Regional Women's Ministry Partners Biographies

Regional Women's Ministry Partners Biographies

Debbie Hoogesteger
Great Lakes Region

Greetings of Peace and Joy!  I’m Debbie Hoogesteger, the UCC Women's Ministry Consultant for a portion of the Great Lakes Region, serving the Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio Conferences.  What does that mean exactly? It means that I'm here to help enhance women's ministry programs in the local churches, associations, and conferences in the UCC's Great Lakes Region by providing resources and support!

My hope for this new program is that we create a network of diverse women who are called to share experiences unique to women.  My vision is that in this witness, collaboration, sharing, networking and embracing, we will be transformed, empowered and encouraged to go out into the world in service.
I'm a long time member of First Congregational UCC of Wisconsin Rapids WI, at present serving the adult education, care and hospitality ministries of the church.   As a student of faith and ministry, I’m in my 4th year of the Wisconsin Conference Lay Academy Program.

I've been an advocate and supporter for Back Bay Mission of Biloxi MS for many years. Mission and justice issues sit next to the core of my soul. If I had a dog, its name would be Micah (do justice, love kindness, walk humbly). Micah...or perhaps Samwise (Frodo's trustworthy companion).

I’m a member of a local book club (Changing Chapters) and a local writing community (Pen 2 Paper).
My husband, Jim, and I are empty-nesters and new grandparents!  All three children are married and out of the area (Raleigh NC, Denver CO and Johnson Creek WI).  I've also taken on a family caregiver role for my mother who has a multitude of chronic health problems. On the Women In Mission webpage I'm blogging about caregiver issues - hoping to share insights on my struggles and discoveries while I am on this caregiver journey with my mom.

Peace and blessings to you!
Debbie Hoogesteger
1730 Bob O Link Court
Wisconsin Rapids WI  54494

Deborah Dee Brayton
Mid Atlantic Region
…Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our area of activity among you will greatly expand, so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you.
    2 Corinthians 10: 15-16 (NIV)

Greetings! My name is Deborah Dee Brayton and I am the Mid Atlantic Region Women’s Ministry Consultant. I am a long time member of St. Albans Congregational Church UCC in St. Albans, Queens New York; where the Rev. Dr. Henry T. Simmons is the Senior Minister. At St. Albans I am a Church School Teacher, Convener of the Agape (Counseling) Ministry), Coordinator of Children’s Ministry, serve on the Stewardship Development Ministry, in addition to being a member of the Women’s Fellowship and North Carolina Club.

As a lay leader in the New York Conference I am a Partner In Education and Coordinator of the New York State Youth Committee. I am an Our Whole Lives trainer. On the National level I serve on the Board of Directors of the United Black Christians.

I attended New Brunswick Theological Seminary in pursuit of a Masters of Divinity Degree. I am a Licensed Social Worker working for the last 29 years in a municipal hospital. My passion is reading, traveling and spending time with family and friends.

My goal as the Mid-Atlantic Regional Consultant is to engage all women
particularly our younger women in women’s ministry and to serve as a resource for workshops and  training events.

I look forward to sharing in ministry with you.

Deborah Dee Brayton
917 375-9846

Willie Mae Hawkins
Southern Region

Greetings!    My name is Willie Mae Hawkins and I am the Southern Regional Women's Ministry Consultant.  My mission is to empower women to be the best God has called them to be.  In doing so, I aim to provide resources UCC offers and use my spiritual gifts as a speaker, coach, or workshops/seminar presenter. 

As your consultant, one of my goals is to learn more about the present activities within and among the churches, and participate in them if possible. So call me if you need me!  In addition, it is my hope to gather information on women events that each church conducts and share it with other women in the region.  If you are in the Southern conference, please log onto to enter your information. Others in the region may enter their information at  These websites enable us to stay in touch about future UCC Women events in our area. 

I continue to be excited about working with the women in the United Church of Christ!  Presently, I am an associate minister at Maple Temple UCC, Raleigh NC, under the leadership of Pastor-Teacher K. Ray Hill.  I am an advocate for single parents and the founder of Spring, Inc.-A National Single Parenting Ministry (  I am a proud parent of W. Rayvon Hawkins.

I have obtained training as an intentional interim pastor, a Masters of Divinity from Virginia Union University, and presently completing a Doctor of Ministry from Regent University.  My ministerial skills consist of serving as a mental therapist rendering counseling services to adults and children; an adjunct religion instructor, hospital chaplain providing pastoral care and counseling as a hospital chaplain, received three clinical pastoral education (CPE) units.  In addition, I am the author of two books: She Builds a Vineyard: A Single Parent Struggles to Survive & the Journal.  What do I do for fun?  I go to the movies and workout in the gym.

Please let me know how I can serve you.  I look forward to working together!


Rev. Willie Mae Hawkins

(252) 445-5258

Rachel Chapman

Namaste! I am blessed to be one of the two Women’s Ministry Consultants for the UCC Western Region. I am looking forward to working with the southwest, Northern California & Nevada, Southern California & Nevada, and Hawaii Conferences.

