Speakers 2020

About Our Speakers

We are delighted to join together with several religious leaders in the Milwaukee area to talk on peace for this year’s Peaceful Presence virtual program. Please join us every day from August 17-27 as we pray together to work towards peace. Stay with us as the program is extended with daily speakers continue through to August 31st.

Dialogue comes from religious leaders of the the Sikh, Zen Buddhist, Muslim, Roman Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Unitarian Univeralist, Hindu, Jewish, and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints communities. Each speaker will share a 10 minute reflection on peace with a prayer and include quiet music for meditation.

Each day’s prayer, music, and reflection on peace will be released early the same morning. We invite and welcome you to check in every day to engage with the materials. Furthermore, if you feel called to revisit a certain reflection, it will remain available for the duration of the program.

Below, you can preview the lineup of speakers; one for each day of the Peaceful Presence virtual program for 2020.

Schedule may be subject to change.

Join us in Week One

Father David Shields, SJ
Founder, Casa Romero Renewal Center

Fr. David Shields, SJ is the Founder and previous Executive Director of Casa Romero Renewal Center, an urban bilingual retreat center serving Milwaukee and Southeastern Wisconsin. Fr. Shields graduated from St. Louis University with a degree in Classical Languages and spent a number of years teaching high school. He spent nearly 20 years on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota in various capacities such as teaching, counseling and administration. For seven years, he was the Director of the Red Cloud Volunteers, a program offering college graduates volunteer opportunities on the reservation.

Since returning to Milwaukee, Fr. Shields has been active in supporting nonprofit concerns in the Latino community.

Reverend Reirin Alheidis Gumbel (she/her)
Guiding Teacher, Zen Buddhist Society

Rev. Reirin Gumbel is the guiding teacher at the Milwaukee Zen Center, a member of the Milwaukee Buddhist Peace Fellowship, and a member of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee.

She was ordained as a Soto Zen Buddhist priest in 2007 and received dharma transmission from Furyu Doshin Schroeder, Abbess of San Francisco Zen Center, in May of 2019. She is a strong advocate of peaceful coexistence of all sentient beings, and believes in the basic goodness of every person.

Ms. Cherrie Hanson
Program Director, Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee

The Interfaith Ensemble is a co-creation of Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee Program Director Cherrie Hanson, and Susan and Jack Nicholson. The trio came together for the purpose of performing for interfaith related events.

Cherrie Hanson is a vocalist and musician whose focus is the transmission of hi-vibrational spirit through the language of music.

The Nicholsons are best known for their local legacy of folk, Celtic and original compositions.

Reverend Ellen Rasmussen (she/her)
Pastor, Brown Deer United Methodist Church

Known by many as Pastor Ellen, Gram E is her favorite title. She seeks to engage the world with the same energy, curiosity, enthusiasm, and passion with which her granddaughter embraces her. An unapologetic Wesleyan theologian who envisions a world transformed by transformed hearts. Seeker of Justice, Lover of Mercy.
A midwestern mystic on a journey into wholeness.

She currently serves as the senior pastor at Brown Deer United Methodist Church, is a member of the Peace and Justice Commission of the Wisconsin Council of Churches, and a board member of United Methodist Children’s Services in the Washington Park neighborhood of Milwaukee.

Mr. Pardeep Kaleka
Executive Director, Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee; Founder, Serve2Unite; Published Author; and Clinician.

Executive Director of Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee, Founder of Serve2Unite, Published Author of “The Gifts of Our Wounds,” and Clinician specializing in utilizing a trauma-informed approach to treat survivors and perpetrators of assault, abuse and acts of violence.

A native of Punjab, India, Pardeep Singh Kaleka grew up in Milwaukee, WI. As a former Police Officer and Educator in the city of Milwaukee, Pardeep understands some of the difficulties facing our communities locally and abroad. Both in his practice and out, Pardeep’s passion remains one of healing and transformation and his hope is to engage communities in building healthy social fabric and communal identity.

Mr. Ken Elbert
President, Milwaukee North Stake, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Ken Elbert was born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska. He was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints at age 18 then took two years during college to serve as a missionary in northern Italy. He studied accounting, then went to law school at BYU in Utah and has worked as an attorney throughout his career. He has been married to Mary for 36 years, they have 5 children and 8 grandchildren.

Ken has served in various volunteer roles in his church, including as youth leader and teacher, and is currently serving as president of the Milwaukee North Stake. Ken loves the Lord and loves serving others.

Mrs. Maria Lopez
Co-Founder, Extraordinary Life Ministry

Maria committed her life to her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in April of 2000. Her life continues to transform and unfold in a beautiful way by sharing God’s Word through motivational talks and teachings.

