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Covenant Conversation: New Castle Presbytery

November 11, 2023 @ 9:00 am - 4:00 pm

On November 11, nearly a hundred Presbyterians from across New Castle Presbytery and the country gathered at The Presbyterian Church of Dover, Delaware, for Covenant Conversation: New Castle Presbytery, “Making Space for Curiosity, Authenticity, and Community.” Participants worshiped, shared stories, and sought to live into the promises of a more inclusive Church and world.

Rev. Cindy Kohlmann

The day opened with Alex Hendrickson, Brooke Scott and Rick Upchurch sharing language for learning and inviting participants to expand their understanding of gender identity and sexual orientation. Then, CNP Executive Director Brian Ellison moderated a conversation among Charles Gilmore, Tim Rodden and Slats Toole about how congregations can live with “curiosity, authenticity, and community.”

Diverse workshops deepened these conversations and offered practical ways for churches and church members to offer a wider welcome in their communities. As a Matthew 25 presbytery, New Castle Presbytery intentionally emphasized intersectionality and diversity to model Christ’s radical welcome of all people.

The event closed in worship with the Word proclaimed by the Rev. Cindy Kohlmann, former GA Co-Moderator and connectional presbyter at New Castle Presbytery. The Covenant Network of Presbyterians extends deep gratitude to New Castle Presbytery and The Presbyterian Church of Dover for hosting this Covenant Conversation.

Below, a number of resources from the Covenant Conversation are freely available. Click on each plenary session to watch entire video of each session. Click on workshop title for powerpoint/printed resources, including Biblical and Theological Support for InclusionQueer Intersections with Matthew 25, How Welcoming Are We Really? and Gender & Sexuality 101, with more to come.

Videos/Plenary Sessions

Morning Plenary Session (includes greetings, Gender and Sexuality 101, and Panel Discussion) and Workshop

Video times:6:15,  Opening welcome/greetings; 21:00  Language for Learning: Gender and Sexuality 101; 48:15  Panel Discussion; 1:49:00 Start of Workshop “How Welcoming Are We, Really?”

Gender and Sexuality 101 with Brooke Scott and Alex Hendrickson (click for powerpoint)

As our understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity continues to evolve, new words to describe these experiences have emerged. This session explores the history and language of LGBTQ+ people, equipping participants with greater comfort and confidence in welcoming diverse neighbors

The Rev. Dr. Alexandra M. Hendrickson (she/her) is a minister member of Lehigh Presbytery (in eastern Pennsylvania.) Alex is in her 12th year serving as College Chaplain and Director of Religious & Spiritual Life at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. She is in her third year as member of the Covenant Network of Presbyterian board of directors. She has served congregations in Arizona, Illinois, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania. She and her husband, Brett, are almost empty-nesters, with only their third child still at home. Thankfully, their two cats and their dog are around to keep them company.

The Rev. Brooke Scott is pastor of two New Worshipping Communities in New Castle Presbytery, “Church on Main “and the emerging group “Seek Respite” (see full bio above).

Panel Discussion

A panel of queer people in ministry shared their experience and ideas for making space for curiosity, authenticity and community.

The Rev. Charles Gilmore, Jr., a native of Philadelphia, PA, graduated from West Chester University and Princeton Theological Seminary. He has served churches in California, New Jersey, and New York City. Rev. Gilmore has also been a chaplain in several hospitals and health care facilities. After 42 years, Rev. Gilmore retired from full-time ministry, moving to Lincoln, DE in 2015. He currently serves as temporary part-time Pastor of Coolspring Presbyterian Church in Lewes, DE, and is an active member of New Castle Presbytery.

Tim Rodden, MDiv, MA, BCC(r), FACHE(r) is a retired minister member of New Castle Presbytery. Tim was Director of Pastoral Services and System Coordinator for LGBTQ+ Health Initiatives at ChristianaCare in Delaware for 20 years. Tim presented regionally and nationally at healthcare conferences on LGBTQ+ health equity and equality. He partnered with the United Way of Delaware’s PRIDE Council and The Human Rights Campaign’s Healthcare Equality Index in moving health systems in Delaware to improv the healthcare experience and health outcomes of LGBTQ+ Delawareans. He was guest editor of Delaware Journal of Public Health’s publication titled LGBTQ+ Health Equity: Health in the Entire Human Family (Vol 5;3 June 2019). Tim is married to the Rev. Dr. Randall T. Clayton and they share their home with Max, their beloved German Shepherd.

