Staff

Our staff is passionate about welcome and hospitality. Learn more about who they are.

Program Staff

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. 

Contact: carol@lavernecob.org

Dena Pence | Interim Pastor

Nadine (Dena) Pence was raised in the La Verne Church of the Brethren, the second of four children of Gerry and Bernice (Brandt) Pence. She received a BA from Manchester College (Indiana) and an M.Div. from Bethany Theological Seminary (Illinois). During that time she was licensed to the ministry by the La Verne congregation and PSWD as she explored both pastoral ministry and teaching. In 1992, Dena received a Ph.D. in Christian Theology from the University of Chicago and has taught Historical and Theological Studies at the Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary (Fresno, CA) and Theological Studies at Bethany Theological Seminary (both Oak Brook, IL and Richmond, IN). From 2007-2019, Dena was Executive Director of the Wabash Center of Teaching & Learning in Theology & Religion, a Center fully funded by Lilly Endowment for work with faculty in colleges, universities, and seminaries in the U.S. and Canada. At the end of 2019, Dena retired and moved back “home,” now living in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. Ordained to the ministry by the Church of the Brethren in 1984, she has served two churches — York Center Church of the Brethren (Lombard, IL) as Interim Pastor, and College Community Mennonite Brethren Church (Clovis, CA) as Co-Pastor. Her son, Bryan Frantz, lives in Indianapolis with Kim Pho and their dog Gizmo.

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, a member-turned-pastor, 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 in Rancho Cucamonga with her partner, Jeff Neu, their children, and dog.

Contact: amanda@lavernecob.org

Tom Hostetler | Pastor of Older Adults

Tom Hostetler is our Pastor of Older Adult Ministries. He grew up in northern Indiana, attended Manchester College and Bethany Theological Seminary in Chicago. He has served Church of the Brethren congregations for more than forty years in Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Iowa, and New Hampshire.

Tom and his wife Angie currently live in Rancho Cucamonga, and Tom works concurrently as a retirement home chaplain at Brethren Hillcrest Homes in La Verne. Tom and Angie have two sons: Josih and Aaron.

Contact: thostetler@livingathillcrest.org

Monica Barragan | Childcare Provider

Monica A Barragan has been working with young children for 20 years.  She has over 13 years of experience working at the Fairplex Child Development Center, caring for children from 3 months to 3 years of age.

She received her associate’s degree from Pasadena City College and has continued her education by taking workshops and seminars  Monica holds and maintains a teacher permit from the State of California.  She has received training from PITC (The Program for Infant and Toddler Care).  Monica cares for a family of two girls, Sophia and Izabella, and her husband of almost 15 years.  Monica loves dancing and hanging out with family and friends.

Contact: monica@lavernecob.org

Corlan Ortmayer Harrison | Kitchen & Special Events Coordinator

Corlan, our Kitchen and Special Events Coordinator, is most at home cooking for everyone in hopes that we as a community, nation or world could resolve our differences over a nice meal instead of a battlefield.

The best spices in her life, husband Robb and daughter Rayna who are often found in the kitchen with her.

Corlan is currently working on a children’s book titled “Peace Pancakes” influenced by a family that always had room at their table.

Efrain Aguilar | Interim 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. 

Music Staff

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

Facilities Staff

Jeff Van Voorhis | Facilities Supervisor

Steve Kovach | Part-Time Custodian

Tim Morrison | Part-Time Custodian