Past Speakers 2020-2021

*Presentations with an asterisk have been recorded.  Email   to request a link.

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*September 19, 2021 – Megan Cepull spoke to the class about the ABCs of LGBTQIA+

*September 12, 2021 – John Richard led Nu Class members in a continuation of the topics discussed during the Mini Theology Weekend with Dom Crossan.

*September 5, 2021 – NU Class members Nancy Peed, Debby Manuel, Mike Perkins, Suzanne Gifford, Doug Barrett, and John Richard discussed Building our NU Class Future, the Columbarium and Memorial Wall, and the Come Out With Pride Day parade and after-event.

*August 29, 2021 – Heather Wilkie, Executive Director of the Zebra Coalition Youth Center, Supporting and Inspiring LGBTQ+ Youth, told of the housing, mental health, counseling, training, education, and many other services the Center provides. She also outlined the history, funding, community support, and volunteers, and answered many questions from highly interested class members.

*August 22, 2021 -Tatiana Quiroga (Ex. Director), and Khalil Magdah (board member and General Chair for this year’s Pride October events).  talked about her/his/their roles in the wider community, their passion and vision, the challenges they face and the allies and resources they need. Tatiana:  Kahalil:       

*August 15, 2021 – Joanie Holzer Schirm shared some of the contents of her book – My Dear Boy:  A World War II Story of Escape, Exile and Revelation about her father, Oswald Holzer, a Czech Jewish doctor, who left Prague for Shanghai in 1939, soon after the German occupation of Czechoslovakia.

*August 8, 2021 – Rev. Dr. Bob Bushong, District Superintendent to the East Central District,  shared meaningful stories about being unaware  and coming to realize his white privilege growing up in the segregated south. Class members did the same.

*August 1, 2021 – Nancy Peed and Debby Manuel told details of the “Florida Methodist Annual Conference 2021: A Community of Love and Forgiveness.”

*July 25, 2021 – Debbie Hill facilitated class discussion thoughts prompted by members reading Chapter 4 Hate,  Chapter 5 Love, and   Reflections from Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman.

*July 18, 2021 – Using an activity called Save the Last Word, Debbie Hill facilitated a discussion of Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman, Chapter 2, Fear and Chapter 3, Deception.

*July 11, 2021 – Debbie Hill began a three-week study of Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman. She introduced Thurman telling his life story; then gave a summary of Chapter 1, Jesus – An Interpretation.

*June 27, 2021 – Rick Sickles took us into the future of what justice will look like in 2050 when we are confronted with selecting a newborn with blond hair, blue eyes, and high IQ, or relying on the natural selection we live with today. He did this with a thumbnail sketch of gene editing taken from Walter Isaacson’s newest non-fiction work, The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race.

*June 20, 2021 – Representative Anna Eskamani, of the Florida House of Representatives, talked about her early years of civic engagement and her life as a Representative. She discussed in depth many issues currently before the House and looking forward.

*June 13 , 2021 – Rev. James (Jim) Coffin, Executive Director of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida,. His topic: “From Homophobe to LGBTQ Ally: A Personal Journey and Pulse Retrospective.”

*June 6, 2021 – Michael Perkins, long-time member of the NU Class, showed historical pictures and talked about  the Pulse shooting  and City and First Church responses immediately after and during the past five years. He also talked about becoming a reconciling church.

*May 30, 2021 – Dick Batchelor, former member of the Florida House of Representatives, president of Dick Batchelor Management Group, Inc., addressed black officials who served our community over the years and were elected to higher community, state and federal offices; also voter suppression efforts in FL Legislature, FL Governor office and elsewhere; the buyout of newspapers; and some of today’s prominent elected officials who are and will affect these issues going forward.

*May 23, 2021 – Dianne Coleman (Dee) Coleman, Executive Director, from Samaritan Village, described this trauma-informed therapeutic program and residential facility providing victims of human trafficking a safe and comfortable environment to heal.

