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This Year's Special Guests

Rev. Dr. Eric Elnes is the Senior Pastor of Countryside Community Church (UCC) in Omaha, Neb. He is also the host of Darkwood Brew, a weekly, interactive webcast that gathers people from around the world for an engaging exploration of Convergence Christianity using a blend of ancient Christian mystical practice (lectio divina), modern interactive web technology, world-class jazz, arts, biblical scholarship, special guests from around the world via Skype. With a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from Princeton Theological Seminary, Elnes is the author of several books and publications including, The Phoenix Affirmations: A New Vision for the Future of Christianity (Jossey-Bass, 2006) and a book on experiential worship called Igniting Worship: The Seven Deadly Sins (Abingdon, 2004), and his forthcoming book, Gifts of the Dark Wood: Seven Paths Beyond Religious Certainty That Point A Way Home (Abingdon, 2015). 

Dr. Elnes also helped lead a 2,500 walk from Phoenix to Washington, DC, in 2006 to promote awareness of progressive Christian faith and practice and meet with Christians at a grassroots to hear their hopes and dreams for the future of faith in America. His journey, which is the subject of a feature-length film, The Asphalt Gospel, is recounted in his book, Asphalt Jesus: Finding a New Christian Faith on the Highways of America (Jossey-Bass, 2007). 

The Rev. Dr. Ben Guess is executive minister of the UCC's Local Church Ministries and a member of the UCC's four-person national Collegium of Officers, based in Cleveland, Ohio. He has also served the UCC as Justice and Witness Ministries' communications minister, editor of United Church News and the UCC's news director, and communication director. Prior to coming to the UCC's national offices, Guess was a local church pastor for 12 years. Guess has written more than 500 articles on all aspects of the church, earning him more than 60 awards. Guess earned a B.A. degree in journalism from the University of Kentucky. He completed graduate studies in public administration and public policy at Murray State University, and earned his M.Div. degree in 1991 from Vanderbilt University Divinity School. He received his D.Min. degree in preaching from UCC-related Chicago Theological Seminary in 2001.

Chuck Maronhic has had the privilege of serving as Music Director in numerous churches including United Methodist, Roman Catholic and United Churches of Christ. He is also a frequent guest performer and clinician at many churches and conferences throughout the US. His association with Rev. Dr. Eric Elnes began at Scottsdale Congregational United Church of Christ in Scottsdale, AZ where he served as Director of Music for the now well-known Studio Worship service.

After retiring from Arizona State University in 2003 as Director of Jazz Studies and moving to Louisville, KY with his wife Mary Ann, Chuck was asked by Eric Elnes, now senior Pastor at Countryside Community Church in Omaha, NE to help develop a jazz based worship service there. During this period, Rev .Elnes approached Chuck with the idea of an Internet ministry. Both Eric and Chuck worked on developing what is now known worldwide as Darkwood Brew where Chuck served as Music Director leading a jazz quartet during its first two years.

In 2011 Chuck began composing original modern music for the Book of Psalms. The project is called The Jazz Psalms Project and is published for Music Serving the Word Ministries, Scottsdale, AZ. Chuck has numerous published books of jazz arrangements of church hymns for several publishers that are played around the world. He also has recorded over 50 CDs and albums. For a full discography and bibliography of Chuck's work, visit his website at: www.sanctuaryjazz.com and! www.musicservingtheword.org

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