A speaker, writer, and curator on spiritual, relational, and community life, Richard holds a Master of Divinity degree from Boston University’s School of Theology with a focus on early Christian communities. His doctoral work at San Francisco Theological Seminary focused on Adult Spirituality.
For two decades, on three continents, he served as a Chaplain in the United States Air Force. His career included selection for an assignment as the coordinator of all religious radio and television programming for the global Armed Forces Broadcasting Center in Los Angeles.
He took early retirement as a Lieutenant Colonel to serve as Dean of Students at the college where he had met his wife twenty years earlier. Several years later, in 2003, he launched Higher Ground, an entrepreneurial educational ministry offering regional Bible conferences as well as marriage and relationship programs across the U.S. In 2004 he became and still is the Executive Director of Bible Study Seminars (BSS), a 501(c)(3) non-profit founded by Richard and a business partner. BSS is the parent organization of www.JesusPatternedBiblicalSpirituality.org launched in 2020 by Richard along with AmiLynne Carroll.
At his home base in St. Louis, Missouri he designed and taught a “Frontiers of Faith” course that became a requirement for teens at a local high school. He co-founded and co-leads a decade-old Jesus patterned community (Next Generation Fellowship) which also supports a number of interfaith and inter-spiritual bridge building efforts through The Well of STL, an “Open Hearted Interfaith Spiritual Commons.”
Spending a good amount of time in southern California — with his wife, three of their four adult children, and first grandchild — he is on the Board of Directors of an Orange County religious residential community for those over 55 years of age. He has hosted an international segment in the Hollywood Bowl Easter Sunrise Service, was asked to introduce “how to pray at an internationally televised prayer service at Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral, spoke at the Los Angeles Islamic Center, and addressed a national teen gathering about biblical spirituality at Michael Beckwith’s Agape International Spiritual Center. He is also a member of Spiritual Directors International.
More about Richard can be found at www.highergroundforlife.com and on his Facebook page.
Dr. Barry Huff
An Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Principia College, where the student body selected him as Principia’s Teacher of the Year in 2013 and 2019. Barry’s publications primarily focus on the book of Job and the reception history of the Bible. His teaching, writing, speaking, and PhD with distinction from Union Presbyterian Seminary, ThM from Columbia Theological Seminary, and MTS from Eden Theological Seminary all center on biblical studies. Barry serves on the Joint Action and Advocacy for Justice and Peace Convening Table of the National Council of Churches, and he and Patricia Vesely edited Seeking Wisdom’s Depths and Torah’s Heights: Essays in Honor of Samuel E. Balentine (Smyth & Helwys, 2020).
Reverend Sarah Heath is an ordained United Methodist clergywoman. If that isn’t unusual enough, she is also an actress, an author, a dancer, a designer, a podcaster, a self-proclaimed nerd,and a dog mom.
Originally from Canada, Sarah attended the University of Southern Mississippi where she received her B.S. in Psychology with a minor in Biology. Hearing the call to ministry, Sarah then attended Duke Divinity School where she earned her Master of Divinity degree in 2005.
Sarah is currently the lead pastor of a very unique church in Southern California that has a single target market – humans, all of them. (It used to be humans and dogs… but, allergies.) She is the host and creator of the Sonderlust podcast and the author of two books — What’s Your Story? and The Authenticity Challenge. She is a featured pastor on Buzzfeed, a spokesperson for World Vision Canada, and restores furniture like nobody’s business. You can follow her interior design tips on Pinterest and Instagram.
Sarah’s work challenges people to tell their story, invite everyone to the table, find restoration instead of demolition, and connect the spiritual with the ordinary.
Kathy Escobar, M.A.
Co-pastors The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver. Her passion is creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in a variety of contexts. A speaker, spiritual director, group facilitator, and organizational consultant, she is author of several books–Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart, and Down We Go: Living into the Wild Ways of Jesus. A Pepperdine University graduate, she also holds a M.A. in Management from JFK University with an emphasis in Organizational Development and a Certificate in Spiritual Guidance From Denver Seminary. She is founder of several non-profits and initiatives including #communityheals–Making Spaces for Transformation Accessible for All–and She Consults, a network of female organizational consultants, group facilitators, and change agents and serves as a board member for several non-profit organizations. A mom of five children, she resides in Arvada, Colorado with her husband, Jose. More about Kathy and her work at kathyescobar.com.
