COMMUNITAS cohort participants are pastors from the greater Los Angeles area who have at least five years experience in full-time, congregational ministry, but not much more than twelve years. They have developed a strong theological foundation for their ministry, whether through pursuing an M.Div. degree or continuing education, or through such avenues as an apprenticeship or close mentoring relationships.
Meet the Participants
Andrew Alesso is the Founder and Lead Pastor of Thrive LA Church in Silver Lake, a church plant founded by Andrew and his wife, Katie, which is dedicated to the good of the city of Los Angeles. Andrew received his BA in Biblical Studies from Master's University and his MBA with an emphasis in leadership and organizational change from Pepperdine University.
Dusty Breeding is the Campus and Youth Pastor at University Church of Christ in Malibu. He leads a team of Pepperdine student interns and graduate apprentices, who work together to minister to the Pepperdine community and the Malibu community at large. He received his BA an MA in Religion from Pepperdine University.
Melissa Campbell-Langdell is Rector of All Saints Episcopal Church/Iglesia Episcopal de Todos los Santos in Oxnard. She serves a bilingual congregation and is fluent in Spanish, serving as a bridge for her church and the community of Oxnard. She holds a BA in International Studies from Vassar College and an MDiv from Church Divinity School of the Pacific.
Trevor DeBenning is a Pastor at Risen Church Santa Monica, a church committed to helping the people of Los Angeles know Jesus, grow in faith, and go into the world equipped to serve. Trevor completed his Masters degree at Fuller Theological Seminary. He and his wife Amber have four children; Zoe, Moses, Dietrich, and Oliver. Trevor enjoys strong coffee, thick books, and telling the world about Jesus.
Darren Hagood is Lead Minister of Long Beach Church of Christ in Long Beach. He has experience in the areas of racial studies and unity and spiritual formation. Darren received a BA in Biblical Text and MDiv from Abilene Christian University.
Saona Jackson is Director of Adult Ministries at Malibu Pacific Church in Malibu. She directs all adult ministries and started the "LA Pilgrimage of Pain and Hope," in which participants journey from Malibu to LA to discover how their spiritual journey is connected to the place they live (including issues of history, race relations, and immigration). She received her bachelor's degree in Leadership Studies and Religious Studies from the University of Richmond and her MDiv from Harvard Divinity School.
Angela Lee is Pastor of Volunteers and Guest Relations at Fellowship Church in Pasadena, where she manages the experience of congregants "from street to seat." Angela also has the honor of serving on the preaching team at Fellowship. She has a BS in Human Services from University of Delaware.
Trent Lewis is Pastor of Ministry at Arbor Road Church in Long Beach, where he focuses on family and development ministries. He partners with Biola to lead an internship program which has had more than 70 interns. He holds a BS in Organizational Leadership with a minor in Bible Exposition from Biola University and an MA in Leadership from Liberty University.
Sean Lord is the Lead Youth Pastor at ONE&ALL church in San Dimas, where he oversees ministry of 6th-12th graders across campuses. He holds a BA in Psychology with a minor in Philosophy from CSU Fullerton.
Romeo Manalang is Senior Pastor of Life in Christ Church in West Hills, where he has served for 6 years. He has an AA in Graphic Design and Biblical Studies and is currently pursuing a Masters in Intercultural Studies and MDiv from Gateway Seminary.
Larry Walker is Worship and Creative Arts Pastor at Redeemed Life Church in Azusa. His desire is to see people have an encounter with God's love through worship. He holds a BA in Music Performance, Journalism and Business from the University of North Texas.
Nicolette Wilson is the Pastor of St. James AME Church in Los Angeles. She serves in several leadership roles in the community and is the youngest female pastor in the state of California of the African Methodist Church. She has a Bachelor's in Public Administration from California Baptist University and is pursuing a Master's in Pastoral Studies from Azusa Pacific University.
Derick Zeulner is Associate Pastor of South Shores Church in San Juan Capistrano, where he oversees communications and the small group program and discipleship, as well as serving on the preaching team. He holds a BA in Christian Education from Biola University and an MA in Theology from Talbot School of Theology.
Becca Bateman is Associate Pastor of Family Ministries at San Marino Community Church near Pasadena, CA. She has served for seven years in the area of family ministry and growing faith through worship, studying theology, and the arts. She received her Master of Divinity from Fuller Seminary and is ordained in the PC (USA).
Taylor Begert is Worship Director at Community Bible Church of Ventura and The Well at Pepperdine University, Malibu. His desire is to draw congregations into encounters with Jesus so that they would leave transformed, and inspired to build for the Kingdom of God.
Kenneth Chau is the Ministry Leader at Westside Church in Santa Monica. He has been in ministry for ten years. He and his wife helped start the Ho Chi Minh City Church in Vietnam and have also served churches in Thailand and the Philippines. He is pursuing his Master of Ministry from Pepperdine University.
Ray Choi is Lead Pastor of the Hill Community Church in Pasadena. He served as a missionary in Japan for 3 years. He holds a Master of Divinity from Fuller Seminary.
Jennifer Chrien is pastor of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Simi Valley. She previously served as the pastor at Our Saviour's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Oxnard. Jennifer received her Master of Divinity degree from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, where she wrote her thesis on the book of Ecclesiastes.
Matt Graybill is Small Group Pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest. He is a former educator with a Masters in Educational Administration. He has been in full-time ministry for eight years.
Jeff Keele is Preaching Minister at Magnolia Center Church of Christ in Riverside. He holds a Masters degree in Family Therapy and has served full-time in ministry for eleven years.
Scott Nassau is Lead Pastor of Kehila Covenant Church, a church plant in Culver City, where he has served for the past three years. Scott hold a Masters of Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary with an emphasis in Hebrew Bible and Semitic Languages. He also studied at the University of Haifa in Israel in 2008.
