The Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council (GKCIC) is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, which has a Board of Directors that strives for inclusiveness. The Council is comprised of Council Faith Directors, as well as Council At-Large Directors, who belong to 22 distinct faith philosophies represented in the greater community, all of whom are passionate about multi-faith understanding. Working through Directors, Alternates, Advisors and Friends, the Council strives to provide engaging and educational programs about the many diverse faiths and traditions represented in Greater Kansas City by joining religion, spirit and community.
- Rev. Kelly Isola – Chair
- Cindy McDavitt – Vice Chair
- Fr. Michael Medis – Secretary
- Zulfiqar Malik – Treasurer
- Susan Nakao – Council Liaison
To read a full bio about the Faith Directors and At-Large Directors who serve the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council, click on their image.
American Indian Spirituality
The Rev. Dr. Kara Hawkins is a lifelong apprentice of the traditional Grandmother Ways of a family tradition going back generations. Her mentor, and the mentor of this tradition is Jimm GoodTracks, author of numerous manuscripts and books relating to the language, culture and spirituality of the Ioway-Otoe-Missouria people. Hawkins serves as Head Cook for the ceremonials, and is authorized to lead its family lodge. In the Kansas City community, Hawkins serves as Elder and Ceremonial Leader for the Kansas City Pipe Circle, a American Indian Spirituality based group that began in 1986 by Nate Scarritt, a seven-year Bear Tribe apprentice who had been asked to start the Pipe Circle in Kansas City by Sun Bear (1929-1992).
Hawkins is the American Indian Spirituality faith director in this council, and oversees the Speakers’ Bureau. A board member of the Institute for Spirituality in Health at the Shawnee Mission Medical Center in Shawnee Mission, Kansas, Dr. Hawkins participates in its Clergy-Physician monthly dialogues. Hawkins has collaborated on numerous writing projects including a resource manual for pastoral care givers, “Finding a Sacred Oasis in Grief,” by the late Steven L Jeffers and Harold Ivan Smith, and a spirituality desk reference for health care providers that is in the planning for publication by Radcliff Publishing in the near future. A musician, poet, and singer, Hawkins educates through her voice, her music, her ceremony and her son.
Barb McAtee has been a member of the Baha’i Faith since 1966. She has served on the local Spiritual Assemblies of Kansas City, MO, Evanston, IL, Manhattan, KS, and Overland Park, KS. She also served at the office of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States in Evanston, IL for two years. She has traveled extensively, including a nine-day pilgrimage to the Baha’i World Center in Haifa, Israel and to other holy sites in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee, Cairo, and London.
Barb is a trained study circle tutor. She has also taken various classes regarding the Baha’i Faith and other faiths through Wilmette University, an online academic institute. She is trained in CISM (Critical Incident Stress Management). She served on the CISM team and the Diversity Advisory Council at KU Med; and was a founding member of KUMC Interfaith at KU Med, where she retired in 2003. In addition to being a member of the board of GKCIC, she is:
- Member of the Board of Directors of Cultural Crossroads
- Member of the Board of Shawnee Mission Hospital’s Institute for Spirituality and Health
- Dialogue Racism Facilitator
- CPR/Advanced First Aid Trainer for the Red Cross
- Explorer Post Advisor
- Cub Scout Den Mother
- Interfaith Advisory Council at Kansas State University
- 2011 recipient of the Vern Barnet Interfaith Service Award in 2011
She majored in Criminal Justice at Washburn University. She was a legal secretary for four years and a police officer/detective for 24 years. She is currently employed by Fire Consulting International, Inc., a fire consulting and investigation firm.
She and her husband Rob enjoy biking, hiking, traveling, wilderness camping, whitewater rafting, kayaking, canoeing, dancing, music, and playing with grandchildren. They host interfaith devotions at “Camp Harmony” each year during the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas. For several years, Barb wrote music reviews and interviews of bluegrass entertainers for the former publication, Cross Country Magazine.
