Registration is now closed.


Meet the organizers

Presenting Organizations

About the organizations

Spiritual Leadership in Rural America

A Virtual Gathering

June 22 + June 29

1 p.m. - 3 p.m. ET

The Rural Assembly, in collaboration with Faith Matters Network, The On Being Project, and Interfaith Youth Core will host a two-part virtual gathering for rural & Native spiritual leaders on June 22 & 29, 2021, to connect, share, and support one another across diverse traditions and geographies.

Why we're inviting you ...

As a nation we are at an inflection point, struggling to align our professed values with the messy reality of doing life together. In rural, tribal, and small towns, spiritual practice has always been an important touchstone for navigating those realities. Our spiritualities are reference points for how we perceive our neighbors and a proving ground for how we show up for one another in difficult times. READ MORE 

We welcome all rural & Native spiritual leaders, both those who carry a formal title and those who do not.

Spiritual leadership takes many forms of seeking and facilitating the renewal of inner life, outer life, and life together.

If you are engaged in social healing work in your community, organization, or network, or if you are a rural leader rooted in a spiritual practice or faith community, this gathering is for you.   

  • To connect practitioners with one another, across geographies, experiences, and organizations;

  • To create a space that nourishes and shores up our bodies, minds, and souls;

  • To engage in storytelling to acknowledge and seek to understand the challenges/opportunities rural & Native spiritual leaders face, particularly during this time of pandemic, political division, and movements for racial justice and healing;

  • To demonstrate/Share practices learned from ongoing faith-based collaborations, i.e. Disciplines of Welcome

This gathering is free to attend. 

Presenting Organizations



The Rev. Gloria Winston-Harris

Director of the Office of Spiritual Development and Dialogue and Executive Director of the NCCU Wesley Foundation/Campus Ministry at North Carolina Central University

The Rev. Gloria Winston-Harris (she/her) is the director of the Office of Spiritual Development and Dialogue and executive director of the NCCU Wesley Foundation/Campus Ministry at North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina.

An ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, she received a Master of Divinity from Duke Divinity School and is currently pursuing a doctor of ministry in transformative leadership with a concentration in interfaith dialogue and peace building at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School.

Since August 2019, Rev. Gloria Winston-Harris has served as lead facilitator for Disciples of Welcome, a learning journey on bridge-building, radical hospitality, and creating Brave Space for United Methodist clergy in North Carolina with Faith Matters Network.


Rev. Javan Jeremiah Leach

Pastor, Mt. Lebanon A.M.E. Zion Church

The Reverend Javan Jeremiah Leach is pastor of Mt. Lebanon A.M.E. Zion Church in Elizabeth City, North Carolina.

Rev. Leach graduated with a B. A. in Psychology and Minor in Theatre Arts from Livingstone College, Salisbury North Carolina in 2005.In 2012, Rev. Leach graduated with a degree of Master of Divinity from Hood Theological Seminary. He has served in ministry positions at various churches. 

Rev. Leach served as Southeastern Regional Vice President for the Varick’s International Christian Youth Council in1998-2002, and vice Chairperson for the Young Adult Christian Ministries Connectional Steering Committee 2014-2018. He was elected as a delegate to the General Conference in 2014 where he was appointed to the Board of Publications and the Connectional Council of the A.M.E. Zion Church. At present he serves as the Dean of Conference Studies for the Albemarle Conference of the A.M.E. Zion Church. Rev Leach is also affiliated with the following organizations: One Hundred Black Men, Pasquotank Ministerial Alliance for Education, N.A.A.C.P., Livingstone College National Alumni Association, Youth Build, Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) Board, as well as, a proud member of the Elizabeth City Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. Through these experiences, Reverend Leach has been exposed to many modes of ministry that has aided him as pupil, public servant, parishioner, and pastor. 

La Trina P Jackson

La Trina P. Jackson

Education Team Coordinator, Highlander Research and Education Coordinator and Imam/ah for her local mosque, the Atlanta Unity Mosque

Trina (she/her/cuz), a Georgia native, works at the Highlander Research and Education Center as the Education Team Coordinator. There, she leads Highlander’s Education Team with grassroots organizing and movement building across Appalachia and the US South. Trina is a doctoral student at Georgia State University and a former archaeologist and public high school science teacher. She serves as an Imam/ah for her local mosque, the Atlanta Unity Mosque and is a founding member of the Atlanta Protest Chaplains Collective and a co-host of the I’m Sorry Ms. Jackson Podcast: A Lyrical Analysis of Faith, Love, Apology Culture and the Movement.

Trina lives with her spouse, Kim, at the Herb’n Soul Sanctuary, an Afrofuristic urban farm near Atlanta, where they raise food, goats, chickens, ducks and bees. 

Margaret Ernst

Margaret Ernst

Program Manager, Faith Matters Network

Rev. Margaret Ernst (she/ her) is of German, English, and Scottish heritage and the proud queer daughter of a transgender parent. She found her faith in the work of grassroots community organizing alongside multi-faith clergy, public school parents and youth, and immigrant workers in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and mid-Tennessee. Her foremost vocation is to hold space for faith leaders and organizers to harvest the wisdom of the people, places, and histories that form us to sustain long-haul work for justice and right relationship.