*May 16, 2021 – First Church member Amy Green to shared her new book, “MOVING WATER: The Everglades and Big Sugar.  Following up on her discussion you may be interested in reading the following article:

*May 9, 2021 – Debbie Hill shared several religious books she has read recently.

*May 2, 2021 – Dave Bratcher and Mickie Brown acquainted us with Noah’s Ark of Central Florida, an adult residential community for people with developmental disabilities; telling us how it was founded and has developed and how it provides housing, care, social and recreational opportunities, and employment guidance for its residents.

*April 25, 2021 – Talley Wells, Executive Director of the North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities,  addressing state advocacy for improving the health, education and other systems for people with developmental disabilities.

*April 18, 2021 – Rev. Mary Lee Downey, CEO of the Hope Partnership, gave an overview of their work that is focused on providing affordable housing to those in need, in partnership with private, public, and faith-based organizations.

*April 11,2021 – Rachel Luce-Hitt, Education Director of the Holocaust Memorial Resource & Education Center of Florida. Addressed “The Inner Work of Bias and Oppression.”

*April 4, 2021 – Easter Sunday. Shelley Ward shared a book titled, Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, a Native American. The book is about indigenous wisdom and scientific knowledge of plants.

*March 28, 2021 –Palm Sunday. The Rev. Dr. James A. Harnish offered new meaning for the Old Testament Psalms Jesus quoted on the cross.

*March 21, 2021 – Dr. Hoyt Edge, Retired Chair of Philosophy at Rollins College, told stories from his life and world travels, and spoke of anomalies among the world’s cultures, in a talk titled  “Are Americans the WEIRDest People in the World?”

*March 14 – Dr. William S. Barnes, founder, and Pam Gould, President/CEO, of Shepherd’s Hope  spoke to the class about this Free Orlando Clinic ministry that provides health care for those who have income at or below 200% of the poverty level, are uninsured and not eligible for government assisted health care programs.

March 7, 2021 – Class discussion.  Many participants offered first-hand information about Alzheimer’s. 

*February 28, 2021 – Jill Pelaez Baumgaertner,scholar, administrator, literary critic, and poet  spoke of the  intentional blindness to religion in so much contemporary literature by looking at books, poems, and literature from the past several years.

*February 21, 2021 – Eric Gray, Executive Director at Christian Service Center for Central Florida, whose mission is to prevent homelessness, combat poverty, cultivate self-sufficiency, restore hope and glorify God through services  directly addressing physical, emotional and spiritual needs for families and individuals struggling in Central Florida.

*February 14, 2021 – Michael Dippy, Founder and Executive Director of IDignity told his story of learning the impossibility of getting ID on your own without documents to prove who you are, the barriers this presents, and how this led to founding IDignity in 2008. He continued with the history and the scope of the organization and examples from the thousands of people for whom IDignity has obtained this precious document.

*February 7, 2021 – Dave Beeler discussed the “All Means All” group, also known as the “The Forward Together Group,” that he chairs for First Church and how this group is preparing First Church to become a Reconciling Ministry Congregation by accepting LGBTQ+ and all marginalized groups as children of God.

*January 31, 2021 – Rebecca Sickles, retired OCPS History teacher and school principal, past President of NU Class, Chair of Church Staff Parish and Church Council,  told about growing up in Tuskegee, Alabama and her  high regard for Jon Meecham and John Lewis, using Meacham’s book, “His Truth is Marching on: John Lewis and the Power of Hope” as the background of her talk.

*January 24, 2021. Charlene Edge was a cult participant for 18 years in which she shifted her worship from spiritual ideas to worship of a charismatic guru. She shared bits of how she was recruited,her cult experience, how her devotion and dependence ultimately waned, and her thoughts on cults in general today.

*January 17, 2021. Part 2: Pastor Ron Lee and Historian John Richard continued their two-part analysis  of “The Birth and Spread of Christianity/ First 300 Years” with Ron taking the lead discussing the historical growth of Christianity from Crucifixion to Constantine.

