The Open Door Elders for 2018-19
Mary Auxier: I have been a part of The Open Door since Jonathan and I moved to Pittsburgh in 2012. I was 6 months pregnant with our first girl, writing my dissertation, and living in an empty house while we tried to wrangle our furniture back from the shady
moving company we’d used as we relocated from California. I was a mess, but God brought me to a place where my mess was welcome—where I could adjust to my new life with both rejoicing and mourning, surrounded by total strangers who supported and loved me.
Those strangers have become our family here in Pittsburgh, and I am continually grateful for the community of The Open Door—for the people who, recently, held our family through a very difficult two years. With those years behind us, I feel my spirit ready for a chance to serve the church we’ve come to love so dearly.
I was raised in the Evangelical Free Church tradition. A missionary kid in Saudi Arabia from ages 2 to 6, educated in Christian schools through elementary, high school, and college—I’ve never known life without faith. However, I have also spent much of my life questioning that faith, and the traditions I was born into. In college and graduate school, I found peace in the liturgical tradition, which allowed me to move beyond my own thoughts (and the arguments I wanted to have), and spend time, instead, affirming the things that I knew I believed. The Open Door has been a safe space for me to continue this journey, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the community that has given me so much.
Stephanie Tacia Bell: I was born on Long Island, NY and grew up attending a non-denominational church plant with my family. I attended Messiah College where I was also actively involved with a campus ministry organization, which lead me to join the Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO) after graduation. I worked at The University of Pittsburgh in Johnstown for three years and then transitioned to the main campus in Pittsburgh and worked at Bellefield Presbyterian Church. Bellefield is where I met my husband Kevin and also the founding church of the Open Door. Kevin and I have been married for 13 years and have been attending the Open Door since our soon to be 11 year old son Ethan was born. We also have a 18 month old son, Asher. My full-time job right now is caring for my two wonderful boys.
I also work part-time as a Spiritual Director at the Pittsburgh Pastoral Institute. I work in collaboration with a team of Psychologists working towards a holistic approach to restorative mental and spiritual health. In total, I have over two decades of experience in youth, campus, and cross-cultural ministries. I have a BA in Missions and Education from Messiah College and an MA in Higher Education from Geneva College. Most recently I obtained a Certificate in Spiritual Direction from Pneuma: Spiritual Direction and Leadership Program at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (PTS). Through Pneuma I received supervised training in Reformed and Ignatian Spirituality, individual/group spiritual direction, discernment and leadership while engaging in diverse theological perspectives on spiritual growth in the Christian life. I provide individual and group spiritual direction and facilitate themed retreats using creative contemplative practices.
At the Open Door, I am currently a member of the Prayer Team and the Mission Team. On the Mission Team, I serve as the primary connection to the World Mission Initiative and Liz and Andrew Steggall-Lewis, currently missionaries in Ethiopia and in the process of transitioning to Greece. Kevin and I also teach Sunday School once a month and lead a monthly “tween” gathering called rooted. I am excited to become an active Elder again and I look forward to working with this session. My hope is to be an encouragement to the leadership of the Open Door and serve in a way that offers grace, creativity and joy.
Ben Collier: The Open Door has been a significant part of my life since my wife and I moved to Pittsburgh from Wisconsin in 2007. When covenant partnership first became an option, I was happy to be part of the first group to commit to listen, learn, eat, encourage, and give as part of the Open Door community. As we have lived away from family the past ten years, the community at the Open Door has become our second family, and when our two daughters were dedicated in the church years ago, the community has exceeded and surpassed their commitment to be a part of their faith journey.
Our family lived abroad in Qatar from 2012 to 2015, and the time came to make a decision where to move geographically next, the Open Door was a major part of our consideration to make our long-term home in Pittsburgh. I have been enjoyed being in small groups with many of you, volunteering with you, and being a part of the children’s ministry these past years.
As a brief story of my faith journey, I grew up in the Baptist tradition, attending a very small Christian school until 8th grade. I later became actively involved in non-denominational churches and college ministries, as well as serving as a volunteer in high school youth groups and tutoring inner city kids. As I have been exposed to other faith traditions and perspectives, my faith has been deconstructed, reconstructed, and enriched through conversation and wisdom from inside and outside the Open Door.
As an Elder I hope to give back to the community that has meant so much to me. I hope to help others at all stages of their faith journey, to serve the community inside and outside the Open Door, and continue to work to put active hands and heart behind my faith.
Matt Croce: I’ve been working in banking/finance since 2006. Currently, I ‘m an internal audit manager at PNC Bank. I live in Highland Park with my wife Christine and our two children, Margot and Henri.
When I’m at home I enjoy pretty normal things like cooking and spending time with my family. I also collect very old baseball cards and enjoy spreadsheets. On any given day you may find me cycling or running around Pittsburgh.
I first came to the Open Door when it was still meeting in the basement of Bellefield and was around (off and on) for the transition to the Union Project. I’ve always maintained some form of contact with the Open Door over the years and found myself back here on a more permanent basis when Christine and I were engaged in 2012.
