~ 2020 Presenters ~


Jennifer Bailey is an ordained itinerant elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, public theologian, and emerging national leader in multi-faith movement for justice. She is the founder and executive director of the Faith Matters Network, a Womanist-led organization equipping community organizers, faith leaders, and activists with resources for connection, spiritual sustainability, and accompaniment.  Jen comes to this work with nearly a decade of experience at nonprofits combating intergenerational poverty. 

Jen is co-founder of The People’s Supper. Since January 2017, The People’s Supper has hosted over 1,500 suppers in 121 communities nationwide focusing on bringing people together to engage constructively on issues affecting their communities.  The project has teamed up with ordinary citizens, schools, workplaces, faith communities, and neighborhood organizations to create space of collective healing over nourishing meals and conversation.

Jen enjoys good food, dancing like nobody is watching, and road trip adventures with her husband, psychotherapist and religious studies scholar Ira Helderman. Learn more at https://www.faithmattersnetwork.org/ and https://thepeoplessupper.org/


Serene Jones is the first female President of the historic Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Prior to Union, she was at Yale University for seventeen years where she was the Titus Street Professor of Theology at the Divinity School, and Chair of the University’s Program in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. A highly respected scholar and public intellectual, Serene is the author of several books including Trauma and Grace and, most recently, a spiritual memoir Call It Grace: Finding Meaning in a Fractured World.

Serene occupies the Johnston Family Chair for Religion and Democracy. She is a Past President of the American Academy of Religion, which annually hosts the world’s largest gathering of scholars of religion. She is a popular public speaker, is sought by media to comment on major issues impacting society because of her deep grounding in theology, politics, women’s studies, economics, race studies, history, and ethics.

Much of Serene’s work and writing focuses on trauma and social justice in the context of grace, mercy, and forgiveness. She is incredibly gifted in theological reflection. In Call it Grace, Serene models how to do our own inner work as we prepare to do justice work in the world. Her personal reflection brings the words of Calvin, Kierkegaard, Barth, Niebuhr, and so many more to life as she intertwines them with the stories of her Oklahoma roots.



Brian McLaren advocates and works toward “a new kind of Christianity”—just, generous, and working with people of all faiths for the common good. Brian began his career as a college English teacher and then served as a pastor for twenty-four years. He now writes, speaks, and engages in contemplative activism, focused on caring for the planet, seeking justice for the poor, and working for peace. He is a faculty member of  The Living School, which is part of the Center for Action and Contemplation. He co-leads the Common Good Messaging Team, which is part of Vote Common Good. He is also an Auburn Senior Fellow and a leader in the Convergence Network, through which he has developed an innovative training/mentoring program for pastors, church planters, and lay leaders called Convergence Leadership Project. 

Brian’s many books include Naked Spirituality; A New Kind of Christianity, The Great Spiritual Migration and just released The Galapagos Islands: A Spiritual Journey. A gifted composer, his music is included in the AwakeningSoul Ensemble repertoire. He and his wife Grace live in Southwest Florida, where they enjoy visits from their four adult children and five grandchildren. Learn more about Brian at https://brianmclaren.net/.

~ 2020 Arm Chair Conversation Host ~



Meaghan Kelly Brower is an Episcopal priest and camp director at the summer camp in Rhode Island where she first fell in love with God. After her ordination she served as a parish priest for four years in North Carolina, but longed for the deep connections that are forged through camp experiences and retreats. She was delighted when she had the opportunity to return to camp, where she has now served for 8 years. 


Meaghan loves creative projects of all kinds, and welcomes the opportunity to collaborate with the people around her on those projects. She strongly believes that our modern life (and church) don't offer enough opportunities for fun and joy, and so she loves to invite people to be goofy and playful. 


Meaghan and her husband, Jonathan, have three young children and live in Newport, RI. 

Past presenters:

Ed Bacon, Judy Brown, Barbara Brown Taylor, Diana Butler Bass, Walter Brueggemann, John Dominic Crossan, Heidi Kim, Jacqui Lewis, Larry Maze, Catherine Meeks, Brian McLaren, John Philip Newell, Becca Stevens, Valerie Tutson, Lauren Winner, and Jerry Wright

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