Meet the Team

 
 
 

Pastoral Staff

 
Rev. James Pennington  came to First Church in January, 2014. James' observations are peppered with the insights of a rural Mississippian/Minnesotan/Wisconsin's life in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. He hikes the local parks and foothills with his "boxador" Jackson, who is generally nearby at church, as well.  He pursued his undergraduate studies at both University of Chicago and Concordia University where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology, Elementary Education and Philosophy. Following college he attended Concordia Seminary. While there he also took several classes at Eden Seminary and Washington University. He received his Masters of Divinity Degree in 1985.  James spent four years serving as an Associate and Campus Minister for a Lutheran church in Wayne, Nebraska and the following five years as the Director of Ministries for University Lutheran Chapel in Lincoln, NE. He spent 18 months in Novosibirsk, Russia serving as leadership development director for the Lutheran Church. His primary focus was with students from Akademgorodok (a part of the Sovetsky District of the city of Novosibirsk, Russia, located 30 km south of the city center and about 10 km west of the Science town Koltsovo). Following his return from Russia he served at the Peace Campus Center in Stevens Point, Wisconsin where the focus was on outreach and working with international students studying English as a second language.  In 1997, Rev. Pennington left parish ministry to pursue justice work in Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Among other callings during 10-years of working within the not-for-profit sector, James served in the HIV/AIDS field as services director for an Madison based AIDS Service organization that included Case Management services, prevention services and clean needle exchange programs. James was instrumental in beginning and facilitating several "Rainbow Clubs" throughout central Wisconsin for LGBTQI A high school students. He was the Executive Director of the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center and was one of the lead individuals working for full-marriage equality throughout Wisconsin.  In 2007 James was ready to re-enter parish ministry but he realized that the Lutheran church no longer called to him. A friend introduced him to the United Church of Christ and he answered a call to lead a Minneapolis UCC church through a period of re-vision and revitalization.  James brings many gifts to our church. He has a life-long interest in the Civil Rights movement of the 1950's and 60's and an ongoing interest in Liberation, Feminist and Process Theology. He has been involved in several community-based groups working for Immigration Emancipation Reform statewide and nationwide.

Rev. James Pennington came to First Church in January, 2014. James' observations are peppered with the insights of a rural Mississippian/Minnesotan/Wisconsin's life in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. He hikes the local parks and foothills with his "boxador" Jackson, who is generally nearby at church, as well.

He pursued his undergraduate studies at both University of Chicago and Concordia University where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology, Elementary Education and Philosophy. Following college he attended Concordia Seminary. While there he also took several classes at Eden Seminary and Washington University. He received his Masters of Divinity Degree in 1985.

James spent four years serving as an Associate and Campus Minister for a Lutheran church in Wayne, Nebraska and the following five years as the Director of Ministries for University Lutheran Chapel in Lincoln, NE. He spent 18 months in Novosibirsk, Russia serving as leadership development director for the Lutheran Church. His primary focus was with students from Akademgorodok (a part of the Sovetsky District of the city of Novosibirsk, Russia, located 30 km south of the city center and about 10 km west of the Science town Koltsovo). Following his return from Russia he served at the Peace Campus Center in Stevens Point, Wisconsin where the focus was on outreach and working with international students studying English as a second language.

In 1997, Rev. Pennington left parish ministry to pursue justice work in Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Among other callings during 10-years of working within the not-for-profit sector, James served in the HIV/AIDS field as services director for an Madison based AIDS Service organization that included Case Management services, prevention services and clean needle exchange programs. James was instrumental in beginning and facilitating several "Rainbow Clubs" throughout central Wisconsin for LGBTQI A high school students. He was the Executive Director of the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center and was one of the lead individuals working for full-marriage equality throughout Wisconsin.

In 2007 James was ready to re-enter parish ministry but he realized that the Lutheran church no longer called to him. A friend introduced him to the United Church of Christ and he answered a call to lead a Minneapolis UCC church through a period of re-vision and revitalization.

James brings many gifts to our church. He has a life-long interest in the Civil Rights movement of the 1950's and 60's and an ongoing interest in Liberation, Feminist and Process Theology. He has been involved in several community-based groups working for Immigration Emancipation Reform statewide and nationwide.