My journey to becoming an elder at the Open Door is probably very similar to most of the other folks who have served in that role: serving as an elder was not on my mind until I was asked about it. It’s interesting that it happened though, because I’d been praying and thinking about ways I could possibly serve our church, but was really unsure about how my skill set and abilities fit in with the church. I think my experience working in the finance industry, and in particular in an audit role, will allow me to bring a unique perspective to how the Open Door operates.
I hope and pray that our church is able to hear what the needs of our city are and that we always remain humble enough to listen and not presume to have answers. I pray for the Open Door to be a community that welcomes all people and that more than anything we are able to demonstrate what it really means to love others.
Jessa Darwin: I started attending the Open Door in 2012 with my husband Ian when we came to Pittsburgh from Philadelphia–although I grew up in Southwestern PA. Ian and I met while studying at Eastern University outside of Philadelphia. I have a bachelor’s in philosophy and English literature from Eastern and a master’s in Library and Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh. I’ve worked at academic and public libraries around the greater Pittsburgh area, and I currently work as a substitute librarian for the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.
Ian and I have been married for 4 years. We purchased our house in Upper Lawrenceville just weeks before welcoming our son Avery (now 1) into the world! We enjoy exploring the many mysteries of Pittsburgh, and you’ll find me with Avery at any one of the museums or Phipps Conservatory throughout the week. I enjoy being a stay-at-home mom while managing to work part-time at a job I love.
I am a mental traveler through the books I read, but have also traveled extensively in real life! I’ve visited Haiti, Kenya, England, France, and the Philippines–I lived in Oxford, England for 4 months as an undergrad. My volunteer work with Hekima Place, a home for girls in Kenya, has led to a position on their U.S. board of directors.
In addition to serving as an Elder at the Open Door, I was previously on staff as the church’s administrator and I currently serve on the Personnel Team. I’m excited to serve as a resource to community members and a support to the church staff.
Peter Scupelli: I am a global nomad, meaning that I spent my developmental years in many different cultures. Before graduating from high school, I lived in five countries on four continents, and spoke five languages fluently. Attending international schools connected me to friends from around the world. My cosmopolitan outlook and deep respect of other people were shaped by my experiences as an outsider and minority.
I was raised Roman Catholic. The Christian tradition is the constant that anchored me. Going to church each week and reading scripture marked my weekly experience growing up. I was deeply moved by visits to missions in Paraguay, Thailand and Italy.
In 2000, my plan was simple. Get a master’s degree in interaction design to transition from a traditional architecture practice in Milan, Italy into well-paid design work in Silicon Valley. Feeling God’s grace in critical junctures nudged along a different path.
I first attended a service at the Open Door in 2004, invited by Jake Wobbrock, then a doctoral student who was preaching his first sermon. In the ten years that followed, I dipped in and out of the Open Door. Through the Open Door, I learned of missional church, community engagement, and monastic practice. Attending the Open Door, I realized that while it is important to interpret the cultural context where scripture was produced and translated, more significant ise how I could embody God’s word into my life, family, relationships, and actions.
My appointment as Assistant Professor in the School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University in 2011 and the birth of my son, Felix, instilled in me a fierce urgency to engage in social justice and sustainability issues more broadly and holistically. Up until that point, I was limited to personal practices and virtues. Next, I explored the role of values in professional design practice.
In 2014, my wife Kelly, my son Felix, and I became Open Door Covenant Partners. In this new chapter of my life, I feel called to contribute with my talents to the Open Door community and engage with our surrounding neighborhood. The encouragement I receive from the Open Door community, my faith, God’s Grace, and the urge to follow in the way of Jesus give me the courage to try to become a better person in my relationships—as a son, brother, husband, father, friend, neighbor, professor, designer, researcher, and so forth.
Megan Shelly: The basics for those of you who don’t know me: I am married to Ben (the tall bearded redhead) and we live in house made of bricks in Friendship; we have little three pigs, eh-hem kids (the little redheads); we all love to hike and camp and eat s’mores. I run. I know how to play the trumpet, milk a cow, and collect a groundwater sample. I have been a part of the Open Door since the beginning in 2003, and I was ordained as an elder when we chartered (became an individual church entity). I have served the personnel team, teaching the kids, the Garfield Community Farm Advisory Board, among other endeavors.
I am grateful to have more or less grown up with the Open Door over the past decade and a half. When I served on the “steering team” and the earliest days of the personnel team, I was fresh out of undergrad, eager enough, but as many of us can relate to, feeling burned by experiences with church that left me longing and questioning. The Open Door was balm to that woundedness, safe space to ask and wonder, and simply building the deep, rich community foundation that undergirds the mission and trajectory of love and welcome and compassion that we continue to pursue now. Growth, both in our communal life and in my individual life, has inevitably included growing pains, and flat out pain. We have wrestled together with some deeply ingrained “ways” of established church systems and beliefs. My growth in self- and God-awareness has in many ways paralleled the growth path of our church. I love the Open Door and have learned well how to be loved through being a part of the Open Door. I’m genuinely excited to serve on our Session again.