Rev. Dr. Jack Skiles, Minister

The Rev. Dr. Jack E. Skiles was called to our ministerial staff in July of 2006.  Dr. Skiles is a native Hoosier and a graduate of Ball State University with a degree in Experimental Psychology.  He received his Master’s of Divinity from Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Kansas and his Doctor of Ministry from Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. Dr. Skiles was ordained while serving the merged ABC/UCC Grosse Pointe, Michigan United Church in 1979.  He has also served at First Baptist Church of Indianapolis and for sixteen years at the South Church in the greater Chicago northwest suburbs of Mt. Prospect.

Dr. Skiles is married to the Rev. Lynn James, who is ordained in both the ABC and the UCC as well as being a licensed clinical professional counselor (LCPC) with a private practice in Bloomington.  Their daughter, Kali, is a senior at Elmhurst College in the western suburbs of Chicago, and their son, Aaron, is a recent IU Indianapolis Law School graduate.  Aaron is married to Anne, who is an OB/GYN nurse on the north side of Indianapolis near their Broad Ripple home.

Dr. Skiles is extremely interested in the progressive church movement, homelessness and poverty concerns, human rights, and the leadership that people of faith must establish in the local and larger communities as the result of their beliefs.

Rev. Caela Simmons Wood, Minister

The Rev. Caela Simmons Wood was called to serve on our ministerial staff after her ordination in January 2010.   She had previously served as our Assistant Minister since 2007 while completing her Master of Divinity degree at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis.

Originally from Kansas, Caela attended Kansas State University (Manhattan, Kansas), where she earned a bachelor’s degree in History. She also holds a Master of Theological Studies from Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University (Dallas, Texas).

Caela and her husband, David Wood, have lived in Bloomington since the summer of 2005.  They have two sons, born in 2010 and 2012.  Caela enjoys reading (especially about parenting, race relations, food ethics, and novels with very little plot), hanging out with friends, and cooking and experimenting in the kitchen, and she’s hoping to get back into exercising … someday … when her children are older and she is better-rested.

Lisa Stanger, Office Manager

Lisa Stanger has been with us since August of 2005.

Lisa comes from a background of office administration and health care.  Lisa is a native of Bloomington.  She graduated from Bloomington High School North and attended Indiana University.  Lisa has two sons, Sean and Jason. Lisa enjoys reading, bowling, dancing, and traveling.

Dr. Edwin Penhorwood, Organist and Composer-in-Residence

Dr. Ed Penhorwood is a native of Ohio and a graduate of the University of Iowa. Also a pianist, composer, and vocal coach, he has taught in the International School of Zurich, Switzerland, at the School of Church Music in Berlin, and has accompanied singers and instrumentalists in North America and Europe for many years.

 Dr. Penhorwood’s compositions (choral works, operas, and songs) are published by Carl Fischer, Abingdon, T.I.S., and Hinshaw Music. Many of his choral and sacred vocal compositions were written for the First United Church choir and soloists of First United Church. Dr. Penhorwood has also edited two volumes of Vincenzo Righini’s vocal works, published by Southern Music.

 Edwin Penhorwood is a faculty member of Indiana University, working with the Opera Workshop, and he teaches Accompanying. Dr. Penhorwood is married to soprano Costanza Cuccaro.

David Wood, Music Director

David Wood is the Music Director at First United Church and the Music Director for WFIU Public Radio in Bloomington. David holds degrees in Voice and Choral Conducting from the University of North Texas and Kansas State University, and he did advanced study at the Jacobs School of Music’s Early Music Institute.  He has also appeared with a number of professional choirs and period orchestras as a singer. David previously held the position of Music Director at Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Dallas, Texas. He enjoys exploring unique ways to meld music into weekly worship and the overall life of the congregation.  In his spare time, David sings and plays Irish traditional music, reads, gardens, spends time with his family, and tries to find time to fit in a run now and again.


Dawna Petersen, Spiritual Director

Dawna Petersen was called into covenant with First United Church to provide a ministry of spiritual direction in February 2013.  Passionate about spaces for wonder, joy, peace, creativity,  and stillness to incubate and emerge, Dawna seeks to recognize, provide, share, and celebrate those spaces for all generations.  Her certification in spiritual direction is from the Benedict Inn Spiritual Direction Internship in Indianapolis, Indiana. She has further training in spiritual formation from the Upper Room Two-Year Academy for Spiritual Formation and is a Veriditas certified labyrinth facilitator.  She earned a bachelor’s degree and pursued graduate studies in Psychology at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Dawna grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, where she met her husband, Doug.  They have lived in Bloomington since 1978 and together owned and operated White Mountain Ice Creamery for twenty-three years.  They have three sons, three grandchildren, two granddogs, and one grandkitty and make the rounds to visit them in Des Moines, Chicago, and Indianapolis as often as they can.

Dawna finds joy in expressive arts, and in travel and hiking as spiritual practice; she is particularly interested in issues surrounding caregiving, dementia, and violence against women.

Rev. Daniel Kostakis, Youth Director

E-mail Daniel

The Rev. Daniel Kostakis joined our  staff in 2014 as youth director. He was raised in the mountains of Pennsylvania, the oldest of nine siblings. His faith journey has led him through many traditions and expression of Christianity.

Daniel completed his Bachelor’s in Religious Studies from Crossroads Christian Bible College and holds a certificate in pastoral counseling. He has previously ministered in Evangelical and Eastern Orthodox churches in Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Indiana. He was ordained to the Christian priesthood in 2013 on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne.

Daniel shares life with his husband, Andrew, and their son, Lil D, in Bloomington. He is an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ rights and progressive theology and enjoys liturgy, holidays, entertaining and interior design. He also occasionally blogs for the Huffington Post and lectures for the IU Speaker’s Bureau.

Ben Harvey, Children’s Education Coordinator

Ben Harvey joined our staff as the Children’s Education Coordinator in 2014. Ben grew up in southeast Michigan but has lived in Indiana for the past eight years.  He earned a bachelor’s degree in religion from Manchester College and a Master of Arts degree in theology from Bethany Theological Seminary.  Currently he is pursuing a master’s degree in elementary education at Indiana University in Bloomington.

Ben and his wife Lisa have lived in Bloomington since 2012.  Ben enjoys reading and playing board games in his spare time.  Ben is interested in economic and social justice; theological ethics; and differentiated instruction techniques.