Carl is serving as our Minister of Community Life, focusing on community life and small groups. He brings a wealth of experience in ministry and a love for growing spiritual communities. Carl received his Master’s in Divinity at Fuller Theological Seminary and has previously been on staff with New Hope Covenant Church in East Oakland and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. He worked as the lead planner for Proposition 63 (The Mental Health Services Act) supporting mental health treatment and prevention services in Alameda County. Carl lives in the Sequoyah Hills neighborhood with his wife, Celia, and their three sons Caden, Camilo and Cairo. He first came to the East Bay to attend UC Berkeley and later earned a Master’s in Organizational Development from the California School of Professional Psychology in Alameda. Carl and Celia moved to East Oakland to be part of the Oak Park community, described in the short documentary “The Oak Park Story” and chronicled in Russell Jeung’s memoir, At Home in Exile: Finding Jesus among My Ancestors and Refugee Neighbors (2016). Carl enjoys laughing with friends, Onewheeling with his boys around the Bay Area, and living and dying with our local sports teams.
Family Ministries Director
Although I grew up in the Midwest, I have spent the majority of my adult life in the East Bay and it is definitely my home. I’ve worked in several churches over the years and I have taught in a couple of different schools – including Goshen University in South Korea – but my No. 1 priority has been raising my four kids. Now that I am on the cusp of being an “empty nester,” I am thrilled to be taking on the role of Director of Family Ministries where I can fulfill my desire to help families and children grow in their walk with God. Oakland City Church is such a unique place and I am truly blessed to be part of a church family that is passionate about creating a place where everyone – especially those who don’t feel like they belong – can celebrate the great news of Jesus Christ!
GENT GRUSH, Ministry Fellow
Gent serves as the Ministry Fellow at Oakland City Church, where he is also pursuing his ordination. After 10 years of campus ministry in southern California, Gent moved to Oakland with his wife, Bonnie, in 2017 and at that time began working on his MDIV through Fuller Theological Seminary, completing that degree in 2020. Gent and Bonnie welcomed their first child, Sadie Joy, in June of 2020 and deeply enjoy her curious and joyful personality. Over the past 10 years of ministry training, God has unequivocally called Gent to a ministry of reconciliation and justice that navigates the spiritual, social and political polarization of the 21st century with the heart and mind of Christ. As a white man, Gent feels a unique calling to follow the lead of many POC who have been speaking and leading toward racial justice for many years, while simultaneously feeling the burden to speak honestly, humbly and radically to his own community — realizing that in order to no longer burden POC with educating and leading white people, then white pastors and leaders must step up. As Gent continues his ministry in Oakland, he affirms his calling to embody and proclaim a holistic Gospel message that reconciles people to God and people to people through the cross of Christ and that builds a church and broader society where justice and flourishing for all people is realized.
Youth Ministry Intern
Faith directs Youth Ministries at Oakland City Church for the 456ers (youth who are in the 4th, 5th, and 6th grades) and for the 7 Uppers (youth in 7th-12th grades). Faith welcomes youth for fun, learning scripture, and fellowship together. She enjoys doing creative arts like painting, which are fun and calming for her.
REV. JUDY DURFF,
Rev. Judy Durff is serving as a mentor and spiritual director to OCC’s elders, deacons, administrative, and pastoral staff. Rev. Judy, a graduate of Fuller Seminary, was ordained in 1994 in the Presbyterian Church, USA (PCUSA), and served two large suburban churches in the field of spiritual formation. She graduated with a Diploma in the Art of Spiritual Direction from San Francisco Theological Seminary and has served as a spiritual director for more than 15 years. She is the founder and director of The Spiritual Center for Life’s Journey, serves as a spiritual director to individuals and groups, and leads retreats. She sees clients in Walnut Creek, CA, and makes Oakland City Church her spiritual home.
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Born and raised in Oakland, Susan Broadnax has served in ministry for more than 40 years as a Sunday school teacher, lay ministry, missions and pastor's wife. She is a mother, grandmother and has recently retired from a career in community investment banking with a focus on affordable housing.
It is an honor and a privilege to be the most recent nominee for the position of elder at Oakland City Church. This has been a year of transition for the church and for me personally. This month I joined the 30/30 Club. Retiring after 30 years of being an elementary school teacher and celebrating 30 years of marriage to my wife, Jacquelline. Jacquelline and I have been attending Oakland City Church for the past five years, and we have collectively served on the hospitality team and I have personally been a greeter and led a small group. I look forward to this new opportunity at OCC.
