The crisp autumn air has moved in and the leaves have started to change in myriad colors here at the Sojourners fellows' house in Washington, D.C.’s Columbia Heights neighborhood. With this new season upon us, the reality has started to set in that the nine of us fellows are indeed beginning a new season in our lives — a year that includes a pandemic, racial reckoning, and political turmoil none of us could have foreseen when we initially applied to the Sojourners Fellowship Program.
Comprising the 37th cycle of Sojourners fellows, we come with restless hearts and faithful spirits, ready to contribute to Sojourners’ nearly 50-year history. We are already busy fact-checking articles; organizing campaigns for a free, fair, and safe election; and maintaining the circulation and sustainability of this social justice organization.
Together we are adjusting to working remotely from home, prayerfully centering ourselves in shared spiritual practices, and playfully creating structures to thrive in intentional community. Passionate about homecooked meals, we’ve already celebrated fellowship over southern sloppy joes, Italian pasta, and midwestern tater tots, and often wash dishes together while joyfully singing a new rendition of Hamilton.
Your generous support makes all the difference as we respond to our call of faith to amplify and mobilize the voice of God in “the least among us” for systemic change. Thank you for enabling us to do our part toward realizing God’s beloved community.
Please continue below to read more about this year’s fellow class, including what brought each of us to Sojourners and the quarantine hobbies we are bringing to the community.
Together in gratitude and action,
Jerrica Frazier, Advertising Assistant
Jerrica is an Arkansas native with the accent to prove it. She grew up sitting next to her family in the second-left pew of her local Baptist church. She also has a deep love for student ministry and helping teens grow in their relationship with Christ while they help keep her young. Jerrica is a recent graduate of the University of Arkansas with a B.A. in African American studies, communication, and journalism. She also holds an associate degree in baking and pastry arts from the University of Arkansas.
Jerrica’s passion for social justice, particularly racial justice, is informed by her faith and the desire to help shape a world where the image of God that we all bear is affirmed not only in how we view ourselves, but also in how we treat one another. While at Sojourners, she hopes to build practical skills that can be utilized to support social justice organizations and movements.
A hobby that Jerrica has been able to renew during this time of quarantine is fictional writing. She has enjoyed diving back into penning poetry as well as short stories and is looking forward to the day that she can return to open mic nights at local coffee shops.
Jonathan Maresca, Mobilizing and Administration Assistant
Jonathan is passionate about contemplative prayer, community development, and social change — pursuing a world where we embody the radical teachings of the Sermon on the Mount to love God and love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
He holds a master’s degree in international development practice from the University of St. Andrews and is a graduate of the University of San Diego’s School of Business Administration. Jonathan’s vocation has shifted from management consulting to the social sector through encounter. Whether celebrating alongside a Syrian refugee who had just received asylum approval, sheltering from the monsoon rains at a stranger’s home in Vietnam, or being rhythmically sung into being through Benedictine chanting of the Psalms, Jonathan’s pilgrimage has led him to the intersection of faith and social justice at Sojourners. As a Sojourners fellow, Jonathan hopes to cultivate systems of dignity and belonging for the flourishing of all.
Jonathan returned to the United States from his graduate studies abroad where he began to discern what his vocation would be and was met with the realities of quarantine. Through sharing his story (virtually of course) to like-minded individuals, he helped found and facilitate a global virtual community of clergy, activists, and others who regularly met on Zoom for an intentional contemplative service called Common Thread. While Jonathan may have left his leadership role, the community continues to thrive, and he now brings his contemplative Zoom skills and passion for spiritual practice to Sojourners’ remote working environment.
Cassidy Klein, Editorial Assistant
Cassidy joined Sojourners after graduating from Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego where she studied journalism and philosophy. During her time in college, she was radically influenced by liberation theology, Catholic social teaching, and the writings of James Cone and Dorothy Day. Listening to others’ stories has helped her realize that the practice of her Christian faith cannot be separated from the pursuit of a just world where we live in solidarity and encounter Christ in the Other.
