The Open Door Elders for 2017-18

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 righbell-family-photot 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.




Nick Burdette

Nick BurdetteI’ve been married to my wife Lauren for nearly 9 years, after meeting at the University of Pittsburgh.  We have two wonderful boys and a daughter due in late 2014.  I work in downtown Pittsburgh as a Bridge Engineer, surrounded by bridges in need of engineering.  I began coming to the Open Door with Lauren when it began as a second service at Bellefield Presbyterian church in Oakland.  This church played a vital role in defining our shared faith, and we especially value the ecumenical nature of our worship and church life.  When I’m not chasing small children around dining tables or designing bridges, I enjoy carpentry, camping, and bike riding.

I have become more keenly aware of my need for God’s strength and wisdom in the past few years.  The role of fatherhood is a continually humbling one, as my own structures of control and comfort are broken down by the flexibility small children demand.  Increasing management of teams at work has shown me how complex and messy human enterprise is, and how each conversation and meeting can only be fruitful with God’s blessing.  Theses experiences of limitedness have driven home for me in new ways my utter reliance on the mercy of Christ, His strength, and His wisdom to navigate a world that I don’t control.  This recognition as well as a focus on personal devotion strengthened by 4 years in the House of St. Michael (a ministry of the Open Door) have taken me back to go forward in my faith.

From this framework of humble reliance on God, I hope to bring my gifts for organization, management, and communication to the role of Elder.

“Ministry is what happens in the wake of your pursuit of God” was a great quote from BJ’s charge at Lee Scott’s ordination ceremony.  I pray that this is how our church’s ministries grow: beginning with deepening of our own relationships to Christ.  This relationship is strengthened through practices core to our church, like creating a rule of life and setting aside time for spiritual retreat.

Out of the steady strength that comes from connection to God our savior, two areas I am excited to see our church grow in are 1) support of parenthood in all its challenges and blessings, and 2) connection with the Garfield community through the Farm.



Marlaena Cochran

I quite often describe myself as a daughter of God, a follower of Jesus, and a servant of the church. I have been active in spiritual leadership for over 20 years, serving in a variety of volunteer and staff roles in churches and non-profits. I am passionate about spiritual transformation and am a teacher, retreat leader and spiritual director. I also work at The Open Door, Open Hand Ministries, and First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh in the area of accounting. I am an avid tennis player, playing competitively in both women’s and mixed doubles. I am single and love being an aunt to my four nieces and nephews. I have been a friend of The Open Door since our beginning, having known our Pastors BJ and John through various ministry connections. I started attending in January 2012 and became a covenant partner in November 2012.

I started attending The Open Door after serving eight and a half years as the Director of Spiritual Formation at a non-denominational church plant in the South Hills. I was grateful for the space to just be in the community and to refresh my soul (which has been quite the journey!). God led me to The Open Door through my friendships with several in the community and through my resonance with our spiritual formation vision. God has blessed me beyond and has opened up the doors of my heart for our community and neighborhood (it is a fascinating God story!). I sense God inviting me to see so many things differently and to honestly lay down some hopes and dreams by becoming an elder. I look forward to growing with the community and offering my experience and passion, gifts and abilities, especially around spiritual transformation and pastoral care.

My image for growth comes from Isaiah 61:1-3 where at the end the prophet says, “They will be called mighty oaks, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” My prayer is for our community to continue to grow up into the fullness of whom God has created us to be . . . that we would grow deeper, broader and stronger. (I also envision other descriptors such as following, faithful, fruitful, flourishing, free). Just imagine if we were all mighty oaks in the places where we live, work, play, learn and serve; embodying the ministry the prophet speaks of in Isaiah 61, verses Jesus reads at the beginning of his ministry in Luke 4.


Matt Croce

I’ve been working in banking/finance in one way or another for almost the last 10 years. Currently, I work in the internal audit department at BNY Mellon where I run audits of all different parts of the bank.

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 married.

When I’m at home I enjoy pretty normal things like cooking and spending time with my family. I’ve been teaching myself how to code recently. Additionally, I’ve been a runner for about 5 years or so. I also collect old baseball cards and enjoy spreadsheets.

Matt CroceMy 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 not only operates internally but also how we can fit into the neighborhoods that we are a part of.

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 jessadarwinPittsburgh. 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 internatiopeter-scupellinal 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.




Brian Yoder

I work as a hardscape foreman for Kimicata Brothers Landscaping in Greenfield. I am in my third season with the company. Teresa and I came to the Open Door through friends at Community Dinner that was hosted at the Jennings, two doors down from our apartment in Point Breeze. My hobbies include soccer, traveling, camping, hiking, hunting, and pretty much anything in God’s great outdoors.

This year I have been challenged by what it means to seek Godly wisdom. It seems that when you ask God for wisdom you are presented with choices in daily life where it is deeply needed. I have often found that fellow Christ followers are great people to share your tough decisions with and I often gain valuable Godly insight from others. Through this strengthening within the body of Christ, I have felt God calling me to also use my gifts and abilities to encourage people. I want to be available to serve where I am called in each season of life.

It is my hope that our church can continue to be a witness in the community of God’s love and salvation through Jesus Christ. My prayer is that we are authentic in our own relationship with Christ so that through our outreach and mission partners others may see God at work and be drawn to Him.