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Indiana-Kentucky Conference

Staff

Rev. Chad R. Abbott
Rev. Chad R. Abbott

Conference Minister

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Rev. Chad Abbott is a Conference Minister in the United Church of Christ in Indiana and Kentucky. Having served congregations in both the United Methodist and United Church of Christ traditions, he is a pastor at heart. Chad is the author of a couple of books, his latest of which is Sacred Habits: The Rise of the Creative Clergy. He is passionate about local churches, pastors, and spirituality. He is a trained labyrinth facilitator, spiritual director, and storyteller. Chad and his wife, Shannon, live in Indianapolis with their two kids, Isabel and Solomon, and dog, Zoe. Not only a pastor, husband, and father, Chad is a runner, musician, first degree black belt in karate, converse shoe collector, lover of laughter and nature, and all around spiritual pilgrim.

Rev. Dr.  Monica J. Ouellette
Rev. Dr. Monica J. Ouellette

Minister for Search, Call and Congregational Transitions

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Rev. Dr. Monica J. Ouellette was born in Washington D.C., spent most of her childhood in Stone Mountain, GA. and her teen years in Newport, RI. She graduated from Roger High School in 1982. Monica received her first call to ministry at age 16. This call was reaffirmed eleven years later and she began taking classes to earn her undergraduate degree.
She graduated from the Community College of Rhode Island with an A.A. degree in December 1997. In May 1999, she graduated from Rhode Island College with a B.A. in Anthropology. She graduated from Andover Newton Theological School in Boston, MA in May 2004. While attending Andover Newton Theological School she was awarded a two-year grant from The Fund for Theological Education. Monica was ordained in the Rhode Island Conference in January 2005.
Monica was called to be the Associate Pastor at First United Church of Christ in Carlisle , PA from February 2005 until September 2009. In October 2009, she was called to serve as the pastor of St. John’s United Church of Christ in Boalsburg, PA. In 2016 she graduated with her Doctor of Ministry degree from Andover Newton Theological School. Her doctoral project is entitled, “A New Model of Church Growth in Smaller Congregations.” Currently Monica serves as the chairperson of the Northern Association Church & Ministry Committee of the Penn Central Conference and serves on the Executive Committee of the association. In addition, she is serving as the chairperson of the Penn Central Conference Commission on Ministry. As part of her Committee on Ministry work she has attended MESA 101 in Cleveland, MissionInsite training, Fitness Review Response Team training, the MESA Authorized Ministry in the 21st Century Conference in Philadelphia, Penn Central Conference Leadership Series workshops as both a presenter and attendee, and annual boundary training. She has also led workshops at the conference annual meeting on the topics of faith formation and church growth.
Monica is energized by working with teams and committees to brainstorm ideas, share best practices and resources, and create an action plan. She enjoys helping people recognize their spiritual gifts and using them for God and the church. She is excited about this call to join the Indiana Kentucky Conference staff as they move into God’s future together.

Rev. Dr. Altonnette ‘Toni’ Hawkins
Rev. Dr. Altonnette ‘Toni’ Hawkins

Minister for Leadership Formation and Discernment

Rev. Dr. Altonnette ‘Toni’ Hawkinsclose

The Rev. Dr. Altonnette D. Hawkins, fondly known as “Toni” is an ordained minister who is dually aligned in the United Church of Christ (UCC) and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). She is the Pastor of Open Door Christian Church (DOC) and former Senior Pastor of Plymouth Congregational UCC, both in Louisville, KY. She is an adjunct faculty member at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary (LPTS) and a licensed professional pastoral counselor. She is published in the Journal of Social Work & Christianity Vol. 43, No. 4, 2016 as co- author of the article, “Supporting Caregivers Who Care for African American Elders: A Pastoral Perspective”. In addition, she has published two books, Self Care Reflections for Caregivers; and a self-care coloring book and journal, entitled, ME TIME.

She has been mentoring seminarians and members in discernment for more than 10 years as a field education supervisor, an Under Care mentor with the DOC and in the former In Care process of the UCC. Currently, there are several ministers she has provided guidance and support for ordination or privilege of call through leadership formation and the discernment process.

