Conversation Circles: Earth and Climate Chaplaincy

Meet the Participants

David Arfa

David provides grief counseling and coordinates bereavement services for Baystate Hospice.  He retrained as a spiritual counselor nearly ten years ago and has served in community hospitals, behavioral health hospitals and elder care facilities.  He completed four units of CPE with concentrations in trauma informed care, addiction and spirituality, spiritual care at the end of life, personal narrative and theology, and grief care. He carries certification in moral injury from VOA and Rita Nakashima Brock.  

David is also a storyteller and educator who is rooted in Judaism’s storytelling heritage and ancient environmental wisdom. He has helped renew the role of Maggid (Hebrew for storyteller).  He has performed and taught in schools, libraries, festivals, places of worship, fields and forests.  Over the years, he has worked as a synagogue school principal, Hillel program director, classroom science teacher and nature center educator.

David has produced two award winning CD’s and has a full-length storytelling performance, "The Jar of Tears: A Memorial for the Rebbe of the Warsaw Ghetto", which won the Charles Hildebrandt Holocaust Studies Award for its “artistic excellence, depth of vision and technical mastery”. To find out about his programs including his‘Shretelech Expeditions’, please visit,

Renée Athay

I am a community-engaged Buddhist minister, a movement chaplain, and a death doula (inter-beings). I am in an apprenticeship with Francis Weller’s Grief Tending work and am three months away from completing an animal chaplaincy program. I just finished a program in interfaith leadership and am very curious about how we can build eco-spiritual, eco-dignity-based coalitions.

I work remotely with The Center for Contemplative Science and Compassion-Based Ethics at Emory University. I am a facilitator for SEE Learning and a curriculum consultant for the adult program Cognitive-Based Compassion Training (CBCT), which is focused on secular ethics and uses trauma-informed care, mindfulness practices, and systems thinking.

I live in the mountains of Utah and home-home is Boulder, Colorado, where I was born and raised. Nature and wild spaces nourish me.

emily corbiere bates

emily corbiere bates is a white, queer activist and former farmer currently studying climate psychology and eco-chaplaincy at Harvard Divinity School. They have worked primarily in regenerative agriculture contexts on both secular and spiritually affiliated farms in Northern California and Southern Appalachia. While rooted in Earth-based Jewish community, emily organized with the Sunrise Movement and People's Action, where she spoke at an action at the Massachusetts State House and canvassed on college campuses ahead of the 2020 Presidential Primary in their home state of New Hampshire. She loves backpacking in the Sierra Nevada, harvesting chamomile and kitchen dance parties. emily hopes to one day provide spiritual care to young people, activists and farmers grappling with the climate crisis.

Rev. Nathanael Blessington

Reverend Nathanael Blessington refers to himself as an ambassador for Christ. He is an international research scholar presently focused on his doctoral work. He is born as a fifth generation to a Baptist missionary family which worked closely with American Baptist Missionaries in the late 1800’s on the south-east coast of India. He is passionate about providing pastoral care, embodying God’s mission (Missio-Dei), and Christian Education. Creative writing has been his passion. He learnt that from his father and has mastered the art with the help of his professors at BTSR & STVU. He has widely travelled across the globe and is closely connected to more than a dozen countries. These International experiences are built into the DNA of who he is and how he experiences the Love of God through those divine encounters.

He believes that each person is created as Imago-Dei. These lenses help him to provide holistic and personalized pastoral care.

He is a uniquely gifted, CBF endorsed chaplain, ordained and licensed pastor, scholar, polyglot, and Master-certified Christian educator, with an international experience amidst trans-cultural, multi-religious, and inter-disciplinary contexts.

He is excited to participate in the Conversation Circles: Earth and Climate Chaplaincy!

Tom deBree

I served pastoral roles with congregations for twenty-five years before enrolling in CPE at University Hospital, Denver, CO.  Chaplain ministry in Burn and Neurological ICU units and Palliative Care then led into hospice ministry. Short term missions in Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua and a brief "Accompaniment' assignment in Guatemala (1980-1990) opened my calling further, as did service with the Denver Peace & Justice Committee. After retiring from professional ministry, I served a few years with the "Band" of Radical Joy for Hard Times, a global community growing a practice to find and create beauty in wounded places on earth. RadJoy grounds and reveals coherence between grief and joy, faith and reason, vulnerability and strength, love and loss casting a wide portal for re-storying sacred meaning rooted and accessible to any human being across every belief and land.  Recently, I helped create a unique neighborhood project to provide homes for several Afghani refugee families on our street.  I am focused on personal study, reflection and writing on the future of human spirituality. I have published nothing but am resolved to continue. On one hand, I ask how notions and experience of the Sacred gestate, ground and guide the emergence of belief through multiple scales of trauma and crises. On the other hand, I ask how notions and experience of the Sacred may decompose belief systems and their structures, open hearts and minds to new worlds, create possibilities for the moral evolution of our species. I am 75 years old with five adult children and eight-plus- four grandchildren. I imagine chaplaincy to my extended family and local neighborhood as the personal soil where global transformation begins. My desire is to contribute what support I might to a new generation who will shape the future of life on earth.

