Nichola Torbett is the founding director of Seminary of the Street, a nonprofit institute for the spiritual formation of social
change workers in the context of community. She previously served as the Director of National Programs for the Network
of Spiritual Progressives, an interfaith organization working on the intersection of love, meaning, and politics. Before laying
down her corporate fishing rod to follow the NSP to California, she worked as a professional writer and editor in Minnesota
and got her political start as Minnesota State Co-Coordinator for Dennis Kucinich’s 2004 presidential campaign. The
latter experience convinced her that powerful transformations are possible when activists actually embody, in community, the
alternative values they are fighting for. This is the kind of social change work she wants to catalyze in the world.
Nichola has degrees from the University of Toledo and Indiana University at Bloomington. She has read widely in cultural
studies, theology, social theory, and psychology, but has been most radically shaped by engagement with people who were willing
to be real with her, even when it wasn't pretty.
Reverend Lynice Pinkard
granddaughter of a German-American woman and an African American and Native American man who married in 1937—the era
of Jim Crow and miscegenation laws—Reverend Lynice Pinkard was introduced early on to the possibility of deep solidarity
across racial lines, even in the face of powerful state sanctions against it. This powerful witness has fueled her work to
foster solidarity beyond identity politics by teasing out the interconnectedness of forms of suffering and injustice. Lynice
developed very early in her life a keen awareness of and sensitivity to the ways in which disparities of power and forms of
oppression affect the quality of the lives of many people in America and around the world. For the past twenty years, Reverend
Pinkard has dedicated her life to the work of ministry: pastoring, community organizing and engagement, writing, advocacy,
counseling and healing. Now the senior pastor of First Congregational Church of Oakland, Lynice is building an intercultural
community committed to healing from and resisting the interwoven systems of domination, oppression, and repression and the
alienation those systems foster—a broadly shared malady she calls “empire affective disorder.”
Dave Belden is Managing Editor
, a magazine that has been at the forefront of combining spirituality, politics and culture for 22 years.
From a Jewish foundation, the magazine is increasingly interfaith, with regular Christian columnists like Tony Campolo and
Glen Stassen, along with Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and others. Belden has a doctorate in the sociology of religion from Oxford,
was President of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Catskills for four years, and has written over 40 columns
on faith and politics for openDemocracy.net
Mejin Leechor is a young person whose life trajectory
is in the making. Born and raised in the Washington, D.C. area, she graduated from Davidson College in 2008 and moved
to the San Francisco Bay Area shortly thereafter. While studying at Davidson, Mejin made the acquaintance of her homeless
neighbors in Charlotte, North Carolina and became engaged in the work of healing racially, economically, and spiritually divided
communities. Her mentors in that endeavor include Liz and Fred Clasen-Kelly, community activists and advocates for the
homeless in Charlotte. She counts herself lucky to have stumbled across kindred spirits on the opposite coast and feels
honored to take part in the direction of Seminary of the Street.
Claudia Morrow is a former legal aid lawyer who
recently retired from her second career as a children’s librarian at Berkeley Public Library (where she loved to rock
out singing in story times, backed by her own guitar). She served as president of the City of Berkeley chapter of SEIU Local
535 and spearheaded overhaul of Berkeley’s workers’ compensation system. As a result of a two year process at
the highest level, the city agreed to shift its resources from rejecting claims to injury prevention. While working during
the 80s for the Legal Aid Society of Alameda County, she got hundreds of domestic violence restraining orders for low income
women and worked with the Oakland Police Department to overcome officers’ reluctance to enforce them. She also defended
clients facing public housing eviction. A member of the First Congregational Church of Oakland since 2006, Claudia serves
on the Board of Trustees, as a deacon, and sings in the choir. She is an advocate for justice, economic and otherwise, and
for the enlivening healing from addiction and injustice=perpetuating alienation that takes place in community.
Johari Jabir is an assistant professor in African
American Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Johari’s artistry and scholarship arises out of the “gospel
blues” tradition on which he was raised in St. Louis, Missouri, and he continues to be inspired by figures such as Mother
Willie Mae Ford Smith and Rev. Cleophus Robinson. In addition to being shaped by the gospel blues style and messages of love,
suffering, death, and freedom, he is also a classically trained musician with a degree from Fontbonne College, now Fontbonne
University. As a historian trained in African American religion (with an MDIV from Pacific School of Religion and a Ph.D.
from the University of California at Santa Barbara), Johari’s work is concerned with the intersections of race, religion,
gender, citizenship, and expressive culture. He says that one of his goals is to “help students take back their righteous
minds," a goal that also brings him to Seminary of the Street.
Pete Cattrell is a Buddhist householder who lives
in the berkeley flats. At fifteen he wanted to learn; at thirty he had a foundation; at forty-five a certitude; and
now in his sixtieth year to heaven he is finally forgetting most of what he previously put together. To put kibble in
the dish, he has worked, over the decades, in higher ed administration; teaching and applied research; and business planning
analysis, often on behalf of at-risk kids and families or people on the margins of economic life. His residual affects
at this point are: serious, arty, cranky, and real, real direct.
Trained as a scholar of New Testament and biblical
studies, J. Webb Mealy discovered his passion for biblical translation as an undergraduate at Westmont College, where he translated
the Gospel of John. After completing undergraduate degrees in Religious Studies and Philosophy at Westmont, an MA in
Humanities at Western Kentucky University, and a PhD in biblical Studies (emphasis in New Testament) at the University of
Sheffield in England, he became Senior Biblical Studies Editor and then Managing Editor at Sheffield Academic Press, which
during his tenure was the leading academic biblical studies publishing house in the world. In 1995 he left Sheffield
in order to participate in the development of an experimental Christian community in Oakland, California. Since then, Webb
has focused on translating the New Testament, writing theology, teaching in an urban training center for Christian lay people,
building spiritual community, and managing a website that he designed to help individuals identify and recover from process
addictions. Between 2005 and 2008 he created an entirely new translation of the New Testament into Spoken English. Webb
enjoys wilderness camping; nature photography; peace and social justice activism through public art; and innovation
towards sustainable living patterns.
Ryan Dowell Baum
Ryan Dowell Baum is currently completing his
Masters of Divinity at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley and seeking ordination in the United Church of Christ.
Having grown up in a secular household to non-religious Catholic and Jewish parents, Ryan studied, explored, and learned from
a vast array of world religions before falling head-over-heels in love with Jesus while studying theater at NYU. With
an abiding interest in Radical Reformation theologies, Ryan is passionate about applying the principles of radical Christian
discipleship to life in 21st-century urban America. He and his wife, Molly, live in an intentional Christian community
house in Oakland.