Meet Our Newest Members

Making the Circle Wider

It's our members who help make a difference in the world.

We have welcomed several new members into our faith community over the past year and we would like to help you get to know them. Click on each photo to learn more.

Joined January 2024

Bartholomew Family

René Bartholomew grew up in Trinidad & Tobago and was raised in the Catholic Church. Julie spent most of her childhood here in Charlotte, the "preacher's kid" of a progressive Baptist minister. They met while living in Washington, DC early in their non-profit careers, both driven to pursue paths to make a positive impact in the world. For as long as they have been parents, Rene and Julie have been seeking a spiritual community that can embrace and embody the best of both the traditions they grew up with for their children. From an Episcopal Montessori Sunday School program to an emergent "Neighbor's Abbey" gathering in homes in SW Atlanta, they have been part of several creative churches along their journey. René shares that, "In the late 1980s, Julie's father was Minster of Education at Pritchard Memorial Baptist while Dr. Stephen Shoemaker's father was the Minister of Music, and as a result of that connection he followed closely what was happening at MPBC in the early 2000s. He told us then, if we ever moved our family to Charlotte, he knew of a church that could be a good fit. Many years later, here we are."

Julie and René say, “Being a part of MPBC feels like the continuation of our chosen path to make a positive impact in the world. We are drawn to be part of this thoughtful community that is bold and brave in their expression of God's all-encompassing love and appreciate the cultural and spiritual diversity found here.”

Sofia, Lucas, Josef and Colin have been active in the Children's and Youth Ministries and Choirs. Lucas enjoys helping Wes and the AV team. Sofia is helping to deepen connections between the MPBC youth and environmental justice groups. René and Julie both have worked for organizations focused on social justice, sustainable agriculture and food security in the US and internationally and hope to use that experience in support of the Ministries of Justice and Outreach plans and programming.

Rachel Hidalgo

Rachel Hidalgo has lived in Charlotte for 31 years. She is married to Rafael, and they have a 14-year-old son named Oscar. Rachel is a former Montessori teacher who is very passionate about supporting families. She found MPBC through members and friends Bethany Johnson and Candace Williamson.

She currently hosts playgroups for young children and their caregivers and has recently moved her business, The Authentic Nest, to MPBC. Rachel is excited at how well her personal and professional beliefs align with MPBC. She calls herself a church newbie saying, “This is the first church I have ever felt comfortable enough to feel the call to join.” Rachel is excited to learn more about spirituality in her own life as well as connecting with the church community.

Horton Family

Lauren Horton comes from a family with a strong faith and attended various denominational churches growing up. She also went to an evangelical Christian school. Her parents were extremely liberal and lifelong Democrats, and strong followers of Jesus. So, she has very progressive views while still picking up some questionable theology in elementary and middle school that has since been examined and reexamined.

Her internet searches for an affirming, Jesus-following church led her to MPBC. She is excited to have a place to connect where her family can be known by name and where they can know others by name. Lauren has two sons Jones (14) and Nash (11).

Mary & Charles Love

Mary Love was born and raised in East Tennessee and was brought up in the Episcopal and Catholic traditions. She says, “I come from a progressive family, who taught me the word “ecumenism” at an early age.” In Tennessee, she attended an elementary school run by nuns, then a high school run by monks. Mary says you can call her "high church." She went to college in the Northeast, where she studied Latin, ancient Greek and music. Over the years, Mary has worked in banking and as an editor, photographer and freelance journalist. In 1976, while living in New York City, she met Charles, who likes to say he rescued her from the classics library. They married four years later. Charles is originally a North Carolinian but has lived in many places both in the U.S. and overseas. His work most recently has been in the advertising business, and he has produced films and illustrated feature stories for magazines on a variety of topics. The public issues Charles has been most concerned about and championed are civil rights for everyone, addressing climate change, and supporting national electoral reforms. Although originally a Presbyterian Charles says he is basically an ecumenist who champions respect for all faiths.

Charles and Mary share a love of scuba diving, swimming, photography, film and music (from classical to blues and jazz). Mary confesses a fondness for early music and good fiddlin’! They have lived in Charlotte since 1997.