I have been a follower of Christ for most of my life now. The thing that has changed the most over the years is the ways I have chosen to follow Christ. I was raised in a conservative non-denominational Christian background. I grew up attending church every Sunday and always dressed up in church clothes. My childhood closet was almost evenly divided between hand-me downs and church clothes. I first got “saved” at 8 years old within this faith background, and it felt like a decision that was meant to be a natural choice at the time. However, faith for me during this time was about having a vague sense of the mercy of God, and a much stronger sense that God was the gatekeeper of either eternal damnation or eternal paradise. My choice in following Him and His Word was rooted largely in fear and that made my faith a feeble sort of faith. When I was a teenager I started to have doubts, especially whilst I was reading the Old Testament of my own accord without any guidance or mentorship. This led me to largely forsaking the Christian walk throughout most of my teenage years, though I kept a persistent belief in some sort of God throughout this time. When I was in college, I had a few different miraculous experiences that renewed my belief in the power of prayer and renewed my interest in understanding the Bible in a deeper and more profound way. It was at this time that I joined a Christian fellowship called Intervarsity that helped guide me to understand the intricacies of God throughout the Bible, and allowed me to come to terms with those parts of the Bible that troubled me. Intervarsity also allowed me to understand the merit of God’s diversity in creation, and how the beauty of that diversity extends to the diverse array of cultures that human beings have created in this world. Intervarsity led me to my next step in my faith journey by allowing me to join the program called Servant Partners. Through Servant Partners I gained an intimate understanding of how God has called Christians to be deeply concerned with those that would be considered “the least of these,” and showed me how we are called as servants of Christ to walk alongside, be in relation with, and support those that society deems less than. Since my time in Servant Partners, I have entered a place in my faith journey where I am learning to reconstruct my faith and understanding of God, especially in understanding the need to decolonize my faith, and readjust the importance I placed on certain theological frameworks throughout my faith journey. This part of my faith journey is the most unconventional I’ve had by far. I’m gaining new insights into Christ that I hadn’t even considered before, and I have become the most open to understanding Christ through a lens that extends farther out from the Bible than I had ever considered before as well. In short, I’m not certain if I feel qualified to be an elder at OCC, but I do feel led to be one. I recently co-founded the OCC Next Gen small group alongside Katie Kilby, and one of the first sentiments I had when beginning the group was that I wanted a larger voice for the younger demographic at OCC. I wanted us to feel like we had a say in OCC so that we could also firmly say that we had a place in OCC, and that’s been an important element of the group since its inception. We regularly discuss the different things going on within the church and, as a result, we also discuss different courses of action that we may want to take concerning those things. I believe that my becoming an elder at OCC would be an extension of that sentiment that was a part of the founding of the OCC Next Gen group. By becoming an elder at OCC, I could ensure that a voice is had for the younger demographic of OCC within the elder board and that we are truly represented. I’m unsure of what that would mean of my eldership when I am beyond my young years (there’s a bit of irony in that), but I am freely choosing into this for what will be best for OCC in the here and now. I trust that making the right choices in the here and now will guide OCC to the best direction for its future.
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Belinda Bandstra is a founding member of Oakland City Church, and a native of the Bay Area. She is married to Mark and together have served in many ways in the church. She works as an assistant professor in psychiatry and behavioral science.
Ben De Winkle
Ben was born and raised in Grand Rapids, MI. He grew up in the Christian Reformed Church, and attended a Christian elementary, middle, and high school. These early experiences grounded his faith as he went on to live in various cities all over the country — and all over the world. In each of these places, he has joined a community of faith and each has in turn shown him a different side of what it means to be in a relationship with God. Through this, he has grown in the faith and drawn closer to Christ. Ben joined OCC with his wife, Ophelia Ma, when they moved to Oakland in 2018, and currently works as a data analyst for healthcare public policy. “It has been a gift to worship at OCC for the last couple of years. I truly appreciate that the community does not shy away from difficult conversations, but instead tries to tackle them head on with grace and understanding. I am excited to engage with the OCC community more deeply, and I find great joy in supporting those around me. Through prayerful discernment individually and with the current deacons, I believe God is calling me to be a deacon in order to continue my walk with Him and to serve the OCC community. I would be honored to be trusted with the responsibility of deaconship, and blessed to allow this ministry to mold me more into the image of God.”
Phil is a parishioner at OCC originally from Chicago but most recently residing in Alameda. He has worked in Manufacturing management for the last 5 years but is also pursuing a graduate certificate in theology at Church Divinity School of the Pacific. Phil’s favorite thing about church is being able to discuss and be supported by others through some of life’s most challenging questions. In his free time, he enjoys moderate hikes and a slightly challenging game of pickleball. "I believe I’m called to be a deacon because I want to support the church and its congregation in the various matters that come up. I know church is not just a Sunday event but rather something that impacts people and communities each day of the week. I would like to be there to support the work that’s continually going on."