My hopes are that the Women’s Ministry Consultant Project will enable women to connect and build relationships, allowing us to explore and grow in our spirituality as well as expand on the purposes God has for us. I believe that through sharing our experiences with our sisters we are better able to gain an understanding, unity and recognition that no matter what our ethnicity, culture or backgrounds, a concern for one woman is a concern for all women. As demonstrated throughout history, when women come together literally and figuratively we create a strong force. I am hopeful that this project will reach, uplift and encourage all women to feel connected and empowered to make a difference in the name of Jesus Christ.

I live in Chula Vista, California a few miles from downtown San Diego and even less from the US/Mexico border. We can be at the beach, the desert and the mountains in less than an hour. Originally from Pennsylvania, my husband and I have lived in this area for over thirty years. We have three children and three grandchildren. My hobbies include traveling, photography, crafting and cooking. I have recently become differently abled so I’ve become very interested in raising awareness about inclusion for people with mobility challenges.

My education and experience have lead to a focus on women’s issues and relationships.  As a consultant, I can be your resource for information and materials on women’s topics, Bible Studies, Mission Projects, Church Office Programs and more. Please let me know how I can be of service to you. You can reach me at 619-216-3222 and


Lizette Merchán Pinilla
West Central Region

Saludos to all ~ Greetings to all,
My name is Lizette Merchán Pinilla from the UCC Women's Consultant West Central Region.
I live in Tulsa, Oklahoma and belong to the Kansas-Oklahoma Conference. I am a newly ordained clergy in the UCC more exactly, May 18, 2008!
I am originally from Bogotá, Colombia (South America) and have been in the U.S. since 2001. I am the Director of Religious Activities & Education at my home church Community of Hope, UCC in Tulsa, Oklahoma. My church does a lot of Education & Outreach inside and outside the walls of our own church. At Community of Hope, UCC we strive to have our doors open to welcome all (We are an Open and Affirming Church) ~

As a UCC Hispanic/Latina Women's consultant clergy my hope is to become the link/the bridge between your local church/association/conference levels, and bring your talents, ministries, and interests to light as well as to share them in such a way that we can learn from one another, and work for the betterment of our beloved church and the world of the 21st century...

I serve as member in the UCAN Leadership Team (United Church of Christ HIV/AIDS Network) Also I serve as Co-Chair of the Justice & Witness Commission of the Kansas-Oklahoma Conference
I am part of the Hispanic/Latin@s authors initiative and Liturgical year of Local Church Ministries ~
So as you see I truly believe that thinking globally and acting locally can make of this, yours and mine...a better ministry and talent at a time!
I look forward to making dreams happen...together,
Rev. Lizette Merchán Pinilla
2545 S. Yale Ave.
Tulsa, Oklahoma 74114
(918) 747 6300 

Elaine Blanchard
West Central

Actor, Storyteller, Writer, Nurse, Chaplain

Elaine studied theater at Lambuth College in Jackson, TN and earned an associate degree in nursing from Union University in Jackson. She is a certified parish nurse. She worked for twenty years in acute care settings; ten years of that time she worked with people recovering from addictions.  She earned a BS from UT Martin in 1992, with a double major in English and philosophy. She earned her Master of Divinity from Memphis Theological Seminary.

Elaine began her ministry in the United Methodist Church, serving as a local pastor for Methodist congregations from 1989-1994.  Elaine has been engaged in effective ministries on the local, association and conference levels of the UCC since 1994.  Following her ordination in the UCC in 2000, she continued serving in authorized ministry until 2008.  Currently she works as a chaplain for Aseracare Hospice in Memphis.

Elaine’s first book, Help Me Remember, was published and recorded by Pilgrim Press in 2005. Her short fiction has won Honorable Mention in the 2008 Memphis Magazine Fiction Contest, and her nonfiction has been published by Christian Century magazine. To hear her read her original work, go to

Elaine has been trained in nonviolent conflict resolution through Marshall Rosenberg’s Center for Nonviolent Communication  She is licensed as a Rule 31 Mediator for family mediation, and is currently a Regional Consultant for Women’s Ministries in the West Central Region of the United Church of Christ.

Elaine facilitates an ongoing class at Shelby County’s prison for women. The class meets twice a week. Over a four month period each class of twelve participants builds trust, shares stories and creates a dramatic staged production for the entire prison population. She teaches a weekly HIV Education Class at the city jail for women and preaches at the TN State facility.

Elaine writes the stories of people who can no longer tell their own stories, people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia. She interviews family members to create these “I Am Stories.”

Elaine co-wrote the play, For Goodness Sake, with David Prete.  It is a one-woman performance. “For Goodness Sake” is a story about oppression and redemption. The show is currently touring and available to be booked in your area. For information about Elaine’s performances go to  and go to the Face Book fan page, For Goodness Sake.