Mary and Charles found MPBC in 2019, when a friend told them that Rev. Boswell would be happy to share a filmed statement of his for their documentary on Martin Luther King Jr. Mary said, “His speech was so compelling they decided to check out MPBC!" They are excited about getting to know members of the congregation and the programs the church offers. They are also excited that MPBC is so well connected to the greater Charlotte community and are excited to get involved with various outreach and education programs, which they are just starting to explore.

Melissa Jackson

Melissa Jackson is a Montessori teacher in CMS and loves that there is a small contingent of her colleagues who attend MPBC. She grew up United Methodist and found her way to MPBC by way of the Unitarian Universalist Community of Charlotte. She was drawn to the church for its leading progressive voice and presence in Charlotte. Melissa said, “Listening to sermons here, I realized how little I learned in Sunday school as a kid. I really appreciate the historical perspective and biblical interpretations.” She is excited to become part of this community that gives her strength and hope to continue her work in the world. She is also looking forward to helping with RITI. Melissa has two amazing daughters, one who just graduated from college and one who just started. She likes to be active with her chicken flock or on her mountain bike. She also likes to not be active while knitting.

Charlie Lundberg

Charlie Lundberg is a junior at Myers Park High School where he is on the Varsity Football team. Charlie has grown up in the church, being a 4th Generation Myers Park Baptist Family member. Charlie asked his grandmother, Rev. Robin Coira, to lead him through a discipleship program that ended in his baptism last fall.

Alvin & Jean Phillips

Until a month ago, Alvin had lived his whole life in West Virginia. He recently retired as a nonprofit executive. Jeanie is a retired elementary teacher and counselor. They made the decision to move to Charlotte two years ago to be helpful and closer to their children and grandson.

They found MPBC in the fall of 2022 when John Pavlovich came as a Faith in the 21st Century speaker. They had known of the church since their son attended Queens University and decided to stay in Charlotte following his graduation in 2008. Alvin and Jeanie are passionate about social justice and community.

Kim Venable

Kim Venable grew up in southern Florida in the Baptist faith. Professionally she is a local realtor as well as a part time dental assistant instructor. She has 2 sons, Brett (26) and Nick (25) and a chihuahua named Daisy. Kim and her life partner, Rick, have been together for 8 years. Kim is an avid DIYer saying, “It is my therapy.” She also admits to having a shoe addiction.

Sarah Kay Whitmore

Sarah Kay Whitmore has lived in Charlotte for 12 years. Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, she has been an educator and pastor but recently started working in tech in the agriculture sector. She loves being outside hiking, camping, and backpacking with her dog. She recently joined One Voice Choir.

Her faith has always been such an important part of her life and she has been attending church regularly since high school. In 2020, she found MPBC through Instagram, and says, “I am so glad to have found a home!” She appreciates the outspokenness about social justice and the message of inclusion. Sarah Kay said, “Knowing myself to be a strong, confident, outspoken, queer woman of God and seeing that not a single one of those things would disqualify me from not just attendance but my full integration and potential leadership within this community, is a joy that I will never be able to put into words." She is excited to build more community as she gets more involved in the church.

Kurtis Wilson

Kurtis Wilson wanted to be in fellowship with other Christians in an inclusive environment. He found MPBC through a good google search. He is excited about learning the Bible from more of an intellectual point of view and hopes to get involved in the youth ministry and Bible studies and lectures. He shares that he has "a passion for fashion."

Jeff & Patty Wolverton

Jeff and Patty Wolverton are celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary this year. They enjoy spending time and doing things as a family with their 3 kids, Ryan (25), Mitch (23), and Caroline (20). Patty works for PivIT Strategy, a company she and Jeff started 2 years ago. Patty was raised Catholic and Jeff grew up United Methodist, but they have attended a number of churches in the various places they have lived over the years. Jeff enjoys playing the guitar, golf, and mountain biking. Patty loves hiking, camping, gardening and meeting up with friends for dinner out or a weekend at the lake.

They shared that they attended so many churches after moving to Charlotte that they lost count. After not attending any church for a while, family members in the Raleigh Durham area referred them to Myers Park Baptist. Patty and Jeff feel that they have finally found a church where they feel comfortable, and they enjoy a sense of belonging when they are here. They enjoy how open the church is to all, as well as the services and sermons. They look forward to meeting new people, getting involved, being social, attending spiritual growth classes, and giving back.