As a program manager with Faith Matters Network, Margaret has led work with The People’s Supper, created networks and resources for movement chaplains, and coordinated Disciples of Welcome, a 2-year learning journey for rural United Methodist clergy in North Carolina. She holds a special commitment to equipping fellow white people to take action against racism, and is a contributor to The Word is Resistance, a podcast of Showing Up for Racial Justice. Margaret is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, and loves to sing and to laugh.

Mickey ScottBey Jones

Micky Scottbey Jones

Director of Healing and Resilience Initiatives

Micky ScottBey Jones – she/her/diva- the Justice Doula – accompanies people as they birth more love, justice and shalom into our world. 

Micky supports students, clergy, activists and everyday leaders in a variety of roles – speaker, writer, facilitator, pilgrimage guide, consultant and teacher. She is the Director of Resilience and Healing Initiatives with the Faith Matters Network and was a core team member with The People’s Supper who gathered more than 10,000 people around tables after the 2016 U.S. election for bridging and healing conversations. A lifelong learner, Micky has a B.S. in Consumer and Family Sciences, a M.A. in Intercultural Studies from NAIITS/Portland Seminary and many certifications and trainings completed. A believer in the power of stories and empathy, she is also a facilitator and Master Practitioner Candidate with Narrative 4. She is the author of Keep the Fires Burning: Conquering Stress and Burnout as a Mother-Baby Professional (Hale Publishing, 2011) and contributing author of Becoming Like Creoles: Living and Leading at the Intersections of Injustice, Culture and Religion and Keep Watch With Me: An Advent Reader for Peacemakers

Named one of the Black Christian leaders changing the world in Huffington Post, Micky considers communal care and celebration key to social change and explores peacemaking and justice movements around the world. She believes in spreading revolutionary love, storytelling, engaging in authentic conversations, co-creating transformative experiences – and most importantly – she never passes up a dance floor.

Prairie Rose

Prairie Rose Seminole

Prairie Rose Seminole is a citizen of the Three Affiliated Tribes of ND, descendent of the Sahnish/Arikara, Northern Cheyenne and Lakota Nations. Serving as a political consultant and coach, and policy analyst, they are also a National certified trainer with Vote Run Lead. They serve as an Indigenous theological advisor and speaker, and recently served as the American Indian Alaska Native Program Director for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Seminole lives and works from White Shield ND, with her partner, their ten horses and seven country dogs. Seminole has served on the Fargo Human Relations Commission in Fargo, the Midwest Advisory Council to the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis and currently sits on the advisory council to the Olamina Fund and the boards for Humanities North Dakota, I Vote For, the Midwest Advisory Council for the Innocence Project, board member for the Native American Coalition of North Dakota.

Benton Oakes

Rev. Benton W. Oakes III

Pastor, First UMC Elizabeth City

As an ordained minister in the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church, Rev. Benny Oakes is committed to service in the community, loving God with everything we have, and loving our neighbors as ourselves. He is a native North Carolinian, born in Durham, raised in Raleigh, and presently pastors First UMC in Elizabeth City, NC, where he has recently given himself to the good work of practicing reconciliation and justice in community through fellowship at the dinner table. Pastor Benny is a Rural Ministry Fellow in the Thriving Rural Communities Initiative, receiving his Master of Divinity degree from Duke Divinity School. Currently, he is pursuing his doctorate in ministry at Duke, as part of the first Rural Fellows cohort at the Divinity School.  

 He and his wife Monica have four daughters. They enjoy kayaking, swimming, reading, watching movies, enjoying good food (specifically, food that is nutritious, delicious cuisine, as well as junk food on occasion) and vacationing at the beach and in the mountains. As a rule for life, Pastor Benny endeavors to live that which theologian Karl Barth is credited with saying, “Laughter is the closest thing to the grace of God.”  


Jen Bailey

Rev. Jenn Bailey

Founder and Executive Director, Faith Matters Network

Named one of 15 Faith Leaders to Watch by the Center for American Progress, Rev. Jen Bailey (she/her) is an ordained minister, public theologian, and national leader in the multi-faith movement for justice. She is the Founder and Executive Director of the Faith Matters Network, a Womanist-led organization equipping community organizers, faith leaders, and activists with resources for connection, spiritual sustainability, and accompaniment. Jen comes to this work with nearly a decade of experience at nonprofits combating intergenerational poverty. Rev. Bailey is an ordained itinerant elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and serves locally on the staff of Greater Bethel A.ME. Church in Nashville, Tennessee.

An Ashoka Fellow, Nathan Cummings Foundation Fellow, Aspen Ideas Scholar, On Being Fellow and Truman Scholar, Jennifer earned degrees from Tufts University and Vanderbilt University Divinity School where she was awarded the Wilbur F. Tillett Prize for accomplishments in the study of theology. Her work  has been featured on OnBeing with Krista Tippett, CBS This Morning, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and dozens of other publications. 

