at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC, in 2007. She served as pastor of a small church in East Baltimore and as associate pastor at Calvary UMC, a large congregation in Annapolis. Ordained an elder in 2010, she served on the staff and as district superintendent of the Baltimore-Washington Conference. She was serving as superintendent of the Baltimore Metropolitan District when elected a Bishop.

Bishop Moore-Koikoi says she sees the work of bishops as “overseeing the work of the church, working prophetically, evangelically and apostolically with all as they cooperate with the Grace of God.” A key component of that, she believes, is leaving space for the transforming movement of the Holy Spirit, especially at times when the denomination is divided and many people wonder what the future holds. “That’s spiritual work — remembering who God is and who God has called us to be,” she said. “We got God, so we got this.”

Her vision is of a diverse church that embraces justice and the life-saving love of Christ. As a bishop, she’s committed to work for that. It won’t be easy, she said, “but I remind myself, God has got this. God is in control.”

John Pavlovitz

John Pavlovitz is a writer, pastor, and activist from Wake Forest, NC. In the past five years, his blog Stuff That Needs To Be Said has reached a diverse worldwide audience.

A 22-year veteran in the trenches of local church ministry, John is committed to equality, diversity and justice — both inside and outside faith communities. In 2017, he released his first book, A Bigger Table. His second book, Hope and Other Superpowers, arrives in November 2018.

Todd Pick

Todd Pick is a United Methodist elder in full connection. He currently serves two rural churches deep in the heart of Texas. After leading congregations of all sizes and working at the juridical level in church revitalization, he has learned that God is always doing a new thing! Todd is also an award-winning graphic designer who views artistic expression as a vehicle for proclamation and prayer.

With a passion for creating liturgical art that supports and enhances the act of worship, Todd has served as the visual artist for both the 2012 and 2016 General Conference of the United Methodist Church. He has served on design teams for Convocations of The Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts in Orlando, Indianapolis and Kansas City. He has created visuals for various conferences, including Music and Liturgical Arts Week at Lake Junaluska. He is a featured expert on Marcia McFee’s Worship Design Studio. He has been commissioned to create paraments, banners and logo designs for churches across the country.

Todd holds a Master of Divinity from Drew Theological School where he was artist-in-residence from 2007 to 2009 and was twice awarded the Hoyt L. Hickman Award for Liturgical Studies. He later returned as adjunct faculty to teach “Imago Christi: Worship and Visual Arts.” Graduating summa cum laude from Syracuse University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration, Todd worked in advertising and communications before entering the ministry. He received the London International Advertising Award for his art direction of Maybelline.com.

Blessed to have a partner in life and in ministry, Todd and Rev. Jennifer Pick enjoy consulting, writing and teaching about multi-sensory worship. For more of his artwork, visit wordmadeimage.com.

Rezound!

Rezound!Rezound! is an auditioned community handbell ensemble with members from throughout the greater Kansas City area. Established in June 2001, the ensemble is dedicated to promoting the art and skill of handbell ringing in performance, serving the community through varied educational endeavors, and providing the highest quality and challenging outlet for skilled handbell musicians.

This nationally-acclaimed ensemble has captivated audiences around the country with their expressive music and engaging style. In addition to a year-round concert schedule in the Kansas City region, Rezound! has enjoyed successful tours throughout the Midwest and has collaborated with area choral groups and other handbell choirs in a variety of concert settings. The ensemble shares the stage with the Kansas City Symphony and Symphony Chorus on their annual Christmas Festival concerts and has entertained fellow musicians at Handbell Musicians of America regional and national events.

With education being integral to the group’s focus, members have served as clinicians and instructors at local, regional and national events. Rezound! also hosts a techniques and ringing workshop, the Fall Show-Me Ring, and offers an advanced performance event, Resonate, for bronze-level musicians.

The ensemble enjoys getting out into the community by performing an annual holiday concert for the Salvation Army’s adult rehabilitation center and offering educational programs in metro area churches and schools, giving participants a hands-on experience with bells. Visit rezound.org for more information.

Amy Rosine

Dr. Amy Rosine (soprano) has enjoyed performing opera, musical theatre, oratorio, solo and chamber recitals. Stage performances include the Lyric Theatre of Dallas, Ft. Worth Opera, Brownwood Regional Theatre, Civic Opera of Kansas City, and Kansas Concert Opera. She has also performed with Opera in the Ozarks, St. Charles Music and Arts Festival and Lake Placid Institute. She is a recipient of the Alpha Corrine Mayfield Award in Opera Performance from the National Federation of Music Clubs.

Currently, she also serves as the Chancel Choir director at First UMC in Manhattan, KS.

Singing has taken her to the Čzech Republic, where she performed recitals in Dobřichovice and Český Krumlov with pianist Jaroslav Šaroun, from the Music Academy of Prague. For over a decade, Amy has teamed up with clarinetist Sandra Mosteller as the Sorores Duo. The ensemble features music of the Holocaust and contemporary music for soprano and clarinet. The duo has been featured at conferences of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, College Music Society and Sigma Alpha Iota.

Amy has been a guest artist at several institutions, performing and giving masterclasses throughout the United States. She has been teaching voice for over 25 years and will begin her 11th year on the faculty of Kansas State University. She holds degrees from Truman State University (BME), University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory (MM) and University of Kansas (DMA). She taught at the International Opera Performing Experience in Mercatello sul Metauro, Italy, Riverside Lyric Opera in California, and Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp. Along with teaching, Amy has directed children, youth and adult church choirs. Professional memberships include National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS), College Music Society, Sigma Alpha Iota and The Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts.

Trenton Teegarden

Trenton Teegarden serves as Minister of Contemporary Music and Worship Arts at Pulaski Heights UMC in Little Rock, AR, where he plans and leads two modern-style services on Sunday mornings followed by Sunday evening youth worship. A native of Nashville, TN, Trenton has a Bachelor’s in Church Music from Martin Methodist College and a Master’s in Music Ministry from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. Trenton is married to Jessie Waddell Teegarden, an ordained deacon in the Arkansas Conference.