*January 10, 2021. Judge Charles Wells gave an account of his thoughts and headed a discussion on the current political situation.

*January 3, 2021. Part 1 of 2: Pastor Ron Lee and Historian John Richard opened their two-part analysis  of “The Birth and Spread of Christianity/ First 300 Years” with John taking the lead discussing Christianity differentiated from other other religious options in the First Century. 

*December 27, 2020: John Richard finished discussion of his background. Class “wrangled,” mostly about the President’s resistance to sign a virus relief package  and avert a government shutdown.

*December 20, 2020: John Richard, NU Class President, spoke of generations of his family, told growing-up family stories that often included well-known people, showed pictures of his historic church, prep school and college, all places where he studied as an organist, and concluded with moving to Orlando, finding the NU Class, and how much it has meant to him.

*December 13, 2020: John Stiles Williams, Director of Facilities and Community Partnerships, addressed the church’s new lease arrangements with the Homeless Services Network (HSN), the new Columbarium, and his initiatives for First Church over the next few years.

*December 6, 2020: Pastor Ron Lee’s topic was “Love and Justice in a time of giving.”

*November 29, 2020:  Debbie Hill and a NU Class Wrangle mostly about the election, difficulty discussing election with some friends and family, and hopes going forward.

*November 22, 2020: Doug Barrett told his life story.

*November 15, 2020: Debby Manuel discussed and showed slides of speakers and subjects covered at the recent Florida Methodist Conference.

*November 8, 2020:Part 1 dedicated to the Holocaust Center. Pam Kancher, Executive Director of the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center, talked about the Center’s history, student education to challenge hate and prejudice, new museum planned for downtown Orlando.

*November 1, 2020:  Katharine Zimmerman discussed hunger, mental health, homeless, unemployment, poverty and the role of non-profits in our community and the Bahamas.

*October 25, 2020:  Doug Barrett introduced  pre-taped discussion Pastor Vance Raines had with Cary Lee and Meghan Cepull, both of whom grew up in First Church Orlando, regarding LGBTQ experiences.

*October 18, 2020:  John Richard reviewed chapters 3 and 4 of Holy Love

*October 11, 2020 – Debbie Hill reviewed the first two chapters of Holy Love, by Steve Harper.

*October 4, 2020 – John Richard showed the history and growth of the Reconciling Ministry Network  across the country. Rebecca Sickles shared the history of NU Class becoming a Reconciling Community.

September 27, 2020 – Rick Sickles Part 2 continued discussion from non-fiction book Yuval Noah Harari’s, Homo Deus–Brief History of Tomorrow. How can we know where the world is going

*September 20, 2020 – Rick Sickles discussed non-fiction book Yuval Noah Harari’s, Sapiens–A Brief History of Humankind.

*September 13, 2020 – Nancy Robbinson, Exe. Dir. of United Against Poverty, spoke about the mission and success of UP Orlando.  Their mission is to serve those in poverty by providing crisis care, case management, transformative education, food and household subsidy, employment training and placement, personal empowerment training and active referrals to other collaborative social service providers.

*September 6, 2020 – Gary Cain President and CEO since 1994  of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida. Club members are provided with academic support, extracurricular opportunities, and positive adult role models. The clubs are serving 16,236 young people, 91% of whom qualify for free or reduced school lunches.

August 30, 2020 – Wrangle.  A discussion of Nu Class giving through donations from The Shirley Scott Endowment balance of $8,300, left with the Nu Class after Shirley’s death 4 and a half years ago.  The outcome of this discussion was choosing the  charity(s) to distribute funds  to right away. For a list of charities chosen click the “Donations” tab above. Host John Richard, NU Class President.

*August 23, 2020 – Retired Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court Charles Wells, Part Two. Discussed concerns about multiple voting problems in the  forthcoming November Presidential Election.

*August 16, 2020 – Retired Chief Justice of Florida Supreme Court Charles Wells, Part One. Discussed contested elections, counting electoral votes, and fixed dates to count and electoral votes at the State and Congressional levels – December 8 and January 6, 2020 respectively.