Rev. Jen Lessard

My name is Rev. Jen Lessard and I am a multi-vocational pastor in Western New York. I am part-time Senior Pastor at York Baptist Church, a progressive rural church which has a recent sibling relationship with indigenous peoples of Ecuador. I am also part-time volunteer member of the American Baptist International Ministries’ Short Term Missions program. I am tethered to the term “missionary” very loosely because I consider myself more international chaplain. The indigenous peoples’ I serve in Ecuador have experienced centuries of harm by European “missionaries” of old. The trips I take there several times per year are part of an innovative program my church is participating in, called “Walking Together.” Our purpose is to walk alongside, being led by the original people of the land, who face each day trying to save their lands and cultures from predatory extraction of the natural resources found in such a biodiverse area. I work with indigenous women of the Andes and the Amazon rainforest who lead the defense of land and culture, while needing spiritual support in all areas of life. Being present, listening, walking hand in hand with these women is my purpose in this season, with God’s help.

Katie Mangum

Katie Mangum (she/her) bio: I am a student, writer, community member, and budding spiritual caregiver. I am currently finishing my Master of Divinity at Duke Divinity School in Durham, NC, and serving as the Sanctuary Steward at Bluestem Conservation Cemetery, where I help to support a growing community of land stewards and grievers as we gather around conservation and conservation burial. Before coming to divinity school, I completed a degree in earth science and spent two years working in environmental philanthropy alongside a group of Franciscan sisters and our community partners. I am from St. Louis, MO and have roots in the Midwest along the Missouri River. My spiritual home is the United Church of Christ (UCC), though I am presently a co-minister in an ecumenical and dialogical congregation called Emmaus Way. This summer, I will be completing my first unit of CPE in partnership with a hospital and Bluestem Cemetery. I am newer to chaplaincy and deeply grateful to have the opportunity to learn in this community circle!

Laura Ritter

I am board-certified healthcare chaplain and have been working in the field for thirteen years primarily in hospice and hospital settings. My chaplaincy roots were planted in 2011 as a Foundation’s Student at the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care. Prior to finding chaplaincy, my life was full of searching and multiple spiritual pilgrimages. I lived and worked at Buddhist retreat centers in Ireland, Honolulu and Santa Fe; Hiked the Camino de Santiago in Spain, and studied yoga in Mysore, India. I also have a master’s degree in environmental studies and worked as an Environmental Outreach and Education Coordinator for the Washington State Department of Ecology. This spring I will be starting a certification course to train to become an Early Childhood Nature School Teacher which I am very excited about. I am also the single parent of a very vivacious and slightly wild six year-old who keeps me on my toes in the best possible ways.

Carri M. Stevens (they/them)

Carri Stevens is a Clinical Pastoral Chaplain Resident at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital through August 2024.
Carri Stevens has experience in a wide variety of fields including but not limited to: theatre, music, religious practices, mentorship, childcare, and tutoring.  She is passionate about social justice and the ways that her skills and work can be used to pursue this.  Carri completed her undergraduate degrees, B.A. in Theatre & Performance Studies, B.A. in Music, and a Minor in Conflict Transformation, Magna Cum Laude, at North Park University, Chicago, Illinois in 2017.  Carri also recently finished her Masters of Divinity and Certificate for Transformative Justice at North Park Theological Seminary. While in seminary Carri was heavily invested in the School of Restorative Arts, a program providing classes towards a Masters in Christian Formation for those incarcerated within Stateville and Logan Correctional Centers.  The relationships that Carri built with her classmates and friends inside prison had a profound impact on the way she sees the world, and the way she approaches her faith and theology. 
Carri has a deep love for people, and a great desire to see each person have the resources to live into the fullest version of themself. Carri has worked as a nanny for the company Chicago Super Sitters throughout her time in graduate school, and loves the joy and unexpected wisdom that children bring into her life. She is also a proud auntie to 10 nieces and nephews, partner to her wonderful husband Philip, and mama to their 2-year-old hedgehog Milo. Carri is grateful for the many skills she has developed through her educational and relational journeys, but is ever eager to learn from every person she encounters - the wonderful folks in this conversation circle included! 

Tom Quinn

I’m Tom Quinn. I am a long-time oncology (cancer care), palliative care, and hospice care nurse. I’m on the verge of graduating from the Chaplaincy Training Program at Upaya Zen Center. I am also enrolled in the Faith Matters Movement Chaplaincy Training Program. I am finding my way in the ecospirituality world, exploring potential niches for environmental chaplaincy. I am very much looking forward to connecting with others with an interest in applying chaplaincy skills to the environment and environmental justice.