Leaders Bring Vision

Circle of Hope has numerous leaders and staff members who work together to bring about our vision of sharing and being Jesus in our region. Read more about them below.

Congregations

We are one church with four congregations and dozens of cell locations in the Philly region. Our cells join together in congregations led by pastors and served by our staff. Our congregations join together as one church that bridges what divides us: neighborhoods, rivers, backgrounds and ages. Our pastors lead the whole church, but are generally stationed specifically at a congregation for a strategy.

 

 

Rachel Sensenig
Pastor, 2214 S. Broad St.
[email protected]

Rachel has been church planting with Circle of Hope for the past 13 years in many capacities, including serving as our Administrative Pastor for from 2012-2015. She is also an experienced counselor in the HIV/AIDS community in Philadelphia. Rachel earned her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology & Philosophy, her Masters in Social Work at Temple. She recently received her ministerial license with the Brethren in Christ. She loves leading cells and advocates for community redevelopment of vacant land in the city through our compassion team, Development without Displacement. She lives in South Philly with her husband Jeff and their children, Zach and Cori. Read her thoughts and meditations at her blog here.

 

 

 

Joshua Grace
Pastor, 2007 Frankford Ave.
[email protected]

Joshua was 18 when he first connected to us during the early days of Circle of Hope. He began serving as pastor in 2004 when we launched our first successful “hiving” of a congregation. After studying music at Drexel and African American Studies at Temple University, he earned his MA in Intercultural Studies through the North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies (NAIITS) and Portland Seminary. Joshua leads the Debt Annihilation Team and Circle of Hope Audio Art, is a member of Circle Mobilizing Because Black Lives Matter, and often leads us in justice actions and worship. Joshua loves baseball, gardening, and uses a lot of metaphor. He and Martha married in 2002. They live in Kensington with their two teenage daughters. His blog explores various ideas on politics, faith, and the spiritual journey.

 

 

 

Ben White
Pastor, 3800 Marlton Pike
[email protected]

Ben grew up in Circle of Hope, taking part in the “family business” and soaking his roots in the fertile soil of our growing community. In 2015 he was called to lead as pastor of Circle of Hope 3800 Marlton Pike. Before that he served as Development Pastor for Circle of Hope 1125 S. Broad St. and as a hospital chaplain. Ben received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish from Eastern University in 2005 and a Masters of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary in 2010. He also married his wife, Gwyneth, in 2005. They have two sons named Oliver and Theodore. He chronicles his adventures meeting new people in his efforts to find new partners in Jesus’ redemption project on his blog.

 

 

 

Jonny Rashid
Pastor, 2007 Frankford Ave.
[email protected]

Jonny began serving as pastor in September 2010 when we launched our first successful “hive” of a “hived” congregation on North Broad. In September of 2018, that congregation consolidated with the one on Frankford Ave., and Jonny began serving there primarily. Before pastoring, Jonny was a social studies teacher for the School District of Philadelphia in Kensington. He got his Bachelor’s Degree in Education from Temple University. He is an MDiv student at Palmer Theological Seminary. He married Kristen in 2010. They have two daughters. The Rashids live in North Philadelphia. He writes on discipleship, theology, pop culture, reconciliation and liberation, and leadership on his blog more than self-expression.

 

 

Julie Hoke
Pastor, 5720 Ridge Ave.
[email protected]

Julie has been a part of the leadership team of Circle of Hope for many years—leading cells and cell leaders and serving as the Lead Cell Leader Coordinator for the whole church. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, most recently working in hospice. She received a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania in 2007. She has lived in Germantown for 13 years. She and her husband Steve have two children.  They can often be found with their neighbors enjoying the many green spaces in the Northwest Philly.

 

 

Church

Some of our staff serve the church as a whole while being active participants in cells, teams and congregations.

Gwen White
Teaching Pastor
[email protected]

Gwen has been teaching and serving since the beginning of Circle of Hope, which she helped plant with her husband Rod. Since 2010 she has officially been deployed as our teaching pastor. Gwen earned a PsyD from Immaculata University and is a Professor Emerita of Eastern University. She serves on the Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Board and Christian Association of Psychological Studies Board. She is the Director of Circle Counseling and lives in West Philly. She loves a lot of grandchildren with Rod.

 

 

Rod White
Development Pastor
[email protected]

Rod moved to Philadelphia in 1995 to plant Circle of Hope from scratch. Now he is now charged with developing individuals, especially our leaders and developing our overall strategies and systems for the next church, as well as teaching and counseling. He married Gwen in 1975; they have four married sons and nine grandchildren (all in Philadelphia). Rod earned a BA in History from UC Riverside, his MDiv from Fuller Seminary, and his PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy from Eastern University. Rod serves with the Good Business Oversight Team, the Circle Kids Support Team, the Circle of Peacemakers team, and the Circle Counseling Support Team. He is the editor for Circle of Hope Daily Prayer and organizes Gifts for Growing. He offers spiritual direction and psychotherapy. The Whites live in West Philly. He wrote the book. He writes a blog. He bikes off copious amounts of cookies.

 

 

Bethany Hornak
Operations Manager
[email protected]

Bethany is working on renovating the house that she and her husband bought in the neighborhood in Summer 2014, and has come to loathe wallpaper in a whole new way. She has knack for organizing and planning that is put to good use both at work and at home. You are most likely to see her around the neighborhood either riding her bike, hanging out with a baby whom she is babysitting, or eating food with friends at one of her favorite bars. When she is feeling like being a homebody, she’ll most likely be baking something delicious or watching a TV show based on a comic book. You really want to try her chocolate chip cookies. The End.

