Our Leadership

The Upper Room is led by its pastors, elders, and deacons.


Mike Gehrling | Mike has been one of the Upper Room’s pastors since 2008 when God called him to start a new church with his friends Chris and Eileen in Squirrel Hill. He also works halftime with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s Graduate and Faculty Ministries. Prior to this work, Mike received his B.A. from Grove City College where he studied Religion and Theater, and his Master of Divinity from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Mike’s desire for Upper Room is that each person would fall more deeply in love with Jesus, grow in their understanding and appreciation of the Bible, and encounter the power of the Holy Spirit in prayer. Mike is single and can be found around Squirrel Hill reading a good book at a coffee shop, playing piano in the church sanctuary, or running down the sidewalk training for the next Pittsburgh Marathon.

The Upper Room Elders

Will Penman | Will has been attending Upper Room since early 2013 and has been an elder since early 2014. At church, he is the Clerk of Session, leads a midweek small group, and takes initiative on hospitality. In Pittsburgh, he works at Carnegie Mellon University as a PhD student in Rhetoric, teaching a writing class for freshman every semester and working on his own research about a local church’s aspirational rhetoric of anti-racism. He has been feeling God lead him recently in terms of race, prayer, and stability. He is married to Ashley Penman, and they love being a face of Christ to each other.

Evan Sheppard | Evan joined the Upper Room shortly after moving to Pittsburgh in 2012. Evan has been excited to serve behind-the-scenes on the session, the finance team, and the facilities team since 2013.  Evan works as an environmental scientist for a local consulting firm.  His favorite aspect of that position is hiking the woods and fields of Pennsylvania, looking for wetlands and streams.  He is married to Amanda and together they instigate many board game parties with dear friends made at the Upper Room.  Evan also loves to mountain bike and run in Frick Park.  He grew up in Rochester, New York, and attended Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, graduating in 2008.

Kristen Tavenor | Kristen was born and raised in Indianapolis Indiana and moved to Pittsburgh in July 2012 after she and Nate got married (Nate is in a Ph.D program at Pitt which is why they moved).  She keeps busy here in Pittsburgh by teaching Biology and Chemistry at Yeshiva School in Squirrel Hill and by teaching an after school science program with a company called Lab Ratz Science Club.  She started going to the Upper Room in 2012 right after moving to Pittsburgh and she and Nate became members last spring.  She has been involved in all sorts of activities with the church, but most recently has been serving on the Personnel Committee.

Jeffery Song | Jeff was born in Seoul, South Korea, but grew up most of his life in Houston, TX. He graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 2012 with a B.S. in Environmental Engineering. He, then, moved to Pittsburgh and is now a 5th year PhD student in Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University. He began attending the Upper Room his first week in Pittsburgh and he hasn’t left! He served this past year as the chair of the nominating committee. He is also a semi-regular volunteer on the hospitality team and guitar player for the worship team.

Christina Van Patter | Christina has been a part of the Upper Room since moving to Pittsburgh in 2010 after graduating from Messiah College with a bachelor’s degree in social work.   From 2012-2013 she spent a year in Mozambique with support from the family, friends, and the Upper Room living with and learning from international missionaries.  Currently, she works for South Hills Interfaith Movement as a social worker serving refugees and immigrants living in Allegheny county.  She enjoys learning from the wisdom of people’s stories and cultures and loves to laugh–usually at herself.  She has been a member of the session since January 2016.  She has hosted women’s nights, and enjoys staying active with friends.  She will be hosting Women’s group on the last Wednesday of the month beginning in August.  She is married to Nathan Van Patter and they enjoy bread baking, finding free ways to have fun in the city, and driving adventures.

Ashley Penman | Ashley is a native Pittsburgher who started attending the Upper Room on visits back home while she was studying in Florida in 2013. Ashley become a member when she moved back to Pittsburgh in 2014. She regularly volunteers with the Pittsburgh Urban chapter of YoungLife, which includes leading bible studies, hanging out, leading retreats, attending student activities such as games, and plays, and most memorably giving out donuts every Wednesday after school to Alderdice students. As recent member of Upper Room’s Session, Ashley is excited to represent the women of the church in leadership. Ashley enjoys being married to Will Penman, who encourages her in her creativity, art, and adventurous spirit.