Slats Toole (they/them) is a writer, musician, preacher and theater professional currently based in the Twin Cities. Slats’ Lenten poetry series has been compiled in the collection Queering Lent, and their work has also been published in places like Call to Worship, The Presbyterian Outlook and Sacramental Life. Slats has led workshops on expansive language and queer theology (with a particular emphasis on gender identity) throughout the United States and Canada, including at numerous CNP events. Slats makes their home in Minneapolis with their partner Mads

Afternoon Workshop and Plenary Session (includes closing worship with sermon by the Rev. Cindy Kohlmann)

Video times: 6:45  Start of workshop “Community Outreach” (see below); 1:40:00 Closing summary discussion; 1:51:00 Closing worship service


Biblical and Theological Support for Inclusion with Tracy Keenan and Matt Gaventa

Asserting the good news of Jesus Christ and God’s expansive and inclusive love, we will celebrate God’s word found in and through human words, a delightfully apt way for the incarnational God to speak. We will explore how scripture is used by scripture itself, a brief history of sex and marriage, God’s Personhood as One and Three, and some specific Bible verses that have been translated and interpreted to exclude.

The Rev. Dr. Tracy Keenan is missional presbyter of New Castle Presbytery, where she sparks enthusiasm and hope in member churches as they lean into loving their communities as God loves them. Before coming to New Castle Presbytery, she pastored churches in Pittsburgh, PA  and Columbus, OH.

The Rev. Matt Gaventa (he/him) is senior pastor at University Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas, a congregation with a long history of striving for inclusion across its ministries. He previously served as pastor to Amherst Presbyterian Church in Amherst, Virginia, and as chaplain to Sweet Briar College. Matt is an acclaimed writer and preacher whose work has been featured in Working Preacher and in The Christian Century, for whom he co-hosts the podcast Sunday Morning Matinee. Matt also sits on the Advisory Boards of Day1 and of The Church Lab. Matt holds degrees from Georgetown University, the University of Iowa, and Princeton Theological Seminary. He has spoken at Covenant Network of Presbyterians events and served on the board since 2018.

Queer Intersections with Matthew 25 with Cindy Kohlmann

The Matthew 25 vision of the PC(USA) lists building congregational vitality, dismantling structural racism, and eradicating systemic poverty as the three main foci with three additional intersectional priorities. This workshop will explore the intersections between the Matthew 25 foci and the lives and realities of our neighbors who are LGBTQIA+ people. 

The Rev. Cindy Kohlmann is the Connectional Presbyter & Stated Clerk for New Castle Presbytery. She has previously served as pastor for two congregations and resource presbyter for the Presbyteries of Boston and Northern New England. From 2018-2020, she also had the honor to serve as Co-Moderator of the 223rd General Assembly of the PC(USA).

How Welcoming Are We, Really?: Conducting a welcoming inventory of our worship, community and physical space with Brooke Scott

Video recording of this workshop begins at 1:49:00 in the Morning Plenary Session video above.

Many churches would proudly welcome a sign that says “All Are Welcome.” But how do people who have been hurt by the Church before, especially LGBTQIA+ people, know they can believe it? This workshop will offer creative ways of thinking about welcome that is authentic and effective, including in a church’s worship, publicity/marketing, practices of hospitality, building facilities, community outreach and more.

The Rev. Brooke Scott is pastor of two New Worshipping Communities in New Castle Presbytery, “Church on Main “and the emerging group “Seek Respite”. Brooke also holds degrees in Social Work, in which she gained skills in crisis management, counseling, mental health, and homeless intervention.

Community Outreach with Laura Viau and TJ Remaley

Video recording of this workshop begins at 6:15 of the Afternoon video above. No other materials are posted.

One important part of being a welcoming congregation within your walls is to be present and welcoming outside your walls. Using experiences in a mid-size congregation in a red state and a larger congregation in a blue state, we will consider ways you can be a witness in your own communities, appropriate for your own context..

The Rev. Laura Schmidt Viau currently serves as the pastor of First and Central Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, Delaware. She is a longtime friend of the network and participated in Covenant Network events in Florida before her ordination in 2015 and through several transitional ministry positions. First and Central is a founding Covenant Network church.