She is co-founder of Extraordinary Life Ministry; a ministry that helps strengthens others in their faith-walk via their prayer garden sanctuary located in Allenton, WI. (www.extraordinarylifemin.net)

She is also an author and her latest book called Masterpiece! Learning to Live Within My Giftedness comes out this fall – a book study on how to discover and master our God-given giftedness. (1 Peter 4:10)

Maria just opened a gift shop called Perfect Timing Gift Shop ‘A place for such a time as this located in West Bend, WI where she uses her love of photography to create Encouragement Art which includes -inspirational cards, decor, books and much more. (perfecttiminggiftshop.com)

Maria says, “Life is a journey and a journey that becomes a true adventure in the hands of an all-loving God. When we experience God’s unconditional love for us, it will catapult us into living a faith in action while living out the masterpiece in each of us!

Maria is bilingual. For more about her ministry or to schedule her for an event please email her at maria@perfecttiminggiftshop.com.

Stay with us in Week two

Reverend Marilyn Miller
Pastor, Lutheran Church of
the Reformation

Rev. Marilyn Miller is a lifelong Milwaukeean. Her first call, and still one of her passions, is teaching.  She has served for over 40 years in some capacity of education with every part of the age range in several institutions. During those years, she has also gained a great deal of experience as a consultant for anti-racism training/facilitation. 

Rev. Miller currently serves as Pastor of the Lutheran Church of the Reformation Lutheran – ELCA on the north side of Milwaukee.

One of her current calls to community service is as the President of the Board for Milwaukee Inner City Congregations Allied for Hope (MICAH) (www.micahmke.org). 

Mrs. Janan Najeeb
President and Founder, Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition

Janan has given 2,000 presentations and many news media interviews over the past 28 years, making her one of the area’s best known and most active advocates for interreligious understanding while working tirelessly to create a just society that rejects racism and bigotry.

She was instrumental in founding the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition in 1994 to promote an accurate understanding of Islam and Muslim women. That work expanding to include leadership, healthcare, and job training programs for women and girls. In 2011, she led the creation of the Islamic Resource Center, a national model for building bridges of understanding between Islam and other faiths. She founded the Milwaukee Muslim Film Festival in 2015, was the first Muslim to ever offer a prayer before the Wisconsin State Assembly in 2016, and launched the online Wisconsin Muslim Journal in 2018.

A longtime member and current chair of the Interfaith Conference’s Committee for Interfaith Understanding, she has helped organized many multi-faith presentations, prayer services, and other events. Her commitment to the community is reflected in her participation on the boards and committees of some 15 organizations, including Wisconsin Public Radio, the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, and the annual city-wide Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration. Janan is married and has five children.

Mr. Sarvesh Geddam
Board Member, Hindu Temple of Wisconsin

Sarvesh Geddam serves the Hindu community of Greater Milwaukee as a board member at Hindu Temple of Wisconsin.

Sarvesh teaches and practices mediation, conducts temple tours and serves in the HTW’s education committee that develops various spiritual and linguistic programs for the community members. He lives in the greater Milwaukee area with his wife and two children. 

Bishop James T. Schuerman
Auxiliary Bishop, Archdiocese of Milwaukee

Most Reverend James T. Schuerman enrolled in Saint Francis de Sales Seminary College from 1976 to 1980, earning a Bachelor’s of Arts degree and, after attending Saint Francis de Sales Seminary for his first year of theology from 1980 to 1981, was selected for studies at the University of Innsbruck, Austria, earning his Masters of Theology. He was ordained to the priesthood on May 17, 1986, by Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland, O.S.B. Bishop Schuerman’s first assignment was Associate Pastor at St. Anthony Parish, Milwaukee from 1986 to 1992. He then was selected for missionary service at the Archdiocesan sister parish, La Sagrada Familia, in the Dominican Republic, where he served from 1992 to 1996.

In August of 1996, Bishop Schuerman enrolled in a special graduate program at Chicago Theological Union for returning missionaries, where he earned a doctorate in ministry with specialization in spirituality. He joined the faculty of Saint Francis de Sales Seminary as Spiritual Director and faculty member from 1997 to 2009. In 2009, he became Administrator of St. Andrew Parish, Delavan, and then Pastor in 2010. From 2011 to 2012, he also served as Pastor of St. Patrick Parish, Elkhorn. From 2012 to 2017, he served as Pastor of St. Francis de Sales Parish, Lake Geneva.

Most Reverend Schuerman was named Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee by Pope Francis on January 25, 2017.

Bishop Schuerman speaks German and is highly fluent in Spanish, which has aided his ministry in the southwestern area of the archdiocese where there is a growing population of Hispanic Catholics. In 2012, he received the archdiocesan Vatican II Award for Service to the Priesthood.

Born in Burlington to his parents, Robert and Elizabeth Schuerman (deceased). Bishop Schuerman grew up in Lyons, and was a member of St. Joseph Parish. He has four siblings, Virginia (Sam) Kalaveshi, Robert (Jean Ann) Schuerman, Jr., Theresa Schuerman (Mark Leemkuil) and David Schuerman.

