Interfaith Ordination Ceremony - Spring 2014

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On March 15th, the ChI Interfaith Community ordained eight Interfaith Ministers: Rev. Jennifer Bernstein, Rev. Irene Boczek, Rev. Maria Brittle, Rev. Michele Casale, Rev. Eleesabeth Hager, Rev. Marybeth Melcher, Rev. Suzanne Tindall and Rev. Jodi Varner.

You can read the bios and some of the sermons delivered by the new Interfaith Ministers during the ceremony, by clicking their names below.

Rev. Jennifer Bernstein

Rev. Irene Boczek

Rev. Maria Brittle

Rev. Michele Casale

Rev. Eleesabeth Hager

Rev. Marybeth Melcher

Rev. Suzanne Tindall

Rev. Jodi Varner



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Jennifer Bernstein (San Rafael, CA)

Jennifer Bernstein believes that all individuals are entitled to an authentic, personal, and resonant relationship with Spiritual Presence, in whatever way or path presents itself. She is personally influenced by Judaism, Paganism, and the Tao. She is looking forward to walking with people on their paths towards their spiritual home. Jennifer plans to serve as an Interfaith Minister as well as a Community Chaplain, specializing as a Veterinary Chaplain, providing care and holding to people dealing with the illness and loss of the animals in their lives. Jennifer manages the Volunteer program at Guide Dogs for the Blind, in addition to providing chaplaincy services for numerous animal grief and bereavement groups. She volunteers at Halleck Creek Riding Club, where people on the autism spectrum or otherwise differently abled are provided with horseback riding therapy. She lives in Petaluma, CA with her daughter Rebecca, boyfriend David, his daughter Amanika, two big dogs and really big cat. Special thanks to Mom, Dad, and Sandra Younglove for all of their support.

Irene Boczeck

In the second quarter of my life, three of my beloved family members died, and I realized that the ladder I had been climbing was leaning against the wrong wall. That awareness offered the possibility and gift of accompanying folks on their sacred journey as they traverse life’s challenges and transitions. Now in the final fourth of my life, I am humbled to be on the threshold of beginning to serve in way that I was called to do so long ago.

I am deeply grateful to the ever-expanding community of love and support that has made this day possible. My family Jerome, Alexa and Nicholas, are eternally patient and supportive. My parents, siblings and brother-in-law all personify courage and live the dream of unconditional love. Diana, my dear friend, our relationship blossoms in shared ‘namaste’ and Lauren, my niece, tutors me by living her life with hands and heart aligned. And remarkable CHI community, you inspire me your deep well of exquisite goodness.


Maria Elaine Brittle (Minnetonka, MN)

Maria was raised in rural Missouri reveling in nature, a sense of Divine presence, and a desire to minister to others. Her spiritual quest included ecumenical exploration of Christianity before settling into the Episcopal Church, her husband, Allan’s, denomination. Moving to Minnesota in 1980, they raised two children while Maria completed a Masters in Clinical Psychology, a Doctorate in Education, and worked as a regulatory affairs professional in medical device companies. Approaching 50, Maria experienced, through mindfulness meditation, a reconnection with her core being and early sense of calling. This rekindled spiritual quest led to CPE and The Chaplaincy Institute, where she has reveled in interfaith exploration of the Divine. Meditation and

Dharma teachings also altered her life processing. A corporate five-year plan approach was replaced with one like Indiana Jones’ in The Last Crusade, walking across a chasm with one step appearing at a time. Since her husband’s death last May, Maria has been transitioning to a solo existence including significant downsizing. Lightness and mobility feel important for the next step in her path, as yet unseen.


Michele Casale (Davis, CA)

My call to ministry arrived as a bright, golden light within my chest that announced "this is where I want to work with people." I'd been listening to an elderly woman tell me her feelings of loneliness and fear while she waited for a taxi at the hospital where I was a volunteer. I knew to listen to this voice with a certainty I had never experienced.

This voice led me to Interfaith Chaplaincy. Here I have the privilege of serving as a witness to all the experiences and emotions of being human. Here I have the privilege of offering support and connection to those who are suffering. It is my goal to do so with compassion and warmth. It is my goal to embody gratitude and presence as I open to the grace that allows me to do this work.

I have always been a seeker of depth, truth and connection. This work centers me within these very qualities. It centers me within the radiance of my being and calls me to relate to the radiance present within everyone I encounter. I currently work at Green Valley Hospice in Roseville, California and Woodland Memorial Hospital in Woodland, California.

Eleesabeth Miraseena Hager (Oakland, CA)

I was born an artist and an observer of life on the prairies of Oklahoma. I became a Landscape Architect, and an entrepreneur - all the time knowing that through these 'stories", I would find my way back to my center - to be a minister. In showing up for my mother's long journey into dementia, I found my path to this place of chaplaincy and to this moment. Chaplaincy will allow me to use ALL my creativity and talents and will, in turn, inform my art, my landscapes and my writing. I will leave any future serial entrepreneur-ism in God's hands. Blessed be, ah ho and amen.

Marybeth Melcher (Center Point,TX)

A native of Southern California, Marybeth is the eldest of five sisters. She was baptized, confirmed, and married in the Episcopal tradition. In her forties, Marybeth began attending services with the Unitarian Universalists and was introduced to the Dances of Universal Peace while living in Wyoming (where her heart remains).

A caregiver from early on, Marybeth looked after her younger sisters, has been a Licensed Vocational Nurse for 35 years, earned her undergraduate degree in gerontology, and spent 30 years attending to a severely incapacitated partner.

Her work as a nurse was a spiritual segway into chaplaincy. She completed 3 units of Clinical Pastoral Education prior to starting at ChI.

For Marybeth, ordination is the fruition of a lifetime of self healing and recovery and the beginning of an ever deepening relationship with the Divine.

It is with humble gratitude that she steps onto the next path to which Spirit leads her.

Suzanne Tindall (Oakland, CA)

Discerning my calling has been a bit like making a patchwork quilt. Personal experiences with the divine, moments of connection and relationship found in deep listening, and silence, in art and beauty, poetry and nature, create the bits and pieces of the fabric of that quilt. They are moments of insight or healing that have to be stitched together before they make any sense as a single cloth.

Similarly, my working experience is also made up of bits and pieces that are part of this quilt. From realtor and artist, to Montessori and music teacher, from mortgages and reverse mortgages to nonprofit management and medical missions to Jamaica and eventually to directing a meditation center and working as a spiritual director, my path looks a bit like a crazy quilt. But each and every piece has informed my calling to ministry.

My calling is to experience and serve Divine Presence, the experienced felt presence of God, using creativity and wonder, opening to love and compassionate action, holding beauty and suffering, joy and grief, birth and death alike.

Jodi Lynn Varner (San Diego, CA )

Jodi Varner is currently a hospice Chaplain for Hospice by the Sea and a hospital Chaplain for Sharp Healthcare in San Diego. She began her calling in chaplaincy in 2009 after surviving 16 years in the business world managing people, assets, non-profits and great deals of stress. She received a BA from Michigan State University and a MA from the University of Florida. When not at work, she has the great honor of raising her 5 ½ year old daughter Zoe, volunteering for the amazing social change organization Shakti Rising, meditating with her Sangha and getting her yoga on with other yogini?s. Her dream is to build a community in Idyllwild to practice Council, the Beauty Way and other paths to peace.

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