Spirituality, Faith, and Religion: Creating a Time and Space for Connection, Wellness, and Hope for Health Care Providers - Session 1
People define their spirituality, faith, and religion as being a process involving growth, addressing existential questions about meaning and sense in life, life satisfaction, well-being, a sense of purpose, hope, and optimism. During the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals and communities have started to explore more personal and collective connections with spiritual, faith, and religious resources as coping mechanisms. They seem to be a potential antidote that minimizes the consequences of anxiety, depression, and any other mental or physical stress caused during the coronavirus crisis.
In this context, the proposed panel and conversation series on spirituality, faith, and religion: creating a time and space for connection, wellness, and hope can be a tool for healthcare professionals, patients, family, and communities to reconnect with themselves, provide the most comprehensive care possible, benefit from spiritual practice, build social support, and share stories of hope and resilience.
Our community conversation series will offer comfort and safe space through structured and innovative conversation focusing on spiritual beliefs and coping. Activities facilitate verbal expression and appropriate social interaction and build a sense of belonging. We discuss activities and themes from these webinars within a recovery-oriented “emotion-focused coping” framework. A faith community member will lead this series.
Moderator: Thomas Burr, Community and Affiliate Relations Manager, NAMI Connecticut
Panelists for June 3rd, 2021
Reverend Torianto S. Johnson Sr.
Congregation: Flames of Fire Christian Fellowship
Rev. Johnson is the founder and pastor of Flames of Fire Christian Fellowship in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He preaches a theology that calls attention to the intractability of anti-blackness, social and economic inequality, racial capitalism and the carceral state, and how colonialism affects the articulation and experience of the gospel. He is committed to preaching a prophetic message rooted in love, hope, and justice.
Rev. Johnson is a native of Benton Harbor, Michigan, and a graduate of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He earned a master of arts in religion with a concentration in theology from Yale Divinity School. While at the Yale Divinity School, Rev. Johnson served as minister for Marquand Chapel and was the Reverend Dr. Samuel N. Slie Fellow for the University Church.
Pastor Marylin Rodriguez
Congregation: Church Oasis of Blessing Christian Center
Pastor Marilyn Rodriguez was born in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, and raised in a Christian home. In 1996, Pastor Rodriquez received her bachelor’s degree in visual arts and moved to New Britain, Connecticut, where she met her future husband, Jose Rodriguez. She has always been active in her church, and in 1999 she graduated from the Hispanic Bible Institute. In 2014, Pastor Rodriguez graduated from the Latin-American Bible Institute and went on to teach there for 2 years. For the last 8 years, she and her husband have worked at the Church Oasis of Blessing Christian Center. Pastor Rodriguez and her husband Jose have eight children.
Pastor Kelcy G. L. Steele
Congregation: Varick Memorial African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church
A native of Rock Hill, South Carolina, Rev. Steele is the 43rd pastor of Varick Memorial AME Zion Church. He is author of the book The Sound of Revival: 7 Powerful Prophetic Proclamations, which explores prophetic preaching in the Wesleyan tradition. He earned his master of divinity degree at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, in 2018. Governor Ned Lamont appointed Pastor Steele to the Connecticut Board of Pardons and Paroles in 2020. Pastor Steele is CEO of the Varick Center for Empowerment and an Imani Breakthrough Project Leader. He serves on the Board of Directors of Booker T. Washington Academy and is Cultural Ambassador of the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation.
Pastor William L. Mathis
Congregation: Springs of Life-Giving Water Church (The Springs)
A native of Albany, Georgia, after graduating from Morehouse College with a bachelor’s degree in political science and accounting, Pastor Mathis joined the staff of the Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control for the U. S. House of Representatives.
Afterwards, he pursued his interest in law at Boston College, earning his JD degree in 1989 and serving as the National Chair of the Black Law Students Association in the wake of increasing minority presence in the profession. He served first as a judicial law clerk and then as Baltimore City Assistant State’s Attorney. While in these positions, he worked to ameliorate the plight of juvenile delinquents and to develop preventive programs and supporting environments. During this time, he was called to the ministry and began ministering through public policies. Before he entered Harvard University, he served as chaplain, counselor, and teacher at The Baraka School, a school for inner-city male youth based in Kenya, East Africa. Pastor Mathis received his MDiv from Harvard in 2002.
