Board of Directors

Board Biographies

Jean Alexander

Jean Alexander is a retired pastor with extensive leadership and board experience. She was the Maine Conference Minister in the United Church of Christ from 1997-2005, and has served on the UCC Insurance Board and the UCC Executive Committee, as well as two terms on the board of trustees of Bangor Seminary. As a member of the First Congregational Church in Washington, DC, she has played a pivotal role in keeping and sharing their history. Rev. Alexander received a B.A. in Music from the University of Wisconsin and her M.Div. from Chicago Theological Seminary. Now retired, she enjoys gardening, singing, traveling, and reading anything and everything she likes.

Christopher Bennet

Chris Bennett has been a member of Congregational churches his entire life. He grew up in the Wellesley Hills Congregational Church in Massachusetts, and, for the last thirty-plus years, he and his wife (a Yale Divinity School graduate, like Chris a “Cradle Congregationalist”) have been members of the First Congregational Church of Ridgefield, Connecticut. At FCC Ridgefield, he chaired the committee that oversaw a $5 million renovation project, and continues to work with leadership on facilities and capital improvement questions and on financial issues. He is an officer of the board of the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra. Chris retired from Verizon as Associate General Counsel after a career of more than thirty years. With Verizon and its predecessor companies, he held responsibilities in a range of areas, including mergers and acquisitions, regulatory, human resources, corporate governance, and general business law, and was General Counsel of Verizon International. Chris is a graduate of Amherst College (American Studies major) and Harvard Law School.

Mary Biedron

Rev. Dr. Mary Biedron is Senior Minister of North Congregational Church in Farmington Hills, Michigan. She is a fellow of the Congregational Foundation for Theological Studies of the NACCC and continues to serve on the NACCC Christian Education Commission and as a consultant for the Center for Congregational Leadership. A graduate of the University of Michigan, she received her M.Div. and D. Min. from Methodist Theological School in Ohio. Biedron is active in the Farmington area Interfaith Association, serving as director of the CROP walk, and as a member of the Interfaith Leadership Council of Metro Detroit.

Francis Bremer

Dr. Francis J. Bremer is Professor Emeritus of History at Millersville University in Pennsylvania. He received the B.A. from Fordham College and Ph.D. from Columbia University, while also studying at Union Theological Seminary. Bremer has been a visiting scholar at New York University, Oxford University, the University of Cambridge, and Trinity College Dublin. Dr. Bremer is a premier expert on Puritanism in the Atlantic world and a prolific author. His book, John Winthrop: America's Forgotten Founding Father (2003) was submitted for a Pulitzer Prize, and won the John C. Pollock Award for Christian biography. First Founders: American Puritans and Puritanism in the Atlantic World was a selection of the History Book Club, and his biography of John Davenport, Building a New Jerusalem: John Davenport, a Puritan in Three Worlds was shortlisted for the New England Society in the City of New York award for nonfiction in 2013 and the nonfiction award for the Mountain & Plains Independent Booksellers Association.

Karen S. Byrne

Rev. Karen S. Byrne is a retired UCC pastor who has served in Maine and Washington, D.C., and also a practicing lawyer, as a partner in Haberstein and Byrne until 2013 and now as counsel to Misra Law PLLC. She received the M.Div. from Union Theological Seminary and J.D. from the University of Virginia. Byrne is an active member of the UCC, as a spiritual director, transitional ministry specialist, and in interfaith conversations.

Davis Dyer

Dr. Davis Dyer is Founding director of the Winthrop Group, a company providing historical writing and research for corporations, families, and individuals, and a Senior Partner and Director of Research at Rosc Global LLC. He received both the A.B. and Ph.D. in history from Harvard University, and is the author of many books and articles, as well as case studies and an award-winning film script. Dr. Dyer is a member of the First Congregational Church (UCC) in Cambridge, MA.

Mark Gabrielson, Vice Chair

Mark Gabrielson's enthusiasm for maritime history has moved from an active interest to a profession. This Princeton graduate and senior corporate executive continued his education at the US Naval War College then Harvard University where he earned a Masters in Liberal Arts in 2012. Author of Deer Isle's Undefeated America's Cup Crews: Humble Heroes from a Down East Island, Mark lectures and writes about maritime history in the United States and Europe. Mark brings extensive board experience to the Association. He is a Fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society, serves on the Board of the Bostonian Society, and is a member of Old South Church in Boston.

Stephen C. Gray

Rev. Stephen Gray is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. He spent twelve years as Conference Minister of the Indiana-Kentucky Conference, UCC. Rev. Gray served on the conference staffs of the Massachusetts Conference and Penn Northeast Conference, UCC. As a specialist in stewardship and financial development, he has served as a consultant in churches around the country. Rev. Gray is a graduate of Middlebury College, VT and received his M.Div. from Duke Divinity School, Durham, NC. He and his wife Lennie worship at First Parish Church, Brunswick, ME.

Jonathan Guest

After graduation from seminary, Rev. Guest became a UCC pastor at The Park Church in Elmira, NY, where he also taught part-time in a local college and maximum-security prison. While a doctoral student in New Testament, he was a part-time pastor at Second Church in Newton. Following a legal education, he joined large Boston law firms and as a partner specialized in corporate and securities law (public and private offerings of equity and debt, domestic and international mergers & acquisitions) and institutional governance (including non-profits). After a law firm career, Rev. Guest was chief executive officer of a New York research foundation supporting research on neurodegenerative diseases and an adjunct professor in the Transactional Law Program at Boston University. Board memberships include The Jaffna College Fund (supports schools in Sri Lanka), the Heritage Chorale (tenor section), and the Massachusetts Conference of the UCC where he chairs its investment committee. (B.A. Wesleyan; M.Div. and Th.M. (New Testament/Ancient Christianity) Harvard; J.D. Cornell; and LL.M. (taxation) Boston University.)

Charles Hambrick-Stowe, Chair

As a pastor and theologian, Rev. Dr. Charles Hambrick-Stowe serves as Senior Minister of the First Congregational Church in Ridgefield, CT. Prior to that he was Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dean of the Seminary, and Professor of Christian History at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL. Charles received his M.A. and M.Div. from the Pacific School of Religion and his Ph.D. from Boston University. He has written or edited seven books and numerous articles about American religion, including studies of Puritan spirituality, the Great Awakening, and nineteenth-century evangelist and social reformer Charles G. Finney.

James A. Hopkins

A lifelong member of Riverpoint Congregational Church in West Warwick, RI, Jim Hopkins has thirty-five years of experience in manufacturing operations management with a focus on organizational performance. This included more than ten years serving as a Vice President and Managing Director of European operations for the Wardwell Braiding Machine Company in Berlin, Germany. Jim is an experienced board member and trustee, serving on the board of the University of Rhode Island Foundation, the Anthony Lyceum Library Association, Coventry, RI, the board of the Centreville Bank, and Care New England, an organization of four hospitals and a VNA. He also serves on the Board of Governors of the Congregational Foundation.

Thomas Knoles

Thomas Knoles is the Librarian Emeritus at the American Antiquarian Society, where he served as Marcus A. McCorison Librarian from 2006 to 2018, Curator of Manuscripts, 1990-2018, and Head of Readers’ Services, 1995-2000. He earned a Ph.D. in Classics from Rutgers University, and has written and presented extensively on topics relating to digital humanities and manuscript editing. At present he is editing The Diary of William Bentley, 1783-1819, for the Colonial Society of Massachusetts. He is an Academic Affiliate in The Writings of Henry D. Thoreau Project, University of California, Santa Barbara, reviewing and revising transcripts of Thoreau journals prior to their publication. He is a member of the Collections Committee of the Massachusetts Historical Society and the Website Committee for the Colonial Society of Massachusetts.

Linda Smith Rhoads, Secretary

Linda Smith Rhoads is Editor Emerita of The New England Quarterly: A Historical Review of New England Life and Letters, where she served from 1981 to 2015. As Manager of the Education Initiative of the Massachusetts Historical Society she planned and launched its first program for K-12 teachers; in 2004 she wrote and was awarded a major NEH grant to construct “The Coming of the American Revolution: A Web-based Timeline/Documentary History.” Rhoads is town appointee of the Cultural Council of the Northern Berkshires and a member of the First Congregational Church in North Adams, Massachusetts.

Jonathan Roach

Rev. Dr. Roach is a minister, theologian, author, and librarian. Jonathan earned a BA in English Education from Anderson University, a Master of Library and Information Science from Wayne State University, a Master of Divinity from Ecumenical Theological Seminary, and a PhD in practical theology from St. Thomas University. He has over 30 professional publications including his book, Expressing Theology, which was published in 2015. Jonathan served as Interim-Dean of the Library at St. Thomas University until 2016 when he was called to become the settled pastor and teacher of Stratham Community Church, United Church of Christ in New Hampshire.

Stephen R. Silver, Treasurer

Rev. Stephen Silver is the minister of the First Congregational Church of Lebanon, NH. He previously served as Affiliated Minister at Trinitarian Congregational Church in Concord, MA, and Chief Development and Stewardship Officer for the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. Steve enjoyed two decades in educational advancement at leading institutions including Harvard Law School and Tufts University. He holds an A.B. in Politics from Brandeis University, an M.B.A. in Marketing and International Management from Cornell University, and both a Master of Liberal Arts in Religion and a Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School. He lives in Lebanon with his family.

Julie Johnston Staples

Reverend Julie Johnson Staples is a Collegiate Senior Minister serving as Executive Director of Intersections International, an organization that serves as a catalyst to unite disparate groups to forge a common ground in social justice and global peacemaking. She was ordained as a Congregational minister at Plymouth Church in Brooklyn. Rev. Johnson Staples received her B.S. degree in journalism from the William Allen White School of Journalism and Public Information at the University of Kansas, and her J.D. degree from Georgetown University Law Center. She received her M.Div. degree with honors and distinction in Biblical Studies/Hebrew Bible from the Union Theological Seminary in 2011. In 2012 Rev. Johnson Staples completed a Th.M. degree in Religion, Literature and Culture at Harvard University. Before leaving to enter seminary, Rev. Johnson Staples was a managing director and partner at Warburg Pincus, the global private equity firm based in New York. Earlier in her career, she was the Justice Department correspondent for ABC News and the Supreme Court correspondent for TIME magazine. In addition to reporting on law and politics, she has twice worked as a White House correspondent, for The New York Times and for the Baltimore Sun. Born and raised in Des Moines, Iowa, Rev. Johnson Staples lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. She is married and has one son.

Adrian Chastain Weimer

Dr. Adrian Chastain Weimer is Associate Professor of History at Providence College. She received her Ph.D. from Harvard University. Her first book, Martyrs' Mirror: Persecution and Holiness in Early New England (Oxford, 2011) explores how puritans, Baptists, and Quakers imagined themselves within historical narratives of persecution, especially the stories in John Foxe’s “Book of Martyrs.” Her work has been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Young Scholars in American Religion program, and most recently through 2017-2018 NEH Long-term Research Fellowships from the Massachusetts Historical Society and the American Antiquarian Society.