The Rev. TJ Remaley entered ordained ministry in 2014 and serves as the pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church in Boise, ID. Prior to that, he served congregations in South Carolina and Florida. In addition to preaching, pastoral care, and administration, his ministry has emphasized faith formation, family ministry, and mission. He feels particularly called to the work of justice and advocacy, and has participated in efforts for interfaith dialogue, racial injustice, migrant farmworker ministry, and LGBTQIA+ equality.

  • Spiritual Formation for Queer Christians: Coming Out, Creativity and Identity with Mark Parsons

Many queer Christians have spent our time in churches fighting for our right to be in the room, to be heard, and to be accepted for all of who we are. Even the most permissive churches rarely have queer theology as a major fabric of who they are, leaving queer Christians to figure out where we fit in scripture for ourselves. This workshop will focus on how we as queer people can weave our stories and identities along with our faith to truly thrive and grow.

The Rev. Dr. Mark E. Parsons II is pastor of The Presbyterian Church of Dover, DE. He has served the church since 1999 in both music and pastoral ministry, in both United Methodist and Presbyterian contexts, in both Ohio and West Virginia. Pastor Mark holds a Doctor of Ministry in Theology and the Arts (Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, DC), a Master of Divinity (Methodist Theological School in Ohio, Delaware, Ohio), and a Bachelor of Arts (West Virginia University). His doctoral work focused on the arts and theology, specifically on developing and implementing a spiritual exploration curriculum for queer Christians.

  • Ministry with aging LGBTQIA+ folks with Charles Gilmore and Jay Summerville

An interactive discussion on strategies to attract, engage, and support aging LGBTQIA + folks in church ministries.

The Rev. Charles Gilmore, Jr., a native of Philadelphia, PA, graduated from West Chester University and Princeton Theological Seminary. He has served churches in California, New Jersey, and New York City. Rev. Gilmore has also been a chaplain in several hospitals and health care facilities. After 42 years, Rev. Gilmore retired from full-time ministry, moving to Lincoln, DE in 2015. He currently serves as temporary part-time Pastor of Coolspring Presbyterian Church in Lewes, DE, and is an active member of New Castle Presbytery. 

The Rev. Jay Summerville was raised in a small town in rural Pennsylvania, attended Carleton College (BA), Washington University in St. Louis (JD) where he practiced law in a large firm to age 65, when he entered Eden Seminary (M.Div) and was ordained in 2016. His ministry has been as a full time chaplain in a Presbyterian Senior Living Community, an interim pastor at three different churches, and now as a pulpit supply pastor. He is gay and has a longtime partner who is Roman Catholic.

  • Witnessing to an inclusive church in our global relationships with Karla Koll and Joanna Hipp

For many of our congregation, partnerships with Christian groups in other parts of the world inspire us in many ways. In this workshop we will explore ways we can express our commitment to a church that is inclusive of our LGBTQIA+ siblings within our relationships with Christians who live in other cultural contexts. Please bring your stories and your questions.

The Rev. Dr. Karla Ann Koll is a mission co-worker of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), serving as a seminary professor in San Jose, Costa Rica.

The Rev. Joanna Hipp, associate pastor of Southport (N.C.) Presbyterian Church. She has been deeply involved in work for justice in her congregation and presbytery and in the PCUSA’s global ecumenical work. Joanna has served as an intern with the World Communion of Reformed Churches in Hannover, Germany and currently serves on the General Assembly Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations.


9:00   Registration opens / Coffee / Snacks
9:30   Welcome and Prayer
9:45  Plenary
11:00  Workshop session #1 (See workshops below)
12:15  Lunch (included in registration, provided by the Wilmington Kitchen Collective)
1:30   Workshop Session #2 (See workshops below)
2:45   Opportunity for discussions by congregation or particular topical groups
3:15   Closing Worship
4:00   Go in peace

Thank you for supporting
Covenant Conversation: New Castle Presbytery!


November 11, 2023
9:00 am - 4:00 pm
Event Category:


The Presbyterian Church of Dover
54 S State St
Dover, DE 19901 United States
(973) 366-0216
View Venue Website


Brian Ellison
View Organizer Website