Our Staff

John Wilkinson, Minister

John Wilkinson began his service as Pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill in September 2019 after serving 18 years as pastor of Third Presbyterian Church in Rochester, New York. He previously served as Executive Associate Pastor at Fourth Presbyterian Church and as Pastor of St. James Presbyterian Church , both in Chicago.

He received his BA from the College of Wooster, his MDiv from McCormick Theological Seminary and his PhD from Northwestern University, focusing on Twentieth Century American Religious History.

John has been active denominationally through service on the Theological Task Force on the Peace, Unity and Purity for the Church and on the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly, which he moderated for two years. He was also moderator of the Presbytery of Genesee Valley. He served on the board of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School for nine years (including three years as board chair) and now serves on the board of McCormick Theological Seminary as well as the Presbyterian Historical Society. He was involved in the establishment of both the Covenant Network of Presbyterians and Next Church.

John believes that the church is the best place for people, believers and searchers, to gather to ask the deepest, most profound questions of faith and life. He is committed to urban ministry, the great hymns of the church and Presbyterian theology, as well as baseball, Bruce Springsteen and late night TV! John’s goal is for the church to instill in its own members a vision for hope and justice made real by the ministry of Jesus, with the members in turn serving as ministers in their daily spheres.

A child of a Presbyterian manse, John is married to Bonny Claxton who is the C.F.O. for the Rochester Presbyterian Home. They have two terrific twenty-something children, Kenneth and Ann.

EMAIL: [email protected]

Austin Crenshaw Shelley, Associate Minister of Christian Education


Austin Crenshaw Shelley received her Masters of Divinity and Masters of Theology degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary, where she currently continues her studies as a PhD candidate in Homiletics. Prior to attending seminary, Austin began her journey toward a second career in professional ministry as the Director of Youth Ministries at Lake Murray Presbyterian Church in South Carolina.  Her first career as a teacher of visual art, Spanish, Latin, and gifted students’ programming turned out to be pivotal in preparing her for her passions in ministry: children’s ministry, ministry in the public square, writing, teaching, and preaching.

Austin was ordained to the ministry of word and sacrament in PCCH’s sanctuary in October of 2012. Since that time, she has enjoyed partnering with church members and staff to strengthen the church’s commitment to Christian education, mission and outreach, and sacred music and the arts. In 2014, Austin joined the governing board of Young Clergy Women International, serving as managing editor of Fidelia, the organization’s online magazine, until her graduation from the group in 2019. Since that time, she has enjoyed writing poetry, sermons, and articles for various publications including The Christian Century, Connections, and Preaching as Resistance: Voices of Hope, Justice, and Solidarity edited by Phil Snider.

Austin is married to Mark, an elementary school principal who makes perfect banana pudding and sweet tea. Together they are kept young by parenting four vivacious children and caring for two mischievous cats.

EMAIL: [email protected]

Brian Russo, Associate Minister of Youth and Senior Adults


Brian Russo was graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary with a Masters of Divinity in 2009. Brian served as the Director for Youth and Senior Adult Ministry at PCCH upon graduation; and in 2017 he was ordained and installed in our sanctuary as one of our Associate Ministers.

Brian has been a guest lecturer at the Institute for Youth Ministry at Princeton Theological Seminary, and believes that one’s faith must be seeking in order for it to be alive and at work in the world. That means believers must risk asking the big questions, engaging doubt rather than running from it, so to deepen their walk with Christ. His confirmation classes and youth groups operate on this premise. As does Theology on Tap, which he leads once a month for members in our church and community.

Believing with James 2:26 that faith without works is dead, Brian has taken our youth on domestic mission trips to Abiquiu, New Mexico; Portland, Oregon; Houston, Texas; Bozeman, Montana; and the Black Hills in South Dakota; as well as international destinations in Canada and Belize. Partnering with ministries and organizations like Habitat for Humanity, West Kensington Ministry, and Interfaith Philadelphia, Brian has forged local relationships so that children and adults alike are able to serve our own community when not traveling afar or abroad.

