Audra Abt is a priest working in the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina. She received her BA in Environmental Studies at Oberlin College, where she spent a semester studying abroad in the Amazon, and lived for a year in Capim Grosso, Bahia, Brazil where she discerned a call to the priesthood. For the past 4 years she has served as an assistant rector at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Greensboro, North Carolina.
As an ECF Fellow, Audra will nurture a growing Christian base community movement (home and neighborhood-oriented worship, study and mission), started by Latino immigrants in Greensboro, North Carolina. This ministry is an example of how Episcopalians from Latin America are leading the church of the U.S. into a life of worship and service that reflects the communities described in the book of Acts. Such communities rely not on their privilege, wealth, or buildings but on the Holy Spirit, neighborly hospitality, and the contribution of every single member. As missioner, Audra will make a space where Latinos and non-Latinos can collaborate and influence the wider Church’s life with their faith.
Reed Carlson, Trustee Fellow, studies and teaches the story of God’s people. Currently he is a doctoral candidate in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament at Harvard Divinity School and is scheduled to be ordained in the Episcopal Church in Minnesota in the summer of 2015.
Reed studies conceptions of evil and human moral agency in the Old Testament and in Second Temple Jewish Literature. His research seeks to answer questions such as: How did the writers and readers of biblical literature conceive of angels, demons, spirits, and other divine beings? What relationships did these beings have to human suffering, politics and ethical decision-making? Who or what was “evil” in Second Temple Judaism and how could it be managed?
Reed hopes to develop curricula for use in seminaries and local churches that empower all of God’s people to teach, preach, and live the theological stories that begin in the Bible and continue today.
Bob Leopold, William B. Given, Jr. Fellow, is Missioner at Southside Abbey, a community he helped found in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Southside Abbey is a non-traditional Episcopal worshiping community that engages in justice ministries and gathers for a meal and worship in a non-profit art gallery. Bob was ordained a priest in 2008, after attending Virginia Theological Seminary and the University of Tennessee, twice and is currently pursuing a Doctor of Ministry at Sewanee and a Master of Arts in Storytelling at East Tennessee State.
As Southside Abbey has grown, their leadership team has formed partnerships in East Tennessee and beyond through shared ministry projects, preaching and teaching engagements, and spiritual conversations. After seeing the transformative effect these relationships have had on congregations and individuals, Bob dreamed of the creation an ongoing community for sharing knowledge, experience, and best practices with the wider Church. With his ECF Fellowship, Bob will be able pursue his dream by working with Southside Abbey to begin “Innovative Leadership Rounds.” This project will invite missional church lay and clergy leaders to engage with other like-minded leaders from across the Church by visiting, observing, sharing, and inquiring in groups with the overarching goal of creating a network of missional communities in a web of support for one another.
Colleen Swan, Dorothy A. Given, Fellow, lives and works in Kivalina, Alaska. She is municipal coordinator for Kivalina’s relocation project and is a lay minister and environmental justice advocate. Colleen has represented her community to the United Nations, at field hearings of the U.S. Senate, before the State of Alaska legislature, and shared her community's story with numerous universities and media outlets.
In light of the 2009 General Convention of the Episcopal Church’s apology for the Doctrine of Discovery and wrongs committed against Native people in the name of Christ, Colleen began a restorative justice process to help communities understand what they lost and connect their traditional practices with their Christian faith.
Colleen’s project is outlined in three phases: to document stories from elders, about both abuses endured through encounters with missionaries, and important Iñupiaq traditions; to develop an Iñupiaq -English resource for Arctic Coast congregations that synthesizes biblical Christianity, Episcopalian practice, and Iñupiaq spirituality; and create venues for healing and restoration.