The Springs is an American Baptist Church in New Haven, Connecticut. Pastor Mathis seeks to help individuals view and develop each life experience as empowering and directional for their purposed lives as they become all that God intends. In line with his assignment, Pastor Mathis is CEO of WLM Ministries, a nonprofit organization devoted to providing consulting services to create community and faith-based initiatives focused on criminal justice, neighborhood safety, community building, youth empowerment, social justice, and African diaspora collaboration.
These are additional positions and affiliations for Pastor Mathis:
- Immediate past president, American Baptist Churches of Connecticut (ABCCONN), 2019–2020
- Member, Baptist World Alliance’s Justice and Freedom Commission
- Consultant, Brazilian faith-based communities and non-governmental organizations working to empower Afro-Brazilian communities
- Member, Kingdom Association of Covenant Pastors
- Founding and steering committee member, New Haven 828, an organization devoted to bringing pastors and para-church leaders together for prayer and the formation of collaborative initiatives to address social ills
- Advisory board member, New Haven’s Juvenile Review Board
- Member, New Haven’s Reentry Initiative Roundtable
- Member, New Haven Community Violence Response Group
Panelists for June 24th, 2021
Reverend Hiram L. Brett
Rev. Brett, the spiritual care coordinator and chaplain at Connecticut Mental Health Center (CMHC) in New Haven, serves as a chaplain in the Bridgeport Hospital emergency room. Before joining CMHC, Rev. Brett served as pastor of Whitneyville United Church of Christ in Hamden, Connecticut. A graduate of Yale Divinity School (MDiv) and Stanford University (MBA), Rev. Brett completed his residency in clinical pastoral education at Yale New Haven Hospital. He has completed International Federal Levels 1 and 2 coach training and is working toward professional coach certification.
Rabbi Randall (Randy) Konigsburg
Senior Rabbi, Beth Sholom B’nai Israel, Manchester, Connecticut
For almost 40 years, Rabbi Konigsburg has been a spiritual leader and pastor in congregations in Florida, Minnesota, Alabama, and Connecticut. He graduated from the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) in New York City with ordination and a master’s degree in rabbinic literature. He has worked as a hospital and police chaplain, as a rabbi for hospice, and as a rabbi for teens on the March of The Living, an educational history tour of holocaust sites in Poland. He has trained in pastoral crisis intervention, education, cancer care, and substance abuse. He received an honorary doctorate from JTS for his work in the Jewish community. Rabbi Konigsburg tries to find time for nature photography.
Benjamin (Ben) Doolittle, MD, MA Div
Rev. Dr. Benjamin Doolittle is a local church pastor and a physician. He is an associate professor of internal medicine and of pediatrics at Yale Medical School and an associate professor of religion and health at Yale Divinity School. He directs the Yale Program for Medicine, Spirituality, and Religion as well as the Combined Internal Medicine-Pediatrics Residency Program.
Pastor Anthony (Tony) C. Martin
Congregation: Trinity Baptist Church
Pastor Martin is worship director at Trinity Baptist Church in Arlington, Massachusetts, and regional worship leader at the American Baptist Churches of Massachusetts. He holds a master of science and a bachelor of arts degrees in music and political science from the University of Massachusetts Boston (UMass Boston). He is the director of the UMass Boston chapter of My Brother’s Keeper. Launched by President Barack Obama in 2014, the My Brother’s Keeper initiative works to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and to ensure that all young people can reach their full potential.
Panelists for July 8th, 2021
Enroue [On-roo] Halfkenny [Haf-ken-ee]
Enroue Halfkenny has been a Babalawo [Bah-bah-lah-woe] within the West African traditional religion of the Yoruba [Yoh-ru-bah] People for more than 20 years. He is a clinical social worker, an artist, and an activist. He is a multiracial, Black, cisgender, heterosexual man, father of two, who has been married for more than 21 years. Mr. Halfkenny has also been living sober for over 28 years. The weaving together of spiritual health, mental health, and social justice issues and practices guide his life and direct his work with others.