Rev. James Pennington
Senior Pastor

Rev. Susan Valiquette  is the Associate Pastor. In grade 10, on a church youth retreat, she sensed a calling to ordained ministry. After high school, she completed her Bachelors of Art degree in Religion and Communication. She furthered her studies to obtain a Masters of Divinity and was ordained in the United Church of Christ (UCC). She was hired as an Associate Minister of a large 1500-member UCC congregation before she completed her studies where she served as the Associate Minister.  Susan then applied to be a mission co-worker with Global Ministries. Susan was then seconded to serve as the Chaplain of Inanda Seminary, an all-girls secondary boarding school located in a township in Durban, South Africa. Inanda Seminary was started by Congregationalist missionaries in 1869. She served as the school’s Chaplain for 18 years.  Susan has two children, Micah and Madeline and she loves to cook, travel, birdwatch and hike the desert mountains. She believes that the church has the potential to heal the world and she feels called to be a vessel used for healing.

Rev. Susan Valiquette is the Associate Pastor. In grade 10, on a church youth retreat, she sensed a calling to ordained ministry. After high school, she completed her Bachelors of Art degree in Religion and Communication. She furthered her studies to obtain a Masters of Divinity and was ordained in the United Church of Christ (UCC). She was hired as an Associate Minister of a large 1500-member UCC congregation before she completed her studies where she served as the Associate Minister.

Susan then applied to be a mission co-worker with Global Ministries. Susan was then seconded to serve as the Chaplain of Inanda Seminary, an all-girls secondary boarding school located in a township in Durban, South Africa. Inanda Seminary was started by Congregationalist missionaries in 1869. She served as the school’s Chaplain for 18 years.

Susan has two children, Micah and Madeline and she loves to cook, travel, birdwatch and hike the desert mountains. She believes that the church has the potential to heal the world and she feels called to be a vessel used for healing.

Rev. Susan Valiquette
Associate Pastor

 
 

leadership

 
As Erik became an adult, he grew to deeply respect the sacrifices, intelligence, and kind hearted teachings of Martin Luther King, Jr. King taught us to love one another based on the content of one another’s character, rather than the quantity of melanin in our skin. This is what Christ teaches us to do.  Erik’s hope is to create an environment within First Church UCC Phoenix that is safe, loving, and invites people to share what is on the inside no matter who they are, or where they came from. His dream is to extend that invitation and environment to the outside world so that all people have the opportunity to experience deep, loving Christianity, as Jesus intended.

As Erik became an adult, he grew to deeply respect the sacrifices, intelligence, and kind hearted teachings of Martin Luther King, Jr. King taught us to love one another based on the content of one another’s character, rather than the quantity of melanin in our skin. This is what Christ teaches us to do.

Erik’s hope is to create an environment within First Church UCC Phoenix that is safe, loving, and invites people to share what is on the inside no matter who they are, or where they came from. His dream is to extend that invitation and environment to the outside world so that all people have the opportunity to experience deep, loving Christianity, as Jesus intended.

Erik Orwoll
Administrator Moderator

Loree Adams is our Care and Community Moderator. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a Masters of Social Work Degree from the University of Illinois. She has over 30-years of experience working with those impacted by the criminal justice system, adolescent development, substance abuse treatment, treating individuals with co-occurring issues, working with families, crisis management, program planning and development and clinical supervision in the mental health and substance abuse fields. Loree also taught at Illinois State University and Illinois Wesleyan University. Loree grew up in New Jersey before moving to Central Illinois and then settling here in Arizona. She has 3 sons and 3 amazing grandchildren.

Loree Adams is our Care and Community Moderator. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a Masters of Social Work Degree from the University of Illinois. She has over 30-years of experience working with those impacted by the criminal justice system, adolescent development, substance abuse treatment, treating individuals with co-occurring issues, working with families, crisis management, program planning and development and clinical supervision in the mental health and substance abuse fields. Loree also taught at Illinois State University and Illinois Wesleyan University. Loree grew up in New Jersey before moving to Central Illinois and then settling here in Arizona. She has 3 sons and 3 amazing grandchildren.

Loree Adams
Care & Community Moderator

Yvonne is originally from the midwest, moving to Arizