Who We Are
Aury Bwashi, Ministry Intern
Aury was born and raised in the central (although, culturally eastern) African country of Burundi but currently lives on the south side of Chicago. He is currently pursuing a degree in Information Technology and Management with a focus on Web Design and Application Development at Illinois Institute of Technology. As black queer techie immigrant, Aury’s goal is to hopefully align his work as a UX Designer and Web Developer with his calling in social justice movements across different areas, with a focus on immigration, education, queer and racial justice issues. When he’s not in school, Aury loves to spend time staying active at a bouldering gym or at a yoga studio.
Deanna Christianson, Ministry Intern
A Minnesota native, Deanna has lived in Chicago for the past three years. She initially got involved in the Inclusive Collective as a graduate student in UIC's Sociology department, but now she works as a Higher Ed consultant. As a formerly-burnt-out-Evangelical full of questions, doubts, and frustrations with the church, Deanna is passionate about creating spiritual communities where all are welcome to connect to God and each other as their whole, uncensored, messy selves. In her free time, Deanna cooks, reads fiction, and is always on the hunt for a free theater or comedy show to attend.
Kaitlyn Frantz, Student Pastor
Kaitlyn Frantz is a graduate student at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary pursuing her Masters of Divinity. She is originally from Fort Worth, TX and comes to Chicago by way of Shreveport, LA where she studied Religion at Centenary College of Louisiana. She is excited to be working with everyone at Inclusive Collective to get to be a part of a Christian community that is living out the gospel of love. She is passionate about doing community work and helping empower all people to live into their identity as unique, beautiful, and loving persons of God.
A native Southerner, Rich grew up in Gloster, Mississippi – a small town with a population of 960. After calling Alabama and Georgia home for seven years, Rich moved to Chicago in 2014 to work at Urban Village Church and is enjoying building roots in this great city. He feels called by God to create faith communities where all people are both truly welcome and invited to follow Jesus with all they've got. Rich is a big fan of: spending quality time with quality friends, drinking a good (or not so good) cup of coffee, and trying to keep up with the septuagenarians at spin class.
Tito Ponce, Ministry Intern
Suburbanite turned City boy, Tito has grown up and lived all around the Chicagoland area and currently calls the Northside of Chicago home. Having recently graduated from UIC, studying Applied Psychology, Tito now works full-time as a Project Coordinator for two Community Psychology labs at UIC alongside his internship with the Inclusive Collective. He is passionate about building meaningful communities that are safe spaces to dig deep and provide fulfillment. When not working, Tito enjoys trying out new Korean skin care products and Googling the latest tech gadgets! When it comes to Chicago deep dish pizza, it’s Giordano’s or bust. #SorryNotSorry
Born and raised in small-town Central Illinois, Zoie came to Chicago to attend UIC for undergrad and take part in big-city life. Recognizing that her entire life had been in a homogenous community, she hoped to engage with folks of all different backgrounds and experiences. Now, she has graduated from UIC’s biology program and is continuing her education in UIC’s School of Public Health, focusing on health policy. Her experiences at UIC and across Chicago have instilled a passion for ensuring spaces are inclusive and welcoming for every person and all of who they are. Zoie is particularly passionate about disability justice and the intersections between queerness and disability. After spending the last two years as an Inclusive Collective intern, she’s excited to be returning as the Leadership Development Fellow!
We are The Inclusive Collective.
We are a community.
We are Artists. Intellectuals. Realists. Weirdos. Doubters. Believers. Students. People.
We are a safe place to be our whole selves.
Unashamed of who we are. What we look like. Or who we love.
We are shamelessly Christian.
And we’re reclaiming the genuine love it should mean.
We are Leaders and Activists.
We are Servants to those in need.
We are Fighters for true justice.
With Christ as our fuel.
And we exist to inspire radically inclusive communities that explore, share, and flourish in Christ’s grace.
WE STRIVE TO BE
- Christ-Centered — Jesus Christ’s life, love, and transformative grace fuel who we are and all we do. We aren’t talking about a gentle, white Jesus with long flowing blonde hair. We’re talking about the Jesus who speaks truth to power, includes all people, and offers ridiculous amounts of grace. We want everyone to experience a life-changing relationship with this Jesus, who is better and bigger than we can imagine.
- Multi-Ethnic/Anti-Racist + Inclusive — Christianity often excludes and operates with racism, and that sucks. But God dreams of a world where the walls that divide us and the systems that oppress us come crashing down. So, we’re committed to the transformative-yet-messy work that nurtures a community where all people feel truly welcome and valued. And when we say all, we mean ALL. LGBTQ and Straight; Black, Brown, and White; Believers and Doubters, Freshmen and Grad Students — you’re all heard, seen, and loved here.
- Communal — Even on a large urban campus and with constant connection on social media, we can still experience loneliness. But life isn’t meant to be a solo thing, so let’s build strong community right here on campus. A community that serves, plays, laughs, seeks justice, studies, debates, and experiences grace together. A community that feels more like family than just another social network.
- Authentic — Guess what? None of us have all our stuff together, and that’s totally okay. We don’t have to worry about pretending or hiding. In this community, we bring our full selves – a raw and complex mix of beauty and brokenness. Having strong doubts? Voice them. Struggling with an addiction? Ask for help. Experiencing incredible joy? Invite us to celebrate. We reject shame and embrace openness around here.
- Active — Jesus was never satisfied with the status-quo, especially when it harmed vulnerable populations. He challenged earthly power structures when they stood in the way of God’s vision for a just society. With Jesus as our model, we long to be a community committed to the work of justice and service, particularly in our own backyard. God is moving in powerful ways among and through our neighbors and in our world, so we will join in on what God is already up to.