Noman J. Nuton Jr., Senior Minister
Congregation: New Haven Church of Christ
A native of Cambridge, Maryland, Minister Nuton is a graduate of Amridge University (formerly Southern Christian University) where he earned his bachelor of science degree in bible/ministry, graduating summa cum laude. For several years, he served at the Cambridge Church of Christ as the assistant minister and youth minister. At the Capital Church of Christ, he assisted with the youth ministry, teaching high school teens and preaching the gospel. Minister Nuton served as the senior minister of the Church of Christ in Easton Maryland for 6 years; for the past 4 years, he has served in his current position as senior minister at the New Haven Church of Christ. Committed to serving his church and his community, Minister Nuton is a board member of Christian Community Action, which is a faith-based nonprofit organization committed to housing, feeding, and educating families who are less fortunate.
Minister Nuton achieved recognition working as a paralegal for a prominent law firm in Baltimore City, Maryland. In addition to his ministerial service, he worked in the insurance industry for 15 years in various positions, including working as a national sales executive for an insurance brokerage in Cambridge for 8 years. He also worked in conjunction with the Dorchester County Public Schools, speaking at various schools and community events.
Minister Nuton, a resident of Hamden, Connecticut, is married to Myra; together they have three children, Mya, Mariah, and Norman III.
Reverend Bonita Grubbs
Rev. Grubbs has been the executive director of Christian Community Action since December 1988. Before that, 1985–1988, she was employed as assistant regional administrator in Region V (Northwest Connecticut) for the Connecticut Department of Mental Health. Actively engaged in public service, she has served as a governing board member for these organizations:
- Connecticut Housing Coalition
- The Hospital of Saint Raphael
- Greater New Haven Community Loan Fund
- International Festival of Arts and Ideas
- Connecticut Voices for Children
- Project Access New Haven
- Community Economic Development Fund
Addition leadership positions include the following:
- Member, Connecticut Judicial Review Council
- Interim pastor, Christian Tabernacle Baptist Church, Hamden, Connecticut
- President, Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness
- Co-chair, Steering Committee of New Haven’s Fighting Back Project
- Member, Board of Trustees of Mercy Center in Madison, Connecticut
- Member, Board of Trustees of Connecticut Center for School Change and Dwight Hall at Yale University
- Lecturer in supervised ministries and homiletics, Yale Divinity School
- President, ABCCONN, and chair of ABCCONN’s Personnel Committee
Rev. Grubbs holds an undergraduate degree in sociology and Afro-American studies from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. She received two degrees from Yale University, a master of arts in religion and a master of public health. She received an honorary degree from Albertus Magnus College in 2001. In 2012, Richard Levin, former Yale University president, and Rev. Grubbs received the New Haven Register’s Person of the Year Award. In 2013, she received the Humanitarian Award from the Connecticut Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Commission.
Presently, Rev. Grubbs is a member of the governing board of the Regional Workforce Alliance. Confirmed as deputy chaplain of the Connecticut State Senate General Assembly in 2015, she continues to serve in this capacity.
Pastor Marcelo Centeno Jr.
Congregation: CPR Church, Bristol, Connecticut
Born on a cold December day in 1982, Pastor Centeno dedicated his life to the service of the Lord. After 4 years of biblical and theological studies, he began his evangelical and missionary ministry as well as teaching in various Bible theology schools. Pastor Centeno has preached and taught the gospel throughout the United States as well as in South and Central America.
Pastors of CPR Church since 2018, Centeno and his wife Ruth Noemi offer counseling services, including marriage counseling, and helping people with low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and other concerns. The pastors actively work with the community, including the Salvation Army and Brian’s Angels, which is a homeless outreach organization. They provide food and clothing to the less fortunate, and annually provide hundreds of book bags and schools supplies to low-income families. Each month, they send two 96-gallon barrels filled with clothing, canned goods, and supplies to a church ministry in the Dominican Republic. Pastor Centeno’s focus is impacting lives through the love of Jesus.
Love photo created by jcomp - www.freepik.com