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.

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

Amanda Bennett | Children, Youth & Family Ministry & Social Media

Amanda ministers to our children, youth, and families. She also oversees social media. She brings a passion for children, youth and those they consider family. Amanda has served at various churches and completed ministry school immediately after high school. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Leadership from Azusa Pacific University and her M.Div. from Bethany Theological Seminary. In November of 2018, she was licensed to set apart ministry with the Church of the Brethren and was ordained in June of 2022. Amanda strives to lead a ministry that allows children and families to explore spirituality and the example of Jesus. She feels honored to serve on staff at the church where her children were dedicated. 

Contact: amanda@lavernecob.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.

Kelly Whittington | Church Office Administrator

Zulee Escobar | Online Worship Coordinator

Zulee Escobar is a student at the University of La Verne studying Broadcasting with a minor in Spanish. In 2020, she participated in the University of La Verne’s Summer Service Program where she served as a volunteer for the Church of the Brethren’s Peace Camp. Zulee has served various crew positions in production shoots for LVTV-3 and KWST Community Television. She even won the best Avant-Garde Production and Best Public Service Announcement during the Spring 2019 Department of Communications Award Ceremony at ULV. Throughout these past three years, Zulee has been involved in six organizations and has made Dean’s list four times. Zulee has a passion for editing and creating video content. She hopes her skills in production can create a difference in bringing the community even closer together (from a distance). 

Contact: zulee@lavernecob.org

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