Danielle Shroyer is an author, speaker, spiritual director, and former pastor. A founding member in the emerging church movement, Danielle served as the pastor of one of the nation’s first independent emerging communities of faith for nearly a decade. Her primary goal as a pastor was to help people going through a season of spiritual deconstruction find healthy, sustainable, and meaningful ways to reconstruct their faith.
Danielle has a particular heart for the spiritual-but-not-religious, and has long advocated for fresh approaches to spiritual community. Over the years, she has offered guidance to struggling and transitioning congregations searching for new ways to embody their purpose. She continued this work through her involvement in Faith Forward, a conference highlighting diverse voices and holistic perspectives of spiritual formation for children and youth. Danielle also participated in a number of leadership positions in Emergent Village before serving as National Co-Director for two years. More about Danielle and her work at danielleshroyer.com
After graduating from college in 1970, Helen Mathis served in the Peace Corps in the Philippines. Upon returning to the United States, she married, started a family and moved to California.
In 1985, Helen and family moved to Swaziland where they lived and worked for nine years at a school established to provide multi-racial and multi-cultural education for students in southern Africa and from around the world. See: www.waterford.sz
In 1998, Helen earned her Master’s in Biblical studies at the Pacific School of Religion, one of nine seminaries that belong to the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA. This cluster of seminaries is noteworthy for the opportunity it gives to study the Bible within a richly diverse community of people of faith.
After earning her seminary degree, Helen spent four years as Director for the Center for Scriptural Studies in Manchester Center, Vermont. The nonprofit educational/retreat facility provided workshops for lay people conducted by leading Bible scholars, and also worked with Harvard Divinity and, then, Bangor Seminary in Maine to provide professional development opportunities for clergy and other church leaders.
For over 15 years, Helen has presented workshops throughout the country on the Bible and Christian history and taught these subjects at Principia College in Illinois from 2009-2012. She also was managing editor of a Bible study curriculum which included workbooks authored by nine different scholars, including herself. Helen now resides in northern California.
Lola is a singer, pianist and songwriter based in Los Angeles, California. Known as “the little girl with the big voice,” Lola has been staggering audiences her whole life with the depth of soul she possesses in both her timeless songwriting and penetrating singing. Hearing her sing feeds your soul and reconnects you with what is right in the world.
From humble beginnings in St. Louis, Missouri, Lola has taken her original music across the country, touring with noted musicians such as Premik Russell Tubbs (Santana, Sting, James Taylor), Jeff Haynes (Joni Mitchell, Herbie Hancock) and bass virtuoso Michael Manring. She was a Top Ten Finalist in the 2015 Wildflower! Songwriting Competition in Richardson, Texas. She was chosen as “Artist of the Week” in Coming Up Magazine in May 2017. Lola has also been a soloist and pianist for several nationwide Christian conferences and retreats.
When off the stage, Lola works as a studio musician: session singing, arranging, coaching and playing keyboard. She has worked with notable producers Will Ackerman (Michael Hedges, George Winston), Jez Colin (Barry Manilow, *NSync, Stevie Wonder) as well as Grammy-nominated producers, Alex Elena and Topher Mohr.
Her debut EP, released in summer 2017, has received recognition from Los Angeles music blogs, local radio play, and placement on prominent Spotify playlists. Her song “Bring My Baby Back to Me” was a selected as a finalist in the International Songwriting Competition. She is currently in the process of releasing her new inspiring album online.
Lola is a Summa Cum Laude graduate from Webster University with a degree in Jazz Performance and Composition. When she is not performing, Lola teaches private lessons and masterclasses for high schools and colleges.
More about Lola Kristine can be found on her professional website: www.musicofLola.com
Alex Cook is a singer, songwriter, inspirational speaker and public artist. He has created 6 albums of spiritual songs, given hundreds of concerts in the US and abroad, and created over 160 murals in 16 states and 4 countries. He is available to perform for your church or community group, paint an inspirational mural, and/or give a talk on spirituality and creativity. More about Alex on his professional website https://alexcookmusic.com/