Reverend Joseph Jackson
Pastor, Friendship Missionary Baptist Church

Pastor Joseph H. Jackson Jr. was born February 7, 1953 in Lexington, KY.  He was raised in a two parent household.  His parents attended church; however, it was his grandmother who also ensured that he was acquainted with the teachings of Christ and the church during his childhood.  He confessed his faith in Christ as Lord and Savior at age 13.

On his journey, under the leadership and mentorship of the late Pastor Joe A. Games, he accepted a dive call to preach and do ministry. This is where he began a proactive path toward Christian leadership training, pastoral care, and Christian Education.  He has remained steadfast in the faith.

He has taken classes under the Moody Bible Institute Extension from 1986 to 1996, as well as the Baptist Seminary of Kentucky in 2011.  He was licensed to Preach on April 8, 1988 and Ordained to Minister on July 31, 1992.

 On May 12, 1990 he married his wonderful wife Brenda; together they have five children, 9 grandchildren, 1 great grandchild along with 1 on the way.

 As Pastor Jackson continues his spiritual journey he has served as Associate Minister and Youth Director at Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Milwaukee, WI.  He was Pastor at Evergreen Baptist Church also in Milwaukee, WI, and later served as Associate Pastor at 1st Baptist Church in Georgetown, KY.  Upon his return to Wisconsin he served as an Associate Pastor at Blessed Deliverance Missionary Baptist Church before being called to serve as Pastor at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church.

Through the years he has worked with many organizations such as, MICAH (Milwaukee Inner City Congregations Allied for Hope) Milwaukee, and Ministers in Cooperation Advancing Hope (MICAH) in Georgetown, KY.  Pastor Jackson has served as staff chaplain at Sinai Medical Center, and as a writer for the Spirit, Economical Newsletter.  He currently serves as the State Missionary of the General Baptist State Convention, and President is elect of MICAH Milwaukee for the upcoming year (2021). 

Ms. Lisa Jones
Lead Organizer, Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope

Lisa Jones is the Executive Director and Lead Organizer at MICAH, Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope. She has been engaged in racial justice work at both her local Brown Deer United Methodist Church and in Metro Milwaukee as the Co-Chair of Rid Racism Milwaukee. She has lobbied in Madison along with the ACLU and WISDOM on Mass Incarceration and appointed in 2017 by then common Council President Ashanti Hamilton to be a part of the Community Collaborative Committee to work on the Department of Justice report draft on the issues of police violence in Milwaukee.

She recently has been working with the parents in Greendale and other suburban areas for racial equity in the schools.

Lisa’s motto is if you want to see the change be the change, silence and inaction is not an option.

Reverend Suzelle K. Lynch
Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church West

The Rev. Suzelle Lynch is the minister of Unitarian Universalist Church West in Brookfield, Wisconsin.  She formerly served the Kitsap Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Bremerton, Washington, and earned her Master of Divinity degree from Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, California. 

Her work has a strong focus on racial and social justice.  Rev. Lynch is also an avid hiker, singer, fabric upcycler, and mom to a student at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

Rabbi Noah Chertkoff
Congregation Shalom

Rabbi Noah Chertkoff joined Shalom after three years as the Assistant, then Associate Rabbi of Temple Kol Ami Emanu-El in Plantation Florida. A native of Toronto, Canada, he graduated from York University with a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies. He received his Master of Arts in Hebrew Letters and Rabbinic ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion on May 31, 2008 from the Cincinnati campus. 

Before entering rabbinical school, Rabbi Chertkoff worked at Seeds of Peace International Camp which is dedicated to empowering young leaders from regions of conflict with the leadership skills required to advance reconciliation and coexistence, served as a Special Assistant to a Federal Cabinet Minister in the Canadian Government and worked as the National Social Action Coordinator for the Canadian Council for Reform Judaism. 

As a student Rabbi, he has served both Reform and Conservative congregations in Cincinnati, Ohio, Billings, Montana, and Toledo, Ohio. Rabbi Chertkoff has been involved in youth programming, through his participation with NFTY as a mechanech (tour guide and educator) in Israel and worked as a program coordinator at Camp Coleman. He also enjoyed teaching at the Academy of Adult Interfaith Studies at HUC-JIR.  

His volunteer activities throughout the years have included his involvement in ARZA, Habitat for Humanity, NaMeRes (Street Help Direct Response to Homelessness), the Interfaith Social Assistance Coalition, and the Maquila Solidarity Network. Rabbi Chertkoff served as a board member of SEACCAR, the South Eastern Assembly of the Central Conference of America Rabbis and was a member of the Broward Board of Rabbis. He loves to bike, sail, canoe, hike, camp and play guitar (badly), watch baseball and hockey.  Rabbi Noah is married to Lauren Berger and their family includes Hannah, Judah, Josie and Kaiah (their dog).

Thank you to Casa Romero Renewal Center; the Center for Peacemaking at Marquette University; the Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope (MICAH); and the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee for co-sponsoring this virtual event with us.

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