Lama Matthew has been practicing Buddhism since his 20’s and as says, “The only accomplishments I can claim about my mediation practice is that it is slow and steady and stuck in first gear. Studying mainly the Tibetan system for Buddhism I have developed an appreciation for the Rime approach towards the different schools with a particular fondness for the Nyingma and Kagyu traditions.” He admits he has been very fortunate in being able to share the knowledge he has gained with others, while his primary practice, off the cushion, is trying to bring a peaceful and joyous mind to all those he meets.
At the beginning of 2016 Lama Matthew became the Spiritual Director of the Rime Buddhist Center & Institute of Tibetan Studies. In this role he is the administrator on a day-to-day basis, yet also teaches classes on meditation and Buddhism and performs Buddhist ceremonies, including weddings and funerals. Matthew is the Buddhist Director on the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council. He is also a member of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.
Fr. Mike is priest for St. James Mission and attached at Holy Trinity Church in Overland Park. He is a Board Certified Chaplain with the Association of Professional Chaplains and is very involved with the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault.
As Christian Orthodox Director At-Large he provides a voice with the Orthodox Christian Communities in the Metro area. Fr. Mike appreciates the Council’s diversity and celebrating our differences as well as our commonalities.
Michael Stephens grew up in Kansas City and has experience in the Christian Church (DOC), United Methodist, Episcopal and Southern Baptist circles. Since 2002, he has been the pastor at Southwood United Church of Christ in Raytown which is very progressive theologically and works toward social justice in many areas symbolized by the full inclusion and affirmation of LGBTQ people.
Michael has been a part of and held leadership positions in ministerial alliances in every community where he has served as pastor. Raytown’s ministerial alliance had voted to become an interfaith alliance right before he came. Ever since, he has been a prominent voice insisting they truly live into that vision. When providing leadership for MLK Celebrations, Mayor’s Prayer Breakfasts, Community Thanksgiving Services and prayers at the City Board of Alderman gatherings he has consistently been sensitive and given voice to the many faiths practiced in our community.
Michael feels truly honored to have a seat at the GKCIC table each month. The vision of that table is a continuing fulfillment of what he sees as a sacred dream for the human family. Unfortunately, we do not always live out the best expressions of ourselves. Michael recognizes a certain tension representing the vastness of Protestant Christianity with a past and present that is not always welcoming of other faiths. While his congregation’s faith leads them to a far more open, welcoming and progressive theology and practice, he is committed to strive to faithfully represent Protestantism in its history, faith, theology and diverse practice. Learn more about the church Michael serves at www.ThatChurch.us.
Zulfiqar Malik is a founding member taking a leading role in establishment of the Islamic Society of Greater Kansas City and its institutions such as the Islamic Center of Greater Kansas City, Mid-America Muslim Cemetery and the Islamic School.
Alan Edelman is a native of Kansas City. After receiving a B.A. in Child Development, Alan attended the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he received a Master’s Degree in Jewish Education. Since 1977, he has served in a number of professional capacities including congregational educator, regional director for the Conservative Movement and executive director of the Central Agency for Jewish Education. Beginning in 1994, Alan served as Associate Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City with the portfolios of Jewish Education, Leadership Development and Israel & Overseas until his retirement in June 2017 to devote more time to volunteering. Alan and his wife, Debbie Sosland-Edelman, have four children, Alex, Katja (and husband Ari), and Jonathan. Our first grandchild, Noa Dorit, came into the world in August 2017.
Karta Purkh has been a member of the Sikh path, or Panth, for 35+ years. He came to the teachings of Guru Nanak as the result of his practice of Kundalini Yoga and meditation. The logic and precision of his yogic practices, discovered after a number years of searching for a “spiritual path” blended perfectly with the beliefs of Sikhism and his own personal beliefs developed over the years.
Sikhism requires meditative remembrance of God through chanting and repeating God’s name on a daily basis. It also requires the Sikh to work by the sweat of his brow and NOT profit by the sweat of others. An honest living must be earned honestly and righteously. Additionally, a Sikh is obligated to share these blessings with those less fortunate.
Karta Purkh rises each day (usually) at least two hours before the Sun. He bathes (usually) in a cold shower in preparation for prayer, yoga, meditation and scriptural reading. It is through this process that he has been able to adjust and change his life from one that might be called dissolute into a life of effort towards excellence.
One of his favorite quotes from his teacher Yogi Bhajan is, “It’s not the life you live, it’s the courage that you bring to it.” Karta Purkh sincerely believes that while living this kind of life is neither simple nor easy, it is worthwhile. He believes that all of life is merely training for us in how to die with the Remembrance of God in our hearts, minds and on our lips.
Ira Sirkar has served as the Sufi Faith Director with the GKC Interfaith Council since 2011. He has been a student of Sufism since 1976 and is an ordained minister, a Cherag, in the Sufi Universal Worship, a concentration that brings the world’s religions together to promote understanding and spiritual awakening for humanity in a prayer service.
He is also a leader of the Dances of Universal Peace, which uses sacred phrases from the world’s faiths traditions, attunements with embodiments of the divine, music and simple dances in a moving mediation and tantric practice.
He has also served as the Kansas City program coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker-based peace and justice organization since 1986. In that capacity he has organized programs on conflict resolution, social and economic justice, opposition to war, promotion of peace and youth civic engagement and leadership.
He has a master’s degree in conflict resolution and bachelor’s degrees in art/environmental science and elementary education. He is an avid gardener and was the founding director of the KC Community Garden Project. He is happily married and lives and gardens with his wife, Leila, in south Kansas City.
The Reverend Dr. Kendyl Gibbons is the 15th senior minister at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church. She is a lifelong Unitarian Universalist, a recognized leader in the continental Association, and past president of the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association. Kendyl is a graduate of the College of William and Mary, with Bachelor of Arts degrees s in Religion and Sociology. She holds a Master’s degree from the University of Chicago Divinity School, and a Doctorate of Ministry from Meadville/Lombard Theological School.
Kendyl has a long-standing commitment to theological education and the future of ministry. She has formally supervised more than twenty student ministry internships, and been an informal teacher and mentor to dozens of seminarians. She has been an adjunct faculty member of the United Theological Seminary in the Twin Cities, and former Co-Dean and Mentor for the Humanist Institute. She currently teaches in the areas of worship and liturgy, and the dynamics of professional leadership, and serves as adjunct faculty at her alma mater, Meadville/Lombard Theological School in Chicago.
As an active member of the Minneapolis Downtown Interfaith Clergy group, Kendyl traveled to Jerusalem and Bethlehem with twelve Christian, Muslim, and Jewish colleagues in January of 2007. Among her Unitarian Universalist colleagues, she recently chaired the committee that revised the Ministers Association code of conduct and professional guidelines.
Kendyl has been widely published in UU journals and publications, including Quest, Religious Humanism, and the UU World, and she has made numerous presentations at the annual UUA General Assemblies. She is a contributing author to Parenting Beyond Belief; On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion. Kendyl has received the John Burton Wolf Prize for Excellence in Preaching, and the Meadville Lombard Alumni/ae Association Excellence in Ministry Award. She lives in Kansas City, east of Troost, with her husband of 40 years, Mark, and two cats.
Linda Prugh is a member of the Vedanta Society of Kansas City, where she has served as secretary since 1980. She holds a Bachelors of Arts in English and Masters of Arts in Reading Education from the University of Missouri. She taught English in a public high school for five years and managed a private tutoring clinic for six years.
The first Vedanta Societies in the United States were founded by Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902), who travelled from India to speak on Vedanta at the World’s Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in 1893. The swami taught in the west for some years, then organized the Ramakrishna Order of India, a monastic organization named for his spiritual teacher, Sri Ramakrishna (1836-1886). Brother disciples of Vivekananda as well as their spiritual descendants also taught in the west. Today there are 17 Vedanta centers in the United States and centers on every continent.
Linda is the author of a biography of a bold, vivacious American woman who met Vivekananda in New York in 1895, became his disciple, and helped him carry the message of Vedanta to other U.S. cities as well as England and France. The book, Josephine MacLeod and Vivekananda’s Mission, was published in Chennai, India. Linda has also authored numerous articles on Vivekananda, Vedanta, and related topics, most of which have been published in journals of the Ramakrishna Order. She has also assisted others in research and editing for Vedanta books and articles. Currently she is working on an article devoted to the universality of Vedanta, as taught by Swami Vivekananda, and she is editing a series of articles on Vedanta and Christ.