 

 

Kristen Snow
Hub Team Leader/Sites Manager
[email protected]

Kristen has been a part of Circle of Hope since 2010, when she moved to Philadelphia to attend Tyler School of Art. She has since graduated with a degree in Sculpture, spent time dabbling in entrepreneurship and found a place at the Hub. She lives in Port Richmond with her husband Greg, a few dogs and a couple of friends. Learning is a driving force for Kristen, so these days you can find her attempting to: Identify local trees and plants in the Delaware River Watershed, playing an instrument, poking around on Spotify, tinkering with a house project, and using, then forgetting about, an app to learn a new language.

 

 

Luke Bartolomeo
Communications Manager
[email protected]

When Luke’s not working on websites and other design stuff, he is usually working on more websites and other design stuff, and also writing, camping, biking, reading, among many other things.

 

 

Circle Thrift

Circle Thrift proceeds go to our allies Mennonite Central Committee and relief disaster work. We have a store in Fishtown and one in South Philly.

 

 

Martha Grace
Director

Martha moved to Philadelphia in 1996 from New Jersey to earn her BS from Drexel University in Film and Video Production and was 3 credits shy of a minor in Philosophy. She has been a part of Circle of Hope since 2000 and served on the original team that birthed Circle Thrift in 2004. Circle Thrift embodies all her passions like living simply, bucking the corporate giants, generating community, caring for the earth, and being a good neighbor locally and globally. She doesn’t play the piano but is an enthusiastic pastor’s wife, and mother to two of the best teenage girls in the world. Jesus plucked her out of obscurity and gave her life deep meaning. She is blessed to be part of the team, and she totally knows it.

 

 

 

Jess Shoffner
Manager – Circle Thrift on Frankford

Jessica Shoffner moved from Kansas to Philadelphia in 2008, after studying Horticultural Therapy at Kansas State University. Her work in urban gardening began with The Simple Way, an organization that does community building work in the Kensington neighborhood in Philadelphia. She currently hosts a gardening club in the Hart Lane Neighborhood Garden (also in Kensington) through Pathways to Housing, teaching participants who were formerly homeless both practical gardening skills and providing opportunities for connection. As a Circle of Hope leader, Jess has served on the Leadership, Urban Farm, and The Watershed Discipleship Teams. She helps lead our cell movement and is the Manager at Circle Thrift. In her spare time, Jess loves sharing fresh food with neighbors, bicycling, and the experiments of simple living.

 

 

Jimmy Weitzel
Manager – Circle Thrift on South Broad

Jimmy grew up here in Philadelphia and lives in South Philly. When he isn’t managing Circle Thrift you can usually catch him leading worship at 2212 South Broad, or helping coordinate cells as a Cell Leader Coordinator. He has been connected with Circle of Hope for three years, and has felt called to lead and bring people closer to Jesus. He is also open about his struggles with addiction and has been sober close to five years. He is always willing to help out whoever is in need.

 

 

Circle Kids

Our goal at Circle Kids is to create a warm, nurturing environment where children from 3 to 4 years of age can grow to become well-rounded learners who will also cultivate a love for learning that will continue well beyond their stay at the Playschool.

 

 

Gail Szczesniak
Director

Gail started teaching children in her teen years as a camp counselor and a tap/ballet instructor. She was a licensed home daycare provider and after returning to college as an adult and earning a Masters degree in Childhood Education, developed and taught a preschool and pre-k program in her local school district. Gail was also the program coordinator for an elementary aged after school program. Gail moved to Philly from upstate NY in July 2009 to join three of her four sons. Most recently she was a director for a child care program serving children ages 18 months thru 4th grade. Gail loves children and being involved with their excitement, curiosity and wonder—believing in the importance of play. She also is active in being part of the local community and has been involved with the Kensington Community Food Co-op and Circle Thrift as well as leading a cell group and the cleaning team for the Frankford Avenue congregation. Gail loves the outdoors, rehabbing her house and spending time with family and her three amazing granddaughters!

 

 

Circle Spaces

We organized Circle Spaces as an expression of Circle of Hope to provide affordable rental space for a variety of occasions. Our versatile venue can accommodate events, shows, weddings, and art openings, among other things. What drives us are the convictions we bring, our commitment to affordable space and our long-term commitment to our community.

 

 

Victoria Taylor
Director

 

 

Other Teams that Lead Us

Cell Leader Coordinators

This team oversees and nurtures our main leaders: the Cell Leaders. They also deploy and supervise our pastors.

Bryce Hewlett, Lead Cell Leader Coordinator

Contact: [email protected]


Church Planting Core Team

This team maintains and stokes our apostolic momentum. They work to ensure that we are making deep people who make disciples and increase our awareness of how best to connect with those we seek to influence.

Paul Kohl, Team Leader

Contact: [email protected]


Compassion Core Team

 

This team generates and serves the needs of our compassion teams. They call the church together for concerted acts of service and advocacy. They monitor the compassion fund, directed at needs among us.

Dani Vasquez, Team leader

Contact: [email protected]


Capacity Core Team

This team oversees the staff and team leaders who manage the systems that enable our mission to function: buildings, funding, technology, personnel and law.

Joel White, Team Leader

Contact: [email protected]


Children’s Team Core Team

This team maintains communication and mutual practices and support between our various children’s teams.

Kim Crognale, Team Leader

Contact: [email protected]