Joined May 2023

Sheila & Ledell Alexander

Sheila and Ledell Alexander grew up in Virginia and moved their family to Michigan where they both worked for Dow Chemical. Upon retirement they moved to Charlotte to be near their son, daughter-in-law and 2 granddaughters. They have two other sons, one in L.A. and one in Michigan. They joined MPBC because it reminds them of their church in Michigan, welcoming, caring, and open to all. Sheila and Laydell look forward to celebrating their 50th Anniversary in May with friends and family.

Toni-Ann Hines

Toni-Ann Hines moved to Charlotte in September 2022; originally from Kingston, Jamaica, but grew up in Stone Mountain, GA. Toni-Ann grew up Pentecostal in the Church of God. MPBC will be her first Baptist experience even though the word Baptist has historically scared her.

While Toni-Ann has no personal connection to the church, she asked for church recommendations on Instagram one day and MPBC was suggested. She went to the MPBC Instagram page and immediately felt affirmed and welcomed with the profile picture being used, and the bio line about sexuality and race. After scrolling through and seeing some pretty great stuff - especially, "No stained-glass ceilings here" - MPBC's intentionally around fostering an inclusive and justice focused body of Christ is what really sold her.

Toni-Ann says, “I am not sure if I have any gifts or talents, but I make a really good trip itinerary. So, if you all can use that then I'm down." She is pretty excited about working with Ministry of Justice and Outreach (MOJO). Working and fighting for the marginalized is something she passionately believes in, "not only because I am part of some of those communities, but because I think that's what we're called to do as believers and people of faith.”

Griffin Family

Kenisha was born and raised in New Orleans, LA and relocated to Charlotte in 2014 with Bruce and Kameron to accept a full-time position with Novant after consulting there for over a year. She is a Healthcare IT Analyst and Informaticist. She is also a financial literacy and credit consultant who assists with bridging the gap for first time home buyers.

Kenisha was raised in a Christian home and most of her lifelong friends were met at church. She believes her positive attributes and values are a reflection of the upbringing she received in the church. The teachings and community she was exposed to instilled in her a sense of compassion, humility, and gratitude that have shaped who she is today.

Kenisha was introduced to MPBC by Rev. Mia McClain, whom she grew up with in church in New Orleans. Her children's interest in the Children and Youth Ministry at MPBC is what has kept them coming back.

Kenisha is excited to join MPBC because she wants her children to experience the same positive experiences in church, she experienced so that they can grow in the Love of Christ and navigate the world with all the tools they need to do good work, be good stewards, and be the best versions of themselves in Christ.

Kenisha looks forward to working with the children and youth ministries and participating in community outreach events.

Bruce Griffin was born and raised in New Orleans, LA and relocated to Charlotte with his family almost 9 years ago. Bruce is the Warehouse Supervisor at Bonded Logistics. He is an extreme dog lover and has a passion for cooking and private catering.

Bruce was baptized at a young age after being introduced to Christ by his grandmother.

Bruce is attracted to MPBC because he always felt welcomed. He enjoys the sermons and the fact that the church is accepting of everyone, regardless of who they are.

What excites Bruce the most about joining MPBC is the atmosphere. He enjoys the sense of community and purpose. Bruce looks forward to being a helping hand wherever there is a need and participating in community outreach events.

Jake Poole & Ben Kesterson

Ben Kesterson is in Marketing for Food Service Distribution. The team he leads is responsible for traveling to restaurants across the country, helping rebrand and improve their operational performance. Think Gordon Ramsey without the screaming and profanity.

Ben grew up in Concord NC in the Southern Baptist church and was heavily involved, attending 3 days a week, every week. He moved away to NY for college where he met his husband, Jake. They have been together for 15 years and have lived in many places. They settled in Charlotte about 6 years ago, and currently live in Huntersville.

Jake Poole works at UNCC as the Director of Catering. He was born and raised in Central New York, just outside of Syracuse. Growing up, his extended family was very involved in the Methodist church, his experiences were mostly on Easter and Christmas.

Ben and Jake were invited to attend MPBC by their friends John Locklear and Scott Crowder about 4 years ago. They attended regularly for about a year and a half and have been coming back after Covid. They were initially attracted to the church for its affirming stance and unique, unapologetic beliefs. They are also proud to say they are members of the church where the initial roots of the RAIN foundation were established. They enjoy the sermons and appreciate that they challenge them to think. Their car rides home are sometimes filled with passionate debates about the message that morning. While they don't always agree, they appreciate that Myers Park Baptist pushes them to think critically about the world around us!

