Our Ministers

Senior Minister of the Church in the Forest: the Rev. Joanne M. Swenson, Th.D.

I was raised in Jamestown, North Dakota, where I easily moved among different churches of my friends and even my parents. I was attracted to churches preaching civic involvement yet, at the same time, moved by the transformative power of other church’s singing and prayer. How could I encompass these two worlds in my faith?  

That desire to experience and testify to the wideness of God’s reality has animated my life, study and ministry ever since.  

After St. Olaf College (MN), Harvard Divinity School and ordination, I began ministry as Assistant Minister of Old South Church in Boston, alongside James Crawford and Robert Christenson, wonderful colleagues who taught me how to be a pastor. Old South, in Copley Square, had splendid traditions of worship, and I began to think about the power of aesthetics and ritual in faith development. 

The issue of aesthetics propelled me back to Harvard University for advanced study, receiving a Masters in Theology and Doctorate in Theology. As a grad student and teaching fellow at Harvard College, my study focused on the transformation of religious doctrine into worship representations, providing symbols, ideas, attitudes and emotions that shape the daily experience of believers. At the same time, long-term research began with musician Dr. Linda Clark of Boston University School of Theology, resulting in joint seminars and publications, including “How We Worship,” and grants for innovation and renewal in worship.

While raising my young children, and as a professor and visiting scholar at universities in the Pacific Northwest, I was deeply engaged as a volunteer mom and tutor, study group leader in public schools, and in church service. In 2011, I returned to parish ministry in Connecticut, focused on preaching, teaching and small group development.  In 2013, as its Founding Minister, “Twelve: A Foundation for Small Group Ministry” united a network of churches in Fairfield County, CT, for small group leadership training and support. 

Married to John Thorbeck since 1986, our children are Erik (graduate of the University of Oregon and working in China) and Siri (a senior at Cornell University). John’s older children are Kate Rogers, Editor of Pillsbury.Com in Minneapolis, and Captain Stein Thorbeck, a US Army Ranger who served in Afghanistan and is now based in Texas. Their marriages have blessed us with five grandchildren, and loving spouses, Matt Rogers and Regina Thorbeck.

Assistant Minister of the Church in the Forest: the Rev. Ken Feske

I had the privilege of growing up in a small Wisconsin town with two loving Christian parents who influenced my faith choices. I received my B.A. at Ottawa University and my M.Div. from Northern Baptist Seminary. I have two grown and married children who live in the Bay Area and we have the joy of sharing in their lives. My wife, Nancy Borino, and I have a menagerie of pets that remind us daily of unconditional love. We enjoy long walks, reading, traveling and fine food and iced tea (and wine) in the company of good friends. 

I embrace two overwhelming passions:  community and civility.  Isolation and fragmentation have become all too common. Warmth, laughter, celebration and safety need to be encountered in our homes, schools, businesses and meeting places. Witnessing discovery, growth, justice and transformation is exhilarating. To be a partner in spiritual development, educational enhancement and social empowerment is an incredible honor. To nurture, equip and inspire persons to reach their divine destinies through the simple message of God’s love and the reality of God’s power to transform is enlivening.

I have served four churches (two in Phoenix, AZ; Kailua, HI; Salinas, CA) over thirty-three years of parish ministry and spent seven years at the Service Learning Institute California State University Monterey Bay before coming to Church in the Forest in August 2013. I have been honored as “2000 Citizen of the Year” by the Salinas Chamber of Commerce. Recognized as a Local Hero by the Center for Disease Control STEPS to Healthier USA (2007), the Daily Point of Light on April 13, 2000 Points of Light Foundation. Participated in dialogues locally and nationally presenting at various conferences—including the National Arab and Muslim Youth Conference 2010 sponsored by the Substance Abuse Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA), Safe & Drug Free Schools US Department of Education 2005, American Public Health Association (APHA) 2001-04, CA Department of Education State Dropout Conf. 2001 & 02, American Psychological Association (APA) 2002.

I am currently a volunteer chaplain at CHOMP and a board member and founding member of Partners for Peace, whose mission is that all families have access to quality programs and services to strengthen their own families and build peace in their community. My wife and I own a home accessory boutique in Carmel.

Minister Emeritus of the Church in the Forest: the Rev. Dr. William B. Rolland, retired
I had the happy experience of being the minister at the Church in the Forest for eighteen years. I have to say it has been the best experience of my professional life. A former associate, while visiting me in Pebble Beach, remarked that when I die and go to Heaven from Pebble Beach, I'm simply going to make a lateral move!

My ministry began in Falkirk, Scotland and later included a teaching post in a theological college in Manchester, England. After ten years in the "ivory tower," I began to miss the life of the local church. My re-entry into serving as a minister was in one of the toughest parts of the greater Manchester area. Later I had the opportunity to pursue doctoral studies in Minneapolis, Minnesota, specializing in the area of Thanatology (the understanding and assisting of people going through grief). I put this education to use at Abbott Northwestern Hospital and afterward took a position as associate minister at Westminster Presbyterian Church in downtown Minneapolis; it was there that I found my Scottish home in America. After a church posting in the East Bay in California, I accepted the position of minister at the Church in the Forest on the campus of Stevenson School in Pebble Beach, where I served as chaplain, teacher and counselor.

My family consists of my wife, Annah, and between us we share five wonderful grown children and two grandsons. I come to the task of ministry wherever it is: a wedding ceremony, hospital call, preaching, memorial services or church administration. I can be who I am because of WHOSE I am.

I am a collector of clocks and other antiques, enjoy philately, golf, gardening and working on my 1960 Morris Minor convertible (although my wife is convinced I will never get it done).