Linda is a Vedanta student, claiming no expertise in any aspect of Vedanta teachings. However, she loves Vedanta as a philosophy, a spiritual path, and a way of life. She is married to Bill Prugh, an attorney and they are members of a Methodist church in Overland Park, and have a grown daughter in Chicago.
Alliance of Divine Love
Rev. Mary Gibson McCoy focuses on multicultural and interfaith education and relations, following a career as a real estate attorney with 30 years of experience in title underwriting. She is Founder and President of Cultural Crossroads, Inc., an ordained minister of the Alliance of Divine Love, an At-Large Director and Program Chair of the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council and President of the Heartland Chapter of the Alliance of Divine Love. In January, 2015, she became the Chair of the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council. She is also a member of the Religious Literacy Project task force and the Kansas City Hate Crimes Task Force.
She is the founder and former artistic director of IDIMO Dancers/DanceAmerica, a performing international dance troupe, and was a teacher and co-director of a community-based ethnic dance organization, as well as a past member/performer with numerous ethnic dance groups. Mary hasserved as director and officer of various professional associations during her real estate career: Women’s Chamber of Commerce – First VP and chair of various committees, Rural Northland Development Association – First VP, Director, Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association – committee chair, Platte County Bar Association – committee chair, and Arab-American Friendship Club – Social Director.
Rev. Kelly Isola, MDiv, is a consultant, teacher and author who shares her passion for living the two-fold path of an engaged spiritual life – embracing the inner path of wisdom and spiritual healing, as well as demonstrating the outer path of compassionate service. She holds several certifications in leading edge models of human and organizational development – focusing on how we create and relate to ourselves, each other and the world – as well as her specialty: the spiritual practice of conflict transformation. Kelly partners with faith communities and non-profit organizations to move through times of personal and organizational change and transformation efficiently, effectively and with sustainable results.
She has been working with Dr. Barry Johnson over the past seven years in learning, teaching, applying and embodying Polarity Wisdom™. She is one of a handful of Certified Master Level Polarity Practitioner, and is an active resource for Polarity Partnerships. She is also a Core Faculty member for the Institute for Polarities and Paradox.
She has written numerous articles for Unity magazine, various booklets, and a number of online magazines. She is also the co-author of the bestselling book, “Who Have You Come Here To Be: 101 Possibilities for Contemplation.” Read more about Kelly at www.kellyisola.com
Dr. Nakao was raised in the Methodist faith, and began her search for unification with the heart/mind of God at a young age, encouraging her parents to attend church as a child, even when on vacation in other states. After finishing her Ph.D. in Art Education at the University of Missouri, she was led to the practice of Sukyo Mahikari through a colleague at Northern Kentucky University.
She has now practiced this spiritual path, which is compatible with many faiths and teaches the importance of interfaith collaboration for achieving the ultimate goal of God’s Plan on earth, for about thirty-five years. She was formerly a center director for Sukyo Mahikari in at the Kentucky Renrakusho and the Cincinnati Okiyomesho, and a North American Regional Jun Kanbu (assistant staff). She now serves as a “pioneering member” in the Heartland and gives purification by God’s Light at Light Circles in and around Kansas and Missouri. She was also one of the founding members of the Caucus on the Spiritual in Art Education (CSAE) of the National Art Education Association, and served as the Assistant Chair from 2009 – 2011 and the Chair of the caucus from 2011-2013.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
I am a lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. One of the basic tenets of our faith states, “We claim the privilege of worshipping almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience and allow all men this same privilege; let them worship how, where, or what they may.” I join with the Interfaith Council as an At-Large Director to help promote understanding among all of us, whatever our faith.
In my family life, I am a mother of six adult children, and we have 20 grandchildren. My family is one of my highest priorities.
In my professional life, I have done a number of things from being a full-time mother, to owning my own business, to being a computer programmer, then a project manager. I now run a root cause analysis program at Cerner Corporation trying to improve the quality of our software to help improve patient outcomes.
