Our staff is passionate about welcome and hospitality. Learn more about who they are.
Amanda Bennett | Pastor
Amanda, who self-describes as a disillusioned evangelical, was lured into the La Verne Church of the Brethren by its progressive theology, authenticity, and focus on justice. After spending years working in fundamentalist ministry settings, she threw in the towel until she found a theologically safe space among this church community. Amanda earned an M.Div. from Bethany Theological Seminary and feels honored to serve this congregation, where her children were dedicated.
At home, Amanda likes to play both board games and video games with her family. Her favorite Mario Kart picks are Donkey Kong and Tanooki Mario. Amanda lives with her partner, Jeff Neu, their children, and dog.
Carol Wise | Interim Pastor
After a twenty-five-year hiatus, Carol Wise is delighted to be back in La Verne as an Interim Pastor. The La Verne Church of the Brethren was the first congregation that she served following her graduation with an M.Div. from the Iliff School of Theology
Most recently, Carol has had a long tenure as the director of the Brethren Mennonite Council for LGBT Interests, an organization that has worked for queer justice within the Mennonite and Church of the Brethren traditions for over 45 years. She credits her experience at La Verne for providing the hope and imagination necessary to persist in the challenging work of social justice and social change.
A day at the library, a bike ride, a long walk or an afternoon of cross country skiing are all enjoyments. Carol lives with her spouse, Kim, and their very social cat, Miriam.
Karinna Escobedo | Office Administrator
Karinna has an associate’s degree in early childhood education and previously spent several years working in the field of education. It was during that time that she found her passion and gifting in administration, as she took the lead in licensing a preschool with high-level accreditations.
In another life, Karinna says she’d be a movie critic. Karinna lives in Pomona with her boyfriend, daughter, and their two dogs.
Efrain Aguilar | Online Worship Coordinator
Efrain Aguilar was born in El Salvador. He moved to Southern California in 1987 and graduated from Covina High School in 2001. He studied History at the University of California Riverside before graduating from the New York Film Academy’s directing program in 2005. In 2008 he moved to Austin Texas, where he worked as a corporate trainer for 12 years – including working for Visa, one of Fortune 500’s best companies. Growing tired of the corporate world, Efrain moved back to Southern California in 2020.
He first started attending La Verne Church of the Brethren in 2021 and soon after volunteered to help in the audio/video department.
Efrain loves movies, TV, and podcasts and has an endless supply of film trivia. He spends most of his time with his loved ones, including Tank the dog and Walker the cat.
Shawn Kirchner | Pianist/Organist
Shawn is a composer and songwriter active in the musical circles of Los Angeles. In May 2012, he was appointed Swan Family Composer in Residence of the Los Angeles Master Chorale. His choral compositions are performed throughout the United States and abroad in concert halls, churches, schools, and on radio, television (and YouTube!).
He is best known for his arrangement of the Kenyan song Wana Baraka. To learn more about Shawn’s music you can visit him at www.shawnkirchner.com.
Kirchner also maintains an active performing career as a singer and pianist. A tenor with the Los Angeles Master Chorale, he sings regularly with the Chorale and the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Disney Hall and at the Hollywood Bowl in collaborations with the world’s leading conductors and composers.
Kirchner was raised with his triplet brother and sister in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
Niké St. Clair | Choir Director
Being the choir director at the La Verne Church of the Brethren is only one of the many pursuits of Niké St. Clair.
Hungarian born, Niké studied at Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest Hungary and has finished her doctoral course work in choral conducting at USC Thornton School of Music.
She also sings with the Los Angeles Master Chorale and teaches and directs choirs at Azusa Pacific University, Cal Poly Pomona and Santa Monica College. During summers she teaches musicianship with the Hungarian Kodaly Methodology.
Niké gives impeccable direction with a heart for what it means to be part of a volunteer choir. She enjoys life with her husband, Gabe and her dog, TJ.
Heidi Brightbill | Handbell Choir Director | Sanctuary Choir, Soprano Section Leader
Matthew Martinez | Lead Custodian
Steve Kovach | Part-Time Custodian
Tim Morrison | Part-Time Custodian