Born in Summit, New Jersey, Brian received his B.A. in Psychology from Seton Hall University, where he specialized in memory impairment research, while interning at care facilities serving those who suffered from cognitive decline and genetic abnormalities.

Brian now lives in Doylestown with his wife Anya, and his son Seth. He adores them both and almost equally! He loves Radiohead, photography, and the Netflix show Dark, as well as the annual masochistic experience that is rooting for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

EMAIL: [email protected]

Daniel Spratlan, Director of Music

Daniel Spratlan is currently in his ninth year as director of music at PCCH. During this time, he has also served on the conducting faculties at Haverford College, Temple University, Drexel University, and Rutgers University. He earned his doctorate in choral conducting from the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, his M. M. in choral conducting from Westminster Choir College, and B. A. in music from Earlham College. An active professional singer, he is in his 14th season singing with the two-time Grammy Award-winning choir The Crossing, which has been in residence at PCCH since it’s inception. He has performed with ensembles such as the New York Philharmonic, New York Choral Artists, Clarion Choir, Philadelphia Orchestra, Opera Philadelphia, Piffaro, Tempesta di Mare, San Francisco Symphony, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.  

EMAIL: [email protected]

Ken Lovett, Organist/Associate Director of Music


Ken Lovett has enjoyed a thirty-five year career as an organist, accompanist, teacher and choral conductor. From 1986-2011 he was Director of Music of Philadelphia’s Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. During this tenure he served on the Liturgical Commission of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, planning and conducting the music for the consecration of the fifteenth bishop of the diocese, as well as the consecration of Philadelphia’s Episcopal Cathedral. He has served on the adjunct faculties of Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, as well as Springside School/Chestnut Hill Academy and Germantown Friends School in Philadelphia. He has been guest organist for choirs in America and Europe, including tours of Austria, the Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, Ireland, and Italy. He holds degrees in organ performance and sacred music from Furman University and Westminster Choir College.

EMAIL: [email protected]

Esther Cole, Church Administrator

Esther has been at PCCH now for almost three years. Previously she and her husband, Greg, both worked at The American School in London for thirteen years and prior to that raised their two children in Vermont. She has also been an active member of the different churches they have attended – as a treasurer, board member and a Sunday school teacher.

When Esther and her husband returned to the States they chose Philadelphia to be closer to her parents and extended family in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Her desire in looking for a new job was to be able to work with and for people and to live close enough to work to be able to walk. The position as church administrator has satisfied both of those desires.

In her free time, Esther likes to paint (watercolor), explore the Wissahickon and other great trails around the area, read, travel and spend time with her grandson in New Jersey.

EMAIL: [email protected]

Mariangela Saavedra, Director, The Center on the Hill

Mariangela Saavedra has been a resident of Mt. Airy for over 9 years, and a proud Philadelphian for more than 12. She is originally from Northern Virginia, and spent some time living in West Virginia, North Carolina and Chicago, before settling here in 2008. Mariangela is deeply connected to her community and volunteers her time at The Stagecrafters Theater in Chestnut Hill and Allens Lane Art Center in Mt. Airy. She enjoys working with children and adults in all sorts of creative endeavors that impact people of all ages in the area. She is also the Founder and Artistic Director of Casabuena Cultural Productions, a theater and film company based in Mt. Airy. Before coming to work at The Center on the Hill in February of 2019, she worked as the Patron Services Manager for The Kimmel Center, and was the Office Manager for Commonwealth Youthchoirs. She really enjoys engaging with people and developing strong and lasting relationships within our community through her work at The Center on the Hill.