Since they have been “visiting” for a long time, Ben and Jake are excited to get much more plugged in and involved in the community. Specifically, the LGBT group that meets regularly.

Erica Saunders

Erica Saunders currently serves the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America ~ Bautistas por la Paz as communications manager. Previously, she was pastor of Peace Community Church in Oberlin, OH. Erica was ordained to ministry by Wake Forest Baptist Church in 2019. She serves on the board of directors of the Alliance of Baptists and the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists. She holds the Master of Divinity from Wake Forest University and a Bachelor of Arts in French, Spanish, philosophy and religion from Queens University of Charlotte.

When Erica graduated from Queens University of Charlotte in 2016, MPBC hosted our baccalaureate service in the sanctuary. When she moved to Charlotte last year, she checked MPBC out because she had worked with Rev. Dr. Ben Boswell in Alliance of Baptists life.

Erica is most excited about being part of a community that welcomes and affirms everyone while fearlessly proclaiming the gospel of justice and mercy; and she looks forward to leading worship and preaching, participating in social justice ministries, and teaching when possible.

Joined March 2023

Behler Family

Mary Behler works in banking. She came to MPBC to be part of something beautiful in the Charlotte community — a church that not only welcomes but truly LOVES all. She is excited to get involved in the inspiring work taking place here and looks forward to learning and growing with the people here.

Russ has worked for GE Healthcare for the last 12 years in various roles within the ultrasound group. He finds the inclusivity and diversity of thought at MPBC very appealing.

Mary and Russ look forward to assisting wherever there is need.

Ron & Angel Diaz

Ron and Angel Diaz live in the Ballantyne area with their Goldendoodle, Turner. After looking for a spiritual home for a while, they discovered MPBC and immediately felt at home. When asked what excites them about MPBC, they said, “It feels like we are joining a mission bigger than our own and look forward to meeting and making friends with the many members of MPBC.” Ron is a professional singer and musician, and Angel loves to watch Ron perform!

Jason Blackwell

Jason Blackwell relocated to Charlotte from Los Angeles in August 2022. He has worked in Marketing, Communications, and Advertising for nearly 30 years and currently serves as a Brand Director for a national nonprofit. Jason discovered Myers Park Baptist through his mentor, Meta Commerse, who told him that this was a faith community putting action behind its words on issues that were important to him. Jason is drawn to the work that MPBC is doing around combating racism and holding a safe, open, and affirming space for the LGBTQ community and he hopes to lead small groups as a part of his engagement.

Kimberly Moore

Kimberly Moore has been a teacher for over 25 years and works for Arlington Public schools in Virginia and teaches from her home in Gastonia. She is a current board member of The Gaston County Juvenile Crime and Prevention Council, appointed by Gaston County Commissioners. She is a single mother of three fabulous children.

Kimberly is looking forward to being an open vessel, to God as a dedicated member of MPBC, a church who Kimberly says, "looks like heaven, and what I mean by that is you have to accept and include all. Just like I don’t get to choose who comes to my classroom, we don’t get to choose who comes to heaven.

Max Nelson

Max Nelson is a data analytics consultant who has lived in Charlotte for around two years. A native of Florida, Max found MPBC through the social medial platform Reddit. After exploring a little bit, he knew he had to check us out. He is excited to meet new people and hopes to be involved in planning social events for the church.

Robbins Family

Kevin works in logistics support at Crafty Beer Guys in Charlotte and Savannah stays home with their youngest daughter, Josie.

They began watching MPBC online and were drawn to the church due to its progressiveness, yearning for social change, and its LGBTQ+ inclusion.

They are excited to join the church to meet other members and get involved in the different ministries and programs that the church offers. Savannah is passionate about women and their critical part within the church, whether that’s older or younger women and Kevin is interested in working with the youth. They live in China Grove.

Kathy Zent

Kathy Zent is retired after many years in software marketing and event planning. After many years of living in Florida, Kathy’s friend Lynn Collins said, “Why don’t you come home.” So, she did. Kathy started attending MPBC and knew that it is a caring and compassionate community and she wanted to be a part of it. She is already actively volunteering in various ways and is passionate about helping others.