Presently, she is the Fundraising Co-chair for the Franklinton Center at Bricks, a UCC- affiliated, Justice and Witness Retreat Center in Whitakers, NC. In order to devote her time to living and sharing the core values of the Indiana-Kentucky Conference, she is concluding her term as First Vice-Moderator of the Christian Church of KY. The proud mother of two adult sons, Robert and Tyree, and grandmother of three; Michael, Alexus and
Chavay, she believes in the power of prayer. Her favorite scripture is Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not unto you own understanding. In all of your ways, acknowledge the Lord and he will direct your path.” One of her favorite sayings is, “To God be the glory for the great things God has done … the best is yet to come!”

Rebecca Braganza
Rebecca Braganza

Conference Administrator

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Rebecca serves as the Conference Administrator for the Indiana-Kentucky Conference. Her primary responsibility is the support of the churches and clergy in the Conference. She is the hub of the operation who resources the churches and the staff. Her expertise also includes management and analysis of the business activities of the Conference to facilitate financial decision making and planning. Her experience and knowledge make her an asset to our churches and authorized ministers in matters of contract negotiations, payroll, policies and procedures, not-for-profit filings and tax questions, budgeting, etc. Rebecca also possesses a depth of knowledge on the many benefit, investment and insurance plans provided by the UCC.

Rebecca earned her Master of Business Administration at the University of Indianapolis.

When she is not at the office, Rebecca feeds her spirit by attending and volunteering at her church. She is a wife and mother, who expresses her creativity through cooking and crafting.

Rev. Nikki Shaw
Rev. Nikki Shaw

Director of Communication

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Rev. Nikki Shaw serves First Congregational UCC in Angola, IN as their pastor. She is also the director of communications for the Heartland and Illinois South Conferences in addition to the Indiana-Kentucky Conference. Contact her via email at nicoleleighshaw@gmail.com.

In 2010, she moved with her family to Fort Wayne, IN. For many years she wrote, edited, and created online content as a freelance writer and local journalist and is gratified to continue to use those gifts for the church and the Conferences.

Nikki is called to pastoral ministry in the UCC where she can preach, teach, and pastor to a congregation looking to be more boldly in love with God, Christ, and Spirit as advocates for justice and peace in the world.

Val Ruess
Val Ruess

Data Entry Specialist

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Val is a graduate of International Business College in Fort Wayne, Ind. and a lifelong member of the United Church of Christ. Val works full-time as the executive assistant for Downtown Indy, Inc.

As the Data Entry Specialist, Val provides part-time assistance to the conference administrator in maintaining vital records for all clergy, volunteers and staff.

When not at work, Val enjoys volunteering for various mission and outreach projects, reading, hiking and spending time with her children and granddaughter.

Sheronda Lucas
Sheronda Lucas

Mental Health Educator

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Sheronda believes in the strength of people and holistic approaches to healthcare services that support meaningful change. Originally from Orangeburg, SC, Sheronda completed her Undergraduate studies at the University of South Carolina Upstate with a BS in Biology and a minor in Psychology in 2009. She received a Master in Rehabilitation Science in Occupational Therapy from the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston in 2012. Additionally, as a reflection of her interests in holistic and spiritually integrated care, she received a MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Christian Theological Seminary in 2020.

Rev. Merlyn Lawrence
Rev. Merlyn Lawrence

Communities of Practice Coordinator

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Rev. Merlyn Lawrence is the Senior Pastor at Immanuel United Church of Christ, Highland, Indiana. She was born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa. She brings to her ministry a vast range of vocational and professional experience in the field of social work and experience both as a lay- person and ordained minister within the United Church of Christ. . Her years of commitment to lay leadership in the UCC in all its settings resulted in the high honor to serve for two years (2005-2007) as the Moderator of the 26th General Synod/ also the UCC's 50th anniversary in Hartford, Connecticut, an experience forever etched in her heart and soul.

Our Core Values

Our core values at IKC