Amy Pendergraft is Director of Women and Family Ministries at Calvary Church of Pacific Palisades. She hold a Masters of Education Degree from Concordia University and has a background in high school education. She has served in full-time ministry for six years.
Seth Pickens is the Senior Pastor of Zion Hill Baptist Church in Los Angeles. He holds a Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary with an emphasis in World Religions and a Doctorate of Education from University of Southern California with an emphasis in Educational Psychology. He has been in full-time ministry for seven years.
Bonnie Powell is Executive Pastor of Redeemed Life Church in Azusa. She formerly served as Associate Pastor at Oasis Church in Los Angeles and has been in full-time ministry over 12 years. She holds a Masters in Organizational Leadership in Ministry from Azusa Pacific University.
Joey Versace is Pastor of Adults at Christ's Church of the Valley in San Dimas, where he has served for fourteen years. He oversees multiple small group and discipleship programs with an emphasis in evangelism and apologetics. Joey has been in full-time ministry for eight years.
Debra Ward is Pastor at Light of the World Community Center in Compton. She has experience serving and teaching in the areas of domestic violence, anger management and parenting. She been with her current ministry for five years.
Brendin Williamson is Youth and Young Adult Minister at Hilltop Church of Christ in El Segundo, where he as served for four years. He attended Pepperdine University, where he served as a Campus Ministry intern.
Ryan Zeulner is Mission Pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Costa Mesa. He previously served in youth ministry and has a passion for graphic design. He has been in ministry for 11 years.
Rosalynn Brookins is Senior Pastor of Walker Temple African Methodist Episcopal Church in Los Angeles where she has served for the past four years. She is also an adjunct professor at the Southern California School of Ministry.
Robert Chun is senior pastor of City Chapel OC in Santa Ana. He has spent 12 years in full-time ministry. He previously served as a youth pastor and an English Ministry and Education pastor both in Korea and Southern California.
Jason Darden is the Preaching Minister of the Mission Viejo Church of Christ in Mission Viejo. He has been in ministry for eight years. He is a Chaplain Captain with the United States Army Reserve.
Alvin Edington Jr. is Associate Minister of the Metropolitan Church of Christ in Carson. He has been in ministry for five years. He previously worked as a manager and children's worker at children's homes in Southern California.
Marcos Gamez is Senior Pastor of Antioch Community Church in Los Angeles. He also acts as the Executive Director of Ministry for World Impact.
David Gundlach is Teaching Pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Costa Mesa, where he previously served as College and Worship Pastor. He has been in full-time ministry for ten years.
Jeremy Haynes is Lead Pastor of Saddleback Church L.A. He has been in full-time ministry for almost five years.
Michael Kim is Senior Pastor of Life Baptist Church in Los Angeles. He has 5 years of full-time ministry experience. He is also a civil engineer, currently working as a Senior Technical Consultant for Sensys Networks.
Brian La Spada is Senior Pastor of Calvary Chapel Malibu where he has served for the past two years. He previously served as Assistant Pastor of College and Career at Calvary Chapel Thousand Oaks.
Naima Lett is Co-Pastor of Hope in the Hills in Beverly Hills. She has been in full-time ministry for 10 years and is also an actress and author and is Co-Founder of Lett's Rise! Productions, creating inspirational films, theatre and music.
Zachary Luben is the Youth and Family Minister at Culver Palms Church of Christ in Culver City. He has served for six years in full-time ministry and previously served at Long Beach Church of Christ.
Anthony Powell is Associate Pastor at Oasis Church LA where he has served for six years. He also teaches Theater, Afro Hip Hop and Jazz at Pierce College and College of the Canyons and is co-founder of Son of Semele, an LA-based theater corporation.
Matt Raines is Senior Minister of the Chula Vista Church of Christ in Chula Vista. He has been in full-time ministry for 10 years and previously served at the Yorba Linda Church of Christ and Quartz Hill Church of Christ.
Martin Rodriguez is Family Life Minister at the Hollywood Church of Christ. He has served in full-time ministry for seven years, including several years as a church planter and English teacher in China.
Drew Sams is Senior Pastor at Bel Air Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles. He has spent nine years in full-time ministry, previously serving at Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village.
Bryan Schackmann is the Preaching Minister at Glendale Church of Christ in Glendale. He has spent six years in full-time ministry. He previously served at the Oplin Church of Christ and is a frequent presenter at the annual Pepperdine Bible Lectures.
Meet the Staff
Dr. John D. Barton
Dr. Barton joined the Pepperdine faculty and community in 2014, bringing extensive experience in both higher education and Christian ministry. John is especially involved in intercultural and interfaith initiatives both domestically and internationally. He and his wife Sara served as missionaries in Uganda for 8 years, and he now serves on the board of the Kibo Group, a nonprofit organization that facilitates sustainable development in East Africa.
Stephanie serves as the Program Administrator for the Pepperdine Center for Faith and Learning, where she also served as assistant to the University Chaplain for 10 years. She studied Religion at Pepperdine University and nursing at University of Virginia. She serves on the executive board of the Malibu Community Labor Exchange, a nonprofit that provides a safe place for the hiring and support of day laborers in the Malibu area.
Jennie is Pastor of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Simi Valley, CA and graduated from Cohort 2 of the Communitas program. She attended the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where she earned her Master of Divinity Degree in 2012.
Zac is Associate Chaplain for Partners through the Hub for Spiritual Life at Pepperdine University, where he also serves as an adjunct professor of Religion and co-Director of CrossWays. He graduated twice from Pepperdine, most recently with his Master of Divinity in 2014. For the past 13 years, he worked in local churches serving as a youth and family minister.