*August 9, 2020 – Orlando’s Co-Founder, Jack McGill and President, Sherry Paramore, from ELEVATE Orlando, an educational, non-profit organization designed to meet the complex needs of at-risk youth by providing character classes and life skills training through the public-school system with the goal of empowering youth to become successful, responsible adults. Jack  Sherry  Xinia    

August 2, 2020 – Host John Richard, NU Class President. A Class Wrangle.

*July 26, 2020 – Rev Jim Coffin, Executive Director of the Interfaith Council. His presentation was titled: “Calamities, Catastrophes, Covid-19 and Other Things that Show How Really Ticked-Off God Is … Or Not.”  Is every calamity God-manufactured and God-managed? Are human groups to blame for stirring up God’s wrath?

July 19, 2020 – Rev. Katrina Jenkins, M.Div., Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life at Rollins College.

July 12, 2020 – Jill Pelaez Baumgaertner, poet editor of The Christian Century Magazine, author of the essay “The Impossible, Essential Task of Writing Poetry After Auschwitz,” among other writings, talked about her own awakening and introduced us to several Jewish poets who ask unanswerable questions.

July 5, 2020 – Anna Eskamani, Representative in Florida House of Representatives, discussing current legislative issues. 

June 28, 2020 – Eric Camarillo, founder of SALT (Service and Love Together), discussing SALT’s outreach to the homeless in downtown Orlando including the trailer he brings to the First Church driveway three times a week, providing showers, food, clothes and other services.

June 21, 2020 – Rev, Dr. Vance Rains, Lead Pastor, First Church Orlando, His Mission Trips to Guatemala

June 14, 2020 – Jennifer Sandoval, Jennifer Sandoval, Ph.D, Associate Professor and the Program Coordinator for Communication and Conflict at the Nicholson School of Communication and Media at the University of Central Florida. Speaking on “Reproductive Justice.”

June 7, 2020 – Frank Gilbert, Director of the Test Development and Measurement (TDM) Department of Orange County Public Schools,responsible for the testing of students in the 7th largest school district in the country.  “COVID-19 Student Academic Study–How bad will it be, and what can be done about it.”

May 31, 2020 – Lora Gilbert, Senior Director of Food and Nutrition Services for Orange County Public Schools. How OCPS (under her direction) is feeding over 100,000 kids under stay-at-home orders with the Pandemic.  She is responsible to the 7th largest school district in the nation, 226 schools, 1,624 Food Service Employees, 39 million meals served in school year 2016, 1 million meals every week.

May 24, 2020 – Scott Maxwell.  “The Gospel of Good News. Why we need it. Why we share it. Why so many people ignore it.”

May 17, 2020 – Pastor Emily Sterling talked and showed  pictures of her “Reflections from the Holy Land” based on the recent visit she made there and the amazing impact it had on her life.

May 10, 2020 – Dr. Larry E. Webb  spoke from his and Jean’s home in North Carolina on the Topic:  “Making Sense of Life’s Changes.”

May 3, 2020 – Pastor Ron Lee spoke for 20 minutes about Luther’s time of isolation after participants were invited to talk for a few minutes about  their lives during this isolation time.

April 26, 2020 – Rev. Dr. James A. Harnish. A biblical basis for Earth Day, entitled “Can You Hear Creation?” based on Romans 8:18-27.

March 8, 2020 – Suzzi Machalek, infection specialist=coordinator.  How viruses operate and how our behaviors affect transmission.

February 23, 2020 – Ron Lee, Retired Lutheran Minister. Session 2: Building on our knowledge of each of our personal, God-given gifts, we will examine various spiritual habits, and how they impact our life of faith. We will also explore ways to make congregational worship more vital and inclusive for the wide variety of spiritual “soul” types.

February 16, 2020 – Ron Lee, Retired Lutheran Minister. Session 1: We will examine our personal, God-given gifts and our wide variety of spiritual “soul” types.

*This presentation was recorded.Email to request a link.