Our Senior Pastor: the Reverend Ben Daniel
Ben Daniel has served as pastor and head of staff at Montclair Presbyterian Church since March of 2014.
Born in Palo Alto and raised in Mendocino, Ben earned his Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in Religious Studies at Westmont College with an emphasis in urban ministry. He received his Master of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary and was ordained in 1993.
Before moving to Oakland, he he served as Pastor/Head of Staff at Foothill Presbyterian Church in San Jose for sixteen years. Prior to that, he spent four years as Pastor of the Community Presbyterian Church in Gonzales, CA.
Ben considers his social activism to be part of his service to the Church. He has participated in war protests and immigration reform marches. In churches and on the streets, he has spoken out against torture. From the pulpit and in his writings, he has championed marriage equality. He worked with the Santa Clara County Council of Churches to help congregations reflect on economic inequality and with Catholic Charities to recruit foster families for unaccompanied minor refugees. As an organizer of the Silicon Valley Jewish-Presbyterian dialogue group, he brought Jewish rabbis and Christian pastors together to discuss the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s position on divestment from companies that profit from violence in the Holy Land.
In addition to his pastoral work, Ben is a writer. His spiritually grounded, left-leaning social and political commentary has appeared in a wide variety of publications. He blogs for The Huffington Post, has written for UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum, and has been a regular contributor to KQED FM’s Perspectives program. In 2009, one of his sermons won the World Alliance of Reformed Churches’ international sermon-writing contest. His first book, Neighbor: Christian Encounters with “Illegal Immigration”, won a Gold Medal for Religion in Foreword Review’s Book of the Year Awards in 2011. His second book, The Search for Truth About Islam: A Christian Pastor Separates Fact from Fiction, was named by Library Journal one of the essential books on Islam every library should have in its collection.
Having developed from a conservative theological upbringing to a more progressive theological perspective, Ben is both well-grounded in the reformed Christian tradition and a consummate questioner. His favorite prayer for the church comes from the Church of Scotland:
Let us pray for the Church,
By all it’s names and in all its places;
for its continuing usefulness
as a channel of grace and hope;
for its rescue
from pretentiousness and pomposity
and from taking some things
more seriously than is healthy.
Ben is married to Anne Daniel, a talented singer & music teacher, and they are the proud parents of three school age children. Among Ben’s talents are playing guitar, singing and cooking. He thinks that sharing a meal and visiting our gardens are great ways to get to know people.
Our Associate Pastor: the Reverend Talitha G. Aho
Talitha G Aho has a BA in music from Binghamton University (NY), MDiv from San Francisco Theological Seminary, and MA in Biblical Studies from the Graduate Theological Union. Her background is in pastoral care and counseling and she recently worked as a hospital chaplain at UCSF Medical Center. Here at MPC Talitha works in the areas of Youth Group and Godly Play, intergenerational events, and pastoral care. She always looks for a chance for some musical collaboration too!