Pastor Beth serves as Senior Pastor at Oakland City Church. Beth received a Master of Divinity at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan where she received recognition in the areas of preaching, writing, and ethics. While in seminary, she was part of a two-year cohort of pastors, professors, and government leaders studying systemic violence in New York City, Detroit, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Beth served as Pastor of Discipleship at Hope Church in Holland, MI, for eight years, which is where she also was ordained. There, she specialized in creating safe and brave spaces for those experiencing unwelcome or trauma in past churches, especially those in the LGBTQIA community and others marginalized because of their mental health. She nurtured the congregation to expand the work of inclusion and facilitated healing, both for those pushed to the margins and the greater community. She has excitement, energy, and drive in living her call to follow Christ: “to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, and proclaim the good news of God’s favor”. Originally from Michigan, Beth served for eight years in youth and young adult ministry, after transitioning out of a career in sales management. Beth has spent her vocational life engaged in her passions for community building, mentoring, and discipleship. One of her favorite life circumstances is when a friend or colleague from one of her circles builds a relationship with a friend from another. Beth is married to her husband, Richard Perez, who is a theatre professional and writer. She has two adult children; Josiah who lives in Michigan and Natalie who is in Oakland. Beth enjoys writing, laughing with others, exercising, and watching live theatre, music, and stand-up comedy. Pastor Beth uses she/her/hers pronouns.
REV. CARL PASCUAL,
Minister of Church Engagement
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.
REV. GENT GRUSH, Minister of Worship Engagement, City Engagement
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, in June of 2020 and their second child, June, in May of 2022. 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 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.
Njeri Kamau-Devers is serving as our Children’s Ministry Coordinator, ensuring that our little ones are welcome and seen in the church space. Through the Godly Play curriculum, children are invited to step into direct relationship with God and wonder about His stories in the Bible. Njeri brings 10 years of experience working with children to her role, including working as a private Chinese tutor for Bay Area children (2011 to present), as well as a Chinese teacher in the Mafanikio after-school program at West County Mandarin School (2021 to present). A native of Oakland, she lives at home with her family. Her passions include Bible study, studying Cantonese, swimming and creative writing.
Velina Barnes has served in ministry for over 30 years. She was an active Stephen’s minister for over 10 years and has served on the leadership team for several ministries. She has worked in middle school ministry, the nursery, church event planning, organized and led retreats, conferences and women's ministry. Velina is a wife and mother of four now young adult children. Velina is originally from the west coast of Florida, and has lived in Oakland for more than 25 years. She works as an asset manager for an investment firm in Walnut Creek and loves hiking, sailing and being out in nature every minute she can.
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 came to faith in Jesus in 2003 or thereabouts, while a high school student in Chicago, IL. Like many folks, Jesus and faith were significant parts of my family’s identity and calendar. I did not whole-heartedly believe in these things until one particular night that year where I experienced a deep bliss and a loud call to draw closer to the Jesus I had so often heard about. There aren’t enough pages or books to capture the contours of my faith journey since then, but in 2019 I walked into the doors and halls of Oakland City Church looking for, more than anything, a friend. I was new to the San Francisco Bay Area and if my faith journey had taught me nothing else, it was that those genuinely transformed by God make for good friends and if there so happened to be a place on earth that begged to foster such transformation, I might find a friend there. By no work of my own, I was right. At OCC I have found friends and pastors whose genuine embrace of me and the God of the universe has very readily allowed me to reciprocate that embrace. In the midst of this communion, I have found deep love and healing for my own soul and that healing, like a well-planted seed, has, in some ways, grown me into someone I now hope can help pass that healing to others. As a deacon, I have been able to gain a sense of both the needs of the community within the church and the needs of the community outside of it. Furthermore, I have gained a significant understanding of how these things overlap. I have been able to see that our congregation and greater community is diverse in many ways but similar in the universal need of Christ and love. I have gotten to know people in both these categories and recognize that they have spiritual, and material needs that need to be met daily. In light of this I have come to recognize that we as a church and church leadership team should do all we can to meet these needs while simultaneously recognizing that some of these needs are systemic and may require interaction and effort from me on a more global scale. I have had multiple opportunities to serve in worship through prayer and preaching and I recognize the ongoing need of the church and leadership to serve, in worship, the needs that dawn our doorsteps on Sundays but also throughout the week. In my time as a deacon, I have become especially aware of the humanity of our pastors and the needs they have as people with families and personalities. From this I recognize the church’s need to have a reciprocal relationship with its leaders, one in which everyone feels loved and supported. The role of a deacon has placed me right in the middle of the sometimes joyous and sometimes saddening stories which most reveal the ongoing work of God that must be done in the Oakland community and world at-large. The work is great and I’m excited for all the ways I might join in. In the end, I am constantly reminded that Christ is for all and I am then made to realize that the invitation to bring my gifts is another representation of Christ working through me and to others. Ultimately, I now feel called to step into the position of Elder at Oakland City Church with the hope that in this position, I can offer even more of my gifts and insights to the growth and goodness of the church.
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.