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Curriculum and Faculty

Through three three-day retreats (2019 schedule to be determined), augmented by videoconferencing, site visits and small group work in between, participants move through three stages — discern, design and disciple — gaining clarity about themselves and their venture, prototyping and testing their concept, and building a team. Fellows draw upon the experience of mentors and peers while identifying and maximizing the resources of their communities. At the program's end, fellows are eligible for seed funding. They also pitch their ventures to social impact investors.

The program is organized around three pillars: theology, practice and community.

  • Theology. The progressive church has much to say about the prophetic work of critique or speaking truth to power. Yet little is said about the creative dimension of prophetic faith — the building, organizing and enterprising toward a more just world. Outside the church and beyond its conventional critique of business is a growing movement that believes business can be a force for justice. Adese Fellows want to comprehend and catch up with this movement of the Spirit. So they engage in theological reflection, drawing upon a variety of materials, including scripture, tradition and history as well as narratives of people who enterprise on the margins.

  • Practice. Entrepreneurship begins with a different way of seeing: noticing possibility instead of just problems; paying attention to resources already present; recognizing what’s already moving in the direction we want to go. This perspective takes practice. It requires the cultivation of habits that change sight from the dominant way of seeing, which is a totalizing and dehumanizing worldview of deficits, scarcity and competition, into a vision of God’s economy, where there is plenty for all. Adese Fellows engage in spiritual practices, including meditation, discernment and testimony; they also learn organizational practices, including appreciative inquiry, asset mapping, and strength-based leadership and culture formation.

  • Community. The entrepreneurial journey is difficult – because it’s hard to see this alternative way and because one often travels without maps, mentors or institutional money. So the journey can be lonely, and depressing. Research says one out of three entrepreneurs suffers from depression. For this reason, entrepreneurs need community to remind them they are not alone. Adese Fellows recognize how vital community is to grounding them in the countercultural theology, calling them to practice, and holding them accountable. Community, then, is the program's mode of learning; it is also the model for whatever enterprise each participant pursues.


The Adese faculty is made up of entrepreneurs, theologians and executive coaches as well as leaders skilled in the legal, financial and HR issues of startups. 


The Adese staff includes:

Rev. Dr. Chris Davies is a Connecticut native and a Cleveland transplant and a wandering Irish Rover at heart. She loves the church deeply, and is committed to finding ways to continue to bring the gospel into the world. She attended Smith College for her undergrad work and Andover Newton for both a master of divinity and doctor of ministry. Chris grew up in the United Church of Christ, and was baptized and ordained within her home congregation in Connecticut. Chris is a queer femme, a local beer enthusiast, and a creative networker of communities. She is passionate about justice and Jesus, and is the founder and curator of the Queer Clergy Trading Cards, a project bringing visibility to queer clergy, using humor and irreverence to help change the conversation highlighting the common awe (and absurdities) in faith work. Chris lives in Cleveland, where she is still seeking community and continuing to learn in faith and live justly, serving Christ in all things. She serves on the national staff of the United Church of Christ as coordinator for Congregational Assessment, Support and Advancement (CASA).

Rev. Dr. Patrick Duggan, pastor, economic and community development professional, and executive director of the UCC Church Building & Loan Fund (CB&LF). As executive director of CB&LF, Patrick is responsible for advancing the mission and growing the capacity, reach and social impact of the oldest church financial ministry in the United States. Patrick has more than 30 years’ experience in bivocational ministry, serving the local church while working in the public sector, including education, government, nonprofit organizations and economic and community development. Prior to coming to CB&LF, he led community development initiatives that generated $600 million in investment in the poorest communities on Long Island. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and earned his master’s and doctorate in ministry from New York Theological Seminary. His doctoral project, “Ground Zero in the Economy of God,” focused on increasing the impact, relevance and influence of the church by deploying church assets for mission.

Rev. Susan Mitchell serves as associate director for strategic initiatives with the United Church of Christ Church Building & Loan Fund (CB&LF). This post follows seven successful years as CB&LF's capital fundraising executive. She is an ordained minister with full standing in the Southeast Conference of the United Church of Christ. She received her bachelor of science degree in occupational therapy from the University of Kansas and her master of divinity from the Interdenominational Theological Center. She has more than 15 years experience in parish ministry, including founding co-pastor of Sankofa United Church of Christ in Atlanta. She currently serves as co-chair of the board for Kilombo Cultural and Academic Institute. She is an active member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, (AFP), Greater Atlanta Chapter. She completed the coursework for the Executive Certificate for Religious Fundraising. She remains active in her local setting as an associate minister at Rush Memorial United Church of Christ in Atlanta.

Melina D. Higbee is new to her position as strategic programs administrator for CB&LF. She will play a vital role in overseeing and implementing programs that focus on transformation, including the Adese Fellowship. She has been on the national United Church of Christ staff for 11 years. Most recently she was associate director for campaigns, appeals and special events in the denomination's Office of Philanthropy and Stewardship. As the associate director, Melina planned the first bi-annual Stepping Into Stewardship Conference. She began her service with Wider Church Ministries, where she led the successful launch of the Haystack Society, an endowment to support mission practices in global settings. When she is not working and the opportunity presents itself, Melina enjoys cooking.





  Tyah Higbee has a key role in overseeing the day to day operations of CB&LF.  She is responsible for providing          administrative support to the Executive Director and the Associate Director.  She is also the staff liaison for the          CB&LF Board of Directors.  Her duties include assisting the Adese Fellowship and Partners in Building by providing    all logistical arrangements.  She has worked and volunteered for the United Church of Christ National Setting for        over 6 years.




The Adese community endures after completion of the program. Fellows commit to support each other, and successive cohorts, through networking, mentoring and special events. They also take on the role of proclaimers and teachers of a countercultural way, using new and traditional media to witness to the church, call it to renewal, and share the good news of God's economy with all God's children.

For further information about the Adese Fellowship, contact Melina Higbee, strategic program administrator, at or 216-736-3817.