“St. Mark’s is the Church of the Open Communion – “wherever you are on your faith journey, whatever you believe or don’t believe, baptized or not, we welcome you to join us.” It is a church where some 700 men, women, children and youth building a welcoming, inclusive community – celebrating together the gifts of God that empower us to engage boldly in the struggles of life and care for others with love, justice, and compassion.” As members of the St. Mark’s community and travelers on this journey, Marcella, Karen, Maureen, Kenn, and Christina will serve as your primary guides.
Marcella Gillis is St. Marks’ Director of Youth & Family Ministry; a job that brings her much joy and only minor consternation. A native of California’s Central Coast, Marcella was raised in a family and faith community where she developed both a thirst for adventure and a strong call to serve those in need. She left the West Coast to earn her B.A. in International Development at American University in DC, and upon graduation, left promptly to serve in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua. After 2 years in the field, she returned to DC where she found the 9-5 grind massively unappealing and was lucky enough to stumble across St. Mark’s and find a professional ‘happy place’: working with children and youth in a faith community. When she’s not trying to talk to teenagers about God, Marcella enjoys mainly epicurean pursuits: rich foods, fine wines and naps.
Maureen Shea is co-leading this pilgrimage with Karen Getman. Maureen was Director of Government Relations for the Episcopal Church from 2003-2009. During that time she made four trips to the Holy Land, so she is especially anxious to return. She came to appreciate some of the complexities of finding peace and security for two peoples with traumatic histories who too often find it impossible to accept each other’s pain. She was moved by the Christian community as they seek to maintain their traditions and bring peace and reconciliation to the region.
Karen Getman is co-leading the pilgrimage with Maureen Shea. Karen lived in Jerusalem with her husband who worked for an NGO there and later in Geneva, Switzerland. Prior to that, Capitol Hill had been home for 20 years. For more than a decade, Karen managed an international folk art and handcraft shop featuring the traditional work of women’s cooperatives. That business experience provided opportunity to work with Palestinian artisan groups. Connecting with people through traditional arts and culture continues to enliven my soul. Now, returning to Jerusalem on this pilgrimage with St. Mark’s friends is a long anticipated vision as we Americans seek to understand what is necessary for a just peace and viable life for the people of Israel and Palestine.
As an introvert in extrovert’s body, Christina White’s life is absolutely bananas and she loves it that way. Christina moved to Washington, DC from Denver, Colorado and quickly found a home at St. Mark’s. St. Mark’s commitment to community and the well-being of all for the good of all spoke to her. For 16 years Christina has served our nation’s Veterans through her work with the Department of Veterans and doing so in the seat of government has been an exciting, challenging, and rewarding experience. As a student of art Christina intends to integrate the sights of Israel into her posts.
Kenn Allen is founder and president of Civil Society Consulting Group LLC, a Washington-DC based global consulting firm that works primarily with NGOs and global corporations on issues related to volunteer service. He has done consulting and training in 50 countries and has visited the Holy Land several times, albeit not in the last eight years or so. He currently is co-chair of St Mark’s Vision 2020 Steering Committee, guiding our major renovation project, and is former Senior Warden and Vestry member.