Her new book, To My Beloveds: Letters on Faith, Race, Loss and Radical Hope will be published by Chalice Press in September 2021.

 Rev. Bailey serves on the boards of the Fetzer Institute, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, and the Healing Trust. She enjoys good food, dancing like no one is watching, and road trip adventures with her husband, psychotherapist and religious studies scholar Ira Helderman.

Ben Katt

Ben Katt

Associate Director of Religious Life & Social Healing, The On Being Project

Ben Katt is the Associate Director of Religious Life & Social Healing at The On Being Project. He has spent over 15 years working at the intersection of spirituality, community, and social healing. After completing his M.Div, Ben moved to Seattle where he spent a decade launching and leading Awake, a contemplative-active faith community, and co-created the Aurora Commons, a supportive space for unhoused neighbors and committed to radical hospitality and mutual transformation. His deep engagement in community development in his own neighborhood inspired him to help other congregations and organizations serve their local contexts in his work as co-founder of the Parish Collective, creator and host of the 99-episode RePlacing Church podcast, and denominational agency leader. In addition to his work with The On Being Project, Ben teaches meditation and curates mindful community experiences with Still Life. After 14 years in the Pacific Northwest, Ben recently returned to his hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin with his wife and three children.

Whitney Kimball Coe

Whitney Kimball Coe

Director, Rural Assembly

Whitney Kimball Coe is the director of National Programs at the Center for Rural Strategies. In that role, she leads the Rural Assembly, a nationwide movement striving to build better policy and more opportunity for rural communities across the country. 

As an organizer, speaker, moderator, and writer, Whitney has shared her perspectives on community and civic courage with audiences around the world. She has been featured on stage at the Aspen Ideas Festival and the inaugural Obama Foundation Summit, and as a guest on the radio program On Being with Krista Tippett. Whitney is a member of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and a committee member of Love, Period, a ministry that provides free period products to menstruating individuals in her small town. 

She writes a regular column for her local newspaper, the Daily Post Athenian, and has participated in Citizen University’s Civic Saturday Fellowship program. She holds a M.A. in Appalachian studies from Appalachian State University and an undergraduate degree in religion and philosophy from Queens University. She lives in her hometown of Athens, Tennessee with her husband Matt, and daughters, Lucy and Susannah.

Tyler Owens

Tyler Owens

Program Associate, The Rural Assembly

Tyler Owens (she/her) is from the Gila River Indian Community in Southern Arizona where she was born and raised. Owens currently attends Chandler-Gilbert Community College where she is studying Finance. Prior to joining the Rural Assembly, Owens worked with the National Congress of American Indians where she took on various roles, such as: Membership Coordinator, Youth Program Associate, and Administrative Assistance. Since graduating high school, she has had opportunities to grow and learn through internship opportunities with the Department of Justice and the Arizona Coyotes (NHL). As an Afro-Indigenous Latina, she has a strong drive to create a better environment for young people and the communities where she has roots. When she isn’t working Ms. Owens enjoys spending time with her loved ones and playing volleyball.

Lillie Benowitz

Pastoral Engagement Associate

Lillie Benowitz (she/they) is a relationship weaver and space builder. She is energized by cultivating relationships on their own terms, creating containers for connection, and fostering innovative expressions of spiritual practice, ritual, and community. Lillie is currently the Pastoral Engagement Associate at The On Being Project where they nourish, accompany, and embolden religious and spiritual leaders in the work of social healing. Professionally and in community, Lillie has convened art sharing spaces, facilitated groups across different perspectives, and guided organizational culture change to center equity. She works, from a deep commitment to tikkun olam (repairing the world), at the intersection of racial justice, environmental justice, and LGBTQ+ liberation.

Lillie holds a bachelor’s in Africana Studies and Politics from Mount Holyoke College, was a 2019 New Leaders Council Fellow, and currently serves on the board of Shir Tikvah Congregation. They are based on Dakota Land in so called Minneapolis, MN and feel most grounded connecting with beloveds, practicing Jewish ritual, or curled up with a book and her morning coffee. 

Jenan Mohajir​

Senior Director of Leadership, Interfaith Youth Core​

Inspired by faith and family to work for change at the intersections of gender, sexuality, race, and religion, Jenan has served in a leadership position at IFYC for thirteen years. She currently directs overall strategy, design, and implementation of the organization’s programs focused on alumni and student leaders, including the annual Interfaith Leadership Institute. For over a decade, Jenan has trained hundreds of young people from both religious and secular backgrounds to foster a vision and practice of civically engaged interfaith leadership. Featured on National Public Radio and participating in interfaith conference panels across the country, Jenan holds a BS in elementary education and Islamic studies from DePaul University, and is currently pursuing her MA in religious studies at Chicago Theological Seminary. She also volunteers with Sirat Chicago, a neighborhood space that fosters a healthy community by supporting initiatives centered upon service and worship, education and arts, and family life. Living on the south side of Chicago with her husband and three children, Jenan is an enthusiastic collector of old children’s books.