On a volunteer basis, I have served in several positions within my faith: president of our children’s organization, president of our Young Women’s organization, early morning religious instructor for high school students, and emergency preparedness specialist. I current serve as Director of Public Affairs for the Church Kansas City and most of northwest Missouri and northeast Kansas. One of my main concerns and efforts is around protecting and defending religious liberty so that we can all continue to worship as we please.
I look forward to serving shoulder-to-shoulder with others because serving together builds greater understanding and love between people.
Peter R. Jarosewycz is a retired attorney. His ancestral religion is Ukrainian Catholic, often referred to as “Byzantine Catholic” or “Greek Catholic.” Several of his ancestors were priests. Today he is active in the Unity movement and in the Ukrainian-American Community.
Originally from New York, Bill has served in the Midwest for all but four of thirty-five years of ministry in Roman Catholic, Presbyterian and Disciples of Christ traditions. He serves as Regional Minister and President for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Greater Kansas City where he works with pastors and lay leaders of eighty four congregations.
Rev. Rose-Heim, a graduate of Rockhurst University and St. Paul School of Theology is married to Donna Rose-Heim (also an ordained minister) and is the father of five children. Bill is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and has also served for 15 years in emergency services as a certified firefighter, chaplain and instructor. He was co-chair of the Missouri Governor’s Faith Based Organization Disaster Initiative Committee and President of the Missouri Interfaith Disaster Response Organization (MIDRO) and continues to serve on the Executive Committee of MIDRO.
He was elected to the Cameron City Council in 2013 and served on the Economic Development and Public Safety Committees until he was called to his current position in November, 2015. He is active in the Kansas chapter of the Metropolitan Organization for Racial and Economic Equity and is a volunteer with Kansas City for Refugees.
Interfaith collaboration has always been a high priority for Bill who believes that the challenges and opportunities before the global community require recognition that every person has an essential contribution to make to the common good and the health of the world. The diversity and mutual respect offered by the members of the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council provides a great context for planning and coordinating activities that promote greater understanding and inclusion.
Sheila Sonnenschein was born and raised in Kansas City. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Education from the University of Kansas before moving to the Washington, DC area with her husband, Ken. There she started the Northern VA chapter of the Parent Education Network and helped organize educational programs for Friends of the National Zoo. After moving to St. Louis, Sonnenschein and her husband started the Mitzvah Garden where volunteers planted, weeded and harvested produce for those in need. Sonnenschein was a parent educator with Our Jewish Home, making visits to Jewish families, teaching and facilitating Jewish practices in the home.
Now living in Overland Park, Kansas with her husband and four children, Sonnenschein is a community advocate and freelance writer. She started the Table to Table program for Yachad, the Kosher food pantry. Donors use centerpieces for celebrations. The donation helps buy food for the pantry, which supports people in need, regardless of their faith.
Most recently, Sonnenschein has been involved in bridging different faith communities. She helped form the Kansas City Women’s Interfaith Circle; co-chaired the Table of Faiths Luncheon in 2006 and 2007; has been a member of the Festival of Faiths committee since 2007; chaired Peace by Piece featuring Noa Baum in September 2005; and was a committee member of Salaam/Shalom, a gathering of over 500 people in 2005 and 2006. Through the International Visitors Council, Sonnenschein and her husband have hosted delegates from around the world.
In addition to being an at-large member on the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council, Sonnenschein is the first non-Muslim board member of the Crescent Peace Society, a former board member of the National Council of Jewish Women and a former board member of the Kansas City Press Club. Her articles have been published in The Catholic Reporter, Outlook Magazine, The New Light, Being Jewish, Suburban Journal of St. Louis, The Kansas City Star, and, the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle.
Sonnenschein received the Peace Award from the Crescent Peace Society in 2005, the YWCA’s Heart of Gold Award for Racial Justice in 2006, and an award from Al-Inshirah Mosque in 2007. She enjoys gardening, cycling, and making Challah, the Jewish Sabbath bread, each week. She and her family are members of Congregation Beth Shalom.