EMAIL: [email protected]

Carla DiOrio James, Director, Preschool

Carla began her directorial adventure in September 2018 at PCCH Preschool. She believes strongly in the importance of challenging the intellect, honoring differences, and nurturing each student’s mind body and spirit. Carla taught middle school for several years at The Philadelphia School, a project-based progressive independent school in Center City, where she also served on the school’s diversity committee. Prior to that, she was the school counselor in NYC area schools including The Wardlaw Hartridge School, Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child, and Fordham Preparatory School. She earned her Bachelor of Arts at Hofstra University in Human Development and Creative Studies and graduated at the top of her class at Fordham University with a Masters of Science in Education: Counseling and Personnel Services. Carla brought her ideas and enthusiasm to PCCH Preschool in 2017, where she taught in the four and five-year-old classroom and she established an innovative preschool social justice and diversity curriculum, now known as our Famous Folks school-wide curriculum. As a passionate advocate for multicultural curriculum and foreign language education, Carla implemented our inter-disciplinary Spanish immersion preschool curriculum.

In addition to her teaching experience, Carla is an artist and designer by training. In 2013 she started her own custom furniture brand, Rocker Refined:  She is also trained in the fine and performing arts and integrates music, dance, art, and play into our curriculum of early mathematics and early literacy as much as possible. Carla is bilingual in Spanish and English, having lived and taught for four years in Ecuador through Harvard University’s JFK School: World Teach Program. It is evident that working and living within many different cultural communities has shaped the person and the professional that Carla is today. It is her earnest wish to further the preschool’s growth within an inclusive worldview, more reflective of our global citizenry, while also deepening ownership of our community here in Philadelphia and our stewardship of the earth.

EMAIL:  [email protected]

Evelyn Carpenter, Administrative Assistant

Evelyn was born in Philadelphia and now lives in Lansdale, Pennsylvania with her husband, Gary.  She joined the PCCH staff in September 2006 after working 18 year at Jefferson Medical College in the Division of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, 12 years off from working outside of the home to raise her daughter Quincy, and then part time work for 8 years as a bookkeeper with a small privately owned food distribution company. Evelyn has one daughter, Quincy, and three granddaughters, Clara, Alden and Kyrie. Evelyn is always pleased to have the PCCH congregation stop to visit with her in the church office.

EMAIL: [email protected]


Leslie Lefer, Communications Coordinator

Leslie originally came to the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill in September of 2013 as the Director of the Center on the Hill.  This role was a labor of love for Leslie where she utilized her undergraduate degree in Recreation Administration, her years in meeting planning, and her experiences as Activities Coordinator for two senior residential retirement communities, to plan a wide variety of engaging classes and activities to help keep the seniors in the surrounding community healthy and active.  One of the most exciting parts of being the Director were the trips she planned (and drove the church van) to visit local museums and arboretums.  (“We always had lots of great conversations and laughs in the van.”)  She still cherishes the relationships she built with so many of the talented, witty, and kind seniors who she was able to get to know and work with for the five plus years she spent at the Center on the Hill. 

In October of 2015, Leslie took on the role of Communications Coordinator for both the church and the Center on the Hill in addition to her role as Director of the Center on the Hill.  In early 2019, following the passing of her father, Leslie and her husband moved to Hilton Head Island, SC to care for her mother who is in the early stages of dementia.  Leslie continues her work as the Communications Coordinator remotely while being a full-time caregiver.  In this role, Leslie oversees and updates the PCCH website, Facebook page, and YouTube page.  She also sends out weekly electronic communication pieces to church members and friends, organizes our print communication and spreads the word about upcoming special events to the broader community.

In her free-time, Leslie enjoys biking, cooking, walking, and learning about the history of her new hometown.  She is always up for a new adventure or to travel to new locales.  Some recent travels include Amsterdam, Brussels, Quebec City, Charleston, Asheville, Sedona, and the Grand Canyon

EMAIL: [email protected]

Felix Delgado, Sexton

Felix joined the PCCH staff in May of 2006.

Owintier Charles, Sunday Sexton

Icilda James and Debbie Lambeth, Sunday Childcare Givers