Our Presenters

Our presenters include scholars world-renowned in their respective fields.

Dr. Joel S. Baden, Yale Divinity School

Prof. Joel Baden, Professor of Hebrew Bible at Yale Divinity School, is a specialist in the Pentateuch, Biblical Hebrew, and disability theory in biblical studies. He is the author of numerous articles, essays, and books on individual pentateuchal texts, critical methodology, and Biblical Hebrew. Future projects include commentaries on Deuteronomy and Exodus. He holds degrees in Judaic Studies (BA, Yale), Semitic Languages (MA, University of Chicago), and Hebrew Bible (PhD, Harvard).

Prof. Baden is also the Director of the Center for Continuing Education at Yale Divinity School. The foundational programs of the Center are YMI, Yale Bible Study and Yale Summer Study.

Rev. Dr. Joyce Mercer, Yale Divinity School

Dr. Joyce Mercer’s work focuses on practices of care in diverse contexts and situations, including post-conflict areas of southeast Asia, children in the consumer culture of the US, addictions in family systems, and the religious lives of adolescent girls. The practical theological thread running throughout her work is the fostering of liberatory hope where personal and social forms of suffering limit human flourishing. Professor Mercer’s current book project with Oxford University Press is based on a congregational study of churches in conflict with their denominations over sexuality. She recently edited Conundrums in Practical Theology (with co-editor Bonnie Miller-McLemore) for a new practical theology book series (Brill, forthcoming 2016). Earlier works include Welcoming Children: A Practical Theology of Childhood (Chalice Press), a feminist practical theological exploration of theological meanings of childhood in the context of U.S. consumer culture; Girl Talk God Talk: Why Faith Matters to Teenage Girls and Their Parents (Jossey Bass), addressing the experiences of adolescent girls constructing gender and faith identities amid the complexities of adolescence; and, Lives to Offer: Accompanying Youth on their Vocational Quests  (Pilgrim, co-authored with Dori Baker).

Professor Mercer joined the YDS faculty in January 2016, following ten years at Virginia Theological Seminary as the Arthur Lee Kinsolving Chair in Pastoral and Practical Theology. She also has served on faculties at the Graduate Theological Union, and Union Theological Seminary in the Philippines. Her career includes positions in chaplaincy and clinical social work in Atlanta, St. Paul, and Minneapolis. She maintains her professional standing in the field of social work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Professor Mercer, an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church USA, remains active in parish ministry, most recently as a parish associate for pastoral care with older adults. She edits the international scholarly journal Religious Education and is the current president of the Association of Practical Theology. She has served as co-chair of the steering committee of the Practical Theology Group in the American Academy of Religion, and is on the board of the Religious Education Association. Professor Mercer is a member of the International Academy of Practical Theology.

Dr. Grace Yukich, Quinnipiac University

Grace Yukich is a sociologist with expertise in religion, immigration, race, politics, and culture, and she regularly teaches courses in these areas. Her newest book, Religion Is Raced: Understanding American Religion in the Twenty-first Century (NYU Press, co-edited with Penny Edgell), calls on sociologists, religious studies scholars, pollsters, and journalists to recognize the inextricability of religion and race in the United States.

Her first book, One Family Under God: Immigration Politics and Progressive Religion in America (Oxford University Press), chronicles religious activists offering sanctuary in houses of worship, working both for immigration reform and for a more progressive, global vision of what it means to be religious in America. Her writing has appeared in popular media outlets such as Salon and the Hartford Courant, and she has been quoted in outlets such as The Washington Post and the National Catholic Reporter.

Grace is a National Research Fellow at the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture and an Advisory Board Member for the National Museum of American Religion.

Ashely Makar, IRIS

Ashley Makar is the Community Liaison for IRIS–Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services, in New Haven. She engages congregations throughout Connecticut in IRIS’s resettlement work. Ashley is a graduate of Yale Divinity School, where she studied Religion & Literature through the Institute of Sacred Music and completed an M.Div.. Ashley is a writer with an e-book of essays called You Were Strangers. Her writing also appears in Sojourners, Christian Century, and The Washington Post.

Rev. Kaji Dousa, Park Avenue Christian Church

The Rev. Kaji Spellman Douša is Senior Pastor of The Park Avenue Christian Church in Manhattan “The Park”. In the congregation’s 206 years, she is the first woman called to this role. She is one of very few young woman senior leaders of important historic pulpits in the country. The Park is known as a congregation of fearless activism in New York City. 

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and of Yale University, Pastor Kaji is a prolific writer and a celebrated and awarded public speaker. She preaches nearly every Sunday at The Park and is invited as a keynote speaker across the country. Her often fiery media appearances reflect her deep thinking, faithful perspective, and quick wit. She is on the editorial board for the United Church of Christ’s Stillspeaking Writer’s Group, President of Yale Divinity School alumni board and co-chair of the New Sanctuary Coalition.

Rev. David Reed-Brown, First Baptist Church in New Haven

Pastor Dave is the minister at First Baptist Church in New Haven, CT. He is a Transitional Ministry Specialist certified by the Interim Ministry Network. He has also led a successful merger between the Central Baptist and First Congregational Churches in Norwich, CT, and before that was interim pastor at the Old Mystic Baptist Church. He served as pastor of the ABC churches in Essex and Suffield, CT, for seventeen years. Dave has taught ethics certification classes for clergy and lay leaders, and a few years ago he was an interfaith chaplain at Hartford Hospital (Trauma 1).

Dave has led many weeks of summer music camp at Camp Wightman. He also led mission trips to Biloxi, MS with Habitat for Humanity; ABCCONN trips to help build the Caribbean Theological Center in Limon, Costa Rica; Ground Zero clean-up with American Baptist Men’s Ministries and other domestic trips with youth and adults. In 2009, his church hosted the American Baptist Missions Conference.

Dave was born in Providence, Rhode Island and grew up in Upstate New York. He attended Denison University in Ohio, earning a Bachelor’s degree in computer science and vocal music. Throughout this time, he participated in successful protesting and persuading the college to end its financial support of Apartheid in South Africa. It was during this time on a summer-long mission trip that Dave heard God calling him to ordained ministry. In 1994 he earned his Masters of Divinity degree at Andover Newton Theological School, our ABC seminary in New England.

Dave is married to Cindy and has two teenage boys, Matthew and Kirby, where they live in Simsbury.

Rev. Alan Gibbons, First Baptist Church in New Haven

Alan Gibbons (M Div ’95) is currently an ESOL teacher (Multilingual Learners, aka ESL) at Wilbur Cross High School in New Haven. He leads this department which assists and instructs primarily Spanish speaking legal and illegal immigrants with very limited to very strong academic backgrounds, along with Afghans and Congolese among others. He coordinates tutors from Yale University and runs an after-school program. He also teaches beginning English to adults at the New Haven Adult Education Center. He serves as a liaison to IRIS (Integrated Refugees and Immigrant Services), a local refugee resettlement program.

At First Baptist Church in New Haven, Alan is the leader of the Resettlement Team which works with Congolese refugees to establish their lives; navigate legal, schooling, health, or housing challenges and express their faith in a new country. One major effort is to fundraise for the children of the church to attend summer camp. 

Previously, Alan spent time in the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 1986-1999 as a high school math teacher with the Mennonite Central Committee. There he assisted in a youth program called “Groupe de Prière” and sang in its choir. For the subsequent year, he co-led a touring Christian choir composed of 5 Congolese and 5 North Americans.


Center for Continuing Education