During her final year of undergrad, Cassidy worked on a project in which she documented the lives and stories of adults with intellectual disabilities through film and written narrative, focusing on what faith and community mean to them. Cassidy understands her role as a journalist as the role of a listener: to pay attention, tell the truth, and uplift voices other than her own. This year she is interested in learning how journalism can be used to inspire hope and creative change in individuals and communities.
Cassidy grew up in Denver and feels most herself when she is writing, laughing, playing her Celtic harp, eating peanut butter from the jar, or watching sunsets from the roof of the fellows’ house. During the past six months of quarantine Cassidy has gotten back into running. She used to love to run but hadn’t done it regularly for a few years. During the summer, she began trail running and has enjoyed getting to run in Rock Creek Park since moving to D.C.
Rebecca Riley, Multimedia/Online Assistant
From existing in predominantly white spaces to pursuing a career in the male-dominated film industry Rebecca has had her share of experiences as the outsider. While there’s a degree of solemnity in such an observation, she also recognizes that her passion for justice has been steadily stoked by so often being the “other.” Her heart for social justice is also a consequence of her faith. However, it’s been surprisingly difficult to find communities and organizations that also see pursuing social justice as an inherent part of living out one’s faith.
After graduating from Cal State San Marcos in 2019 with a degree in communication, Rebecca heard about the Sojourners Fellowship Program and saw it as the perfect opportunity to partner with this organization. Not only does she get to pursue justice in the context of her faith, but as the multimedia/online assistant she can utilize creative mediums to do so. She is looking forward to seeing how God uses this year to further shape and define how to combine her love for storytelling and her heart for justice.
One activity Rebecca has picked up during quarantine has been virtual movie nights. Movie nights have always been a big part of her family and community culture, so it was important to find a way to keep them going even though it wasn’t possible to be together physically. Thanks to virtual meeting spaces, streaming platforms, and an always amusing process of trying to press “play” at the same time, movie nights — and the joy of experiencing a story together — can continue.
Joy Castro-Wehr, Mobilizing/Executive Assistant
Joy grew up in Nevada City, Calif., where she lived surrounded by pine trees with her family. Joy grew up in the Unity tradition, a progressive, practical, prayer-centered iteration of Christianity, that helped sculpt her spiritual foundations. Joy recently graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio, where she majored in religion and sociology. During her college years, she worked as a peer educator on sexual violence prevention, lived in intentional cooperative communities, and was an enthusiastic participant on our cross country and track teams.
Joy was drawn to the Sojourners Fellowship Program because she felt compelled to live in intentional spiritual community. She believes in the myriad ways that sharing resources, time, talents, and space with others can benefit the world. She is delighted to be working for an organization that utilizes theology and faith to motivate and guide its work to address inequalities, pain, and injustice. It is a personal passion of hers to learn how best to mobilize people of faith for justice, both in their spiritual communities and their personal lives.
These past six months of the COVID-19 season, Joy has taken great solace in the activity of long, meandering bike rides accompanied by a good book, her journal, and plenty of snacks. Particularly in a new city, these moseys have become a new hobby for her. In addition to biking aimlessly, Joy has been spending time learning to play the banjo, collecting beautiful leaves and flowers, writing letters, and is an extended phone conversationalist.
Jacob Tilstra, Circulation Assistant
Jacob grew up in the small town of Rock Rapids in the northwest corner of Iowa that no one reading this except his parents will have ever heard of before. The kid from Leave It to Beaver was born there. He swears that makes them famous. He went to Creighton University in the big city of Omaha, Neb., where he studied theology and political science and seven different half-finished minors while also writing for the opinion section of his student newspaper.
Now Jacob has moved to the much bigger city of Washington, D.C., to be in the Sojourners Fellowship Program as the circulation assistant. He learned about Sojourners from a great uncle while talking about a Catholic social teaching class. He is loosely in the Reformed Christian tradition, but he’s not really sure how he feels about depravity and the elect and all that, and the Jesuits in Omaha might have gotten him to enjoy Mass. As of now, he is trying to become a pastor or a writer.
Jacob enjoys reading news and books, listening to (and often singing along with) music, social justice, humor in all forms, democracy, housing policy, civil rights, pretending to understand economics, eating blueberry pie, and peeling the lint out of the dryer trap. Over quarantine, Jacob picked up running and playing Fortnite with his brother.
Ashley Noelle Ver Beek, Editorial Assistant
Ashley holds a B.A. in critical ethnic studies and political science from Kalamazoo College and is passionate about the pursuit of racial and gender equity and justice across various fields. Before coming to Sojourners, Ashley worked with state policy advocacy and organizing around school pushout at YWCA Kalamazoo. She spent two years as a legal assistant at an immigration law office and has also facilitated bilingual academic support programs for youth.
Her undergraduate thesis on state gender violence and Indigenous women’s resistance in Ecuador centered on the experiences of Indigenous women’s embodied protest against the state. Ashley explores the relationships between justice, religion, empire, embodied spiritual practices, and white supremacy in her academic and personal projects. She is passionate about journalism as a way to amplify and re-center voices that have been suppressed by dominant narratives in church, politics, and media.
In her downtime, Ashley can be found reading, climbing mountains, curating Spotify playlists, experimenting in the kitchen, and talking to strangers until they wind up becoming dear friends. Over the past six months of quarantine, Ashley has started to bike again. She biked quite a bit in Michigan, and after moving to D.C. biking has become the main way she commutes, exercises, and enjoys the outdoors.
Lyndsay Monsen, Communications Assistant
Lyndsay is joining Sojourners this year as communications assistant. Following her graduation from Luther College in 2019 with a degree in communication studies, Lyndsay served in Palestine with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Young Adults in Global Mission program. While there, she taught English and did educational advocacy work with the Lutheran church, but mostly learned about what it’s like to live under occupation. She is excited for this opportunity to explore the intersection of her faith and passion for social justice, while using her background in communications.
In addition to her time in Palestine, Lyndsay has studied abroad in the Netherlands, Belize, and South Africa — and hopes to do more travelling in the future. She also spent four summers working at an ELCA Bible camp in Wisconsin, which proved to be a deeply formative experience for her faith journey. Overall, she loves seeing how the Holy Spirit moves within different groups of people in different places.
Lyndsay was born and raised in the Chicago area, fueling her love for deep-dish pizza and Midwestern weather. She also enjoys live music, cooking, and reading in her hammock. In the past six months of quarantine, Lyndsay became an avid scrunchie maker and has fine-tuned her cooking skills.
Makayla Long, Donor Services Assistant
Makayla graduated with a degree in international studies and political science from Whitworth University and is passionate about advocacy on behalf of immigration and refugee rights. Before joining the Sojourners Fellowship Program, Makayla assisted in refugee resettlement and worked on capacity building in the sustainable health sector. She also spent a semester abroad studying comparative politics and Chinese history at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Makayla is joining the fellowship program as a donor services assistant after hearing about the opportunity from her professor (a previous Sojourners fellow!). From her upbringing in the United Methodist tradition, Makayla has been drawn to organizations with a commitment toward faith-informed action and social justice. She believes that forming relationships with community members to be the foundation towards building inclusive spaces. She is excited to live in an intentional community with others while also broadening her of understanding of the intersection of fundraising and spirituality.
Makayla calls Washington state home and loves hiking in the mountains, thrifting, and collecting presidential campaign buttons. Over the past six months of quarantine, Makayla began to participate in virtual game nights as a way to stay connected with her college friends. As her friends can attest, she became an expert at QuipLash and virtual Pictionary.
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