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Curriculum and Faculty

Through three three-day retreats (see 2018 schedule here), 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 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 faculty includes:


Rabbi Elan Babchuck is the director of innovation at Clal — the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership. In that capacity he serves as the founding director of Glean Incubator, a partnership with Columbia Business School that provides training, mentorship, coaching, and funding for spiritual entrepreneurs who are building new models of faith in action. Prior to joining Clal, he served as rabbi of Temple Emanu-El in Providence, R.I., where he was the first religious leader to be named one of the city’s “10 to Watch”. He was ordained by the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in 2012 and earned his MBA that year, as well. Rabbi Babchuck has been an entrepreneur for more than half of his life, and has built multiple ventures which include commercial and social enterprises. He is the co-founder of Thrive RI and previously served as the founding board chair of Tzedek America, a trustee of SSDS, an organizer for OneLA, and a leader with JOIN for Justice. Babchuck lives in Providence, R.I., with his wife, Lizzie Pollock, and their children: Micah, five years old, and Nessa, two years old. He reads broadly and voraciously, loves Chef's Table on Netflix, runs Tough Mudders, and finds sanctuary on the rock climbing walls of New England.

Rev. Dr. Yvette Flunder, a San Francisco native, has served her call through prophetic action and ministry for justice for over thirty years. This call to “blend proclamation, worship, service and advocacy on behalf of those most marginalized in church and in society” led to the founding of the City of Refuge United Church of Christ in 1991. In 2003, Rev. Dr. Flunder was consecrated presiding bishop of the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, a multi-denominational coalition of over 100 primarily African American Christian leaders and laity. Rev. Dr. Flunder is on the Board of Starr King School for the Ministry and DEMOS and has taught at many theological schools. She is a graduate of the Certificate of Ministry and Master of Arts programs at PSR, and received her Doctor of Ministry from San Francisco Theological Seminary. She is also an award-winning gospel music artist and author of Where the Edge Gathers: A Theology of Homiletic and Radical Inclusion.

Dr. Jennifer R. Madden has a wealth of experience in capacity building, strategic planning, facilitation, and training. In addition to an extensive background in real estate development and project finance, Dr. Madden has expertise in economic development strategy, project management, nonprofit management, research, fund development and executive coaching. Dr. Madden holds a Ph.D. from the Weatherhead School of Management, a master’s degree in nonprofit management, and a bachelor’s in economics and American studies, all from Case Western Reserve University. She is an assistant professor of Management and Marketing and director of the Master (MSc) of Business Design and Innovation program she developed at Carthage College. Dr. Madden is also the president of Leverage Point Development. Her new book Inter-Organizational Collaboration by Design in the Routledge Critical Studies in Public Management Series examines how collaborations can overcome barriers to innovate and rejuvenate communities outlining the factors and antecedents that influence successful collaboration. The book proposes a theoretical perspective for collaborators to adopt the language of designers, evidence-based tools, and strategies to enable success. The book outlines her journey from research to action resulting in a “Collaboration Blueprint” that assisted community-based nonprofit organizations to secure over $13.5M in grant funding.

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.


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 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.

Applications for the 2018 Adese cohort are closed. Learn more about the 2018 Fellows here

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