Ophelia grew up in Shanghai, China, and came to the U.S. for college, where she came in contact with the Christian faith for the first time. Before learning any theology or bible stories, she was attracted to the way that the students in her college Christian fellowship loved one another. In Nov 2010, she gave her life to Jesus and was baptized. Over the years, her understanding of God's love has grown: during an urban ministry internship, she learned about God's love for the poor; during her time living in Israel and later, and when she moved back to work in China, she experienced God's love for the nations; in her day job as a middle school teacher, she tries to live out God's love for children; through her marriage, she has gained new insights into God's love for herself. Ophelia joined Oakland City Church when she and her husband, Ben De Winkle, moved to the Bay Area in 2018, and OCC has been a big part of their decision to make Oakland their home. “I believe that the Deacon's ministry is core to OCC fulfilling its mission: ‘People who don't belong together, gathered around Jesus for the sake of those who don't belong.’ It blesses me to be able to walk alongside people through challenging times and help them receive from the Lord. Also, I admire those who notice and understand the needs of the OCC and wider Oakland community, and I want to support them in making the most impact!”
Joy was born and raised on the Caribbean island of Trinidad, where as a child she was baptised and confirmed into the Anglican Church. As a result of the rich diversity of the culture, she, from an early age was exposed to a wide variety of religions and styles of worship. From Hinduism, Catholicism, Islam, Buddhism to Orisha, Hare Krishna and Eckankar. As a child she became a member of the Unity Church of Christianity where she continued through high school and college years, serving as a Y.O.U. (Youth of Unity) Leader, facilitating sunrise meditations and classes in the principles of the Unity way of Life for members 21 and under. She credits the principles of Unity with teaching her how to live more harmoniously with others. Seeking deeper understanding and meaning, she became a member of the Spiritual Baptist Faith. There she realised the need to live life at a deeper Spiritual level and embarked on learning all that entailed. She fell back into the Unity church after moving to New York as a result of a lack of options. She continued there for several more years, even after moving to the Bay Area, until finally she found and joined a Church Of God In Christ (COGIC) organisation. She served in her home church as an Usher, AudioVisual Operations leader and an Office Administrator; processing and posting members' contributions, paying bills and preparing tax statements. It was the 12 years of learning and working at that church home that gave her the deep appreciation of the need for serving in building a strong church community. Joy has been a part of OCC since July 2016 and now hopes to be able to serve in a more meaningful and impactful role going forward. “I have lived a very blessed and privileged life. Up until the age of 50, I wanted for very little. I had great jobs, a successful career and a couple of successful small business endeavors. I was able to guide, assist and develop a number of young people who went on to become successful professionals, home and business owners. My life was fulﬁlling. It was not until the age of 50 that I became the one needing the help. I had lost just about everything; job, career, home, health and even family. It has been the kindness, prayers, generosity and support of the faithful in my church communities, along with my faith in God, that picked me up, kept me standing and kept me going for the last decade of my life. I would have probably given up without it. While volunteering my time and skills to my previous church, though mostly in the office and behind the scenes, I was also able to see ﬁrsthand, the impact of the staff and volunteer workers on the many lives of the members and community. I have a great longing to be able to serve in a similar, more tangible fashion and to make some attempt to pay it forward, while still continuing to grow spiritually, becoming a true servant of the Lord. Being a deacon at OCC is a way I believe I can achieve those goals.”
Born and raised in Washington, DC, the oldest of three girls, I was practically a second mom to my much younger little sisters. I grew up in a very small and tight-knit church with an abundance of deep spiritual practices and teachings. But by my 20s, after encountering a series of disappointments with God, my parents, and the church, I took a break from organized faith practices. I needed distance from my parents’ beliefs, which felt stifling; I couldn’t find a way forward that felt real. In my 30s, I realized I was still a believer in God and in God’s love. I began to re-engage more fully with my faith and I’m grateful to the church community that I discovered at the time that helped me on that journey. I’ve been a longtime Bay Area resident. I feel at home in the outdoors and on my bike. I work in the environmental field, helping cities, developers, and public agencies’ clients build and implement projects that comply with environmental laws and regulations. Recently, I’m a proud auntie to two delightful towheaded kiddos. I’ve been attending OCC for about 5 years and was drawn to the community by the sincerity with which folks are pursuing relationships with God and with each other. I was intrigued by the mission statement and the specificity of the call and vision that it articulates. I appreciate the ways that people show up as real human beings. I feel it is a sacred call to be in this faith community and witness the mystery of God’s love and redemption working among us. I feel called to belong to the OCC community and support the people as we live into the calling of people who don’t look like they belong, or otherwise might not belong together, finding community together with Jesus at the center, and expanding that to include others who have not yet been welcomed into the community or feel like they are on the outskirts. That is not an easy calling, but I do want to be committed to praying with and supporting the members of the church and those beyond the church in this journey. And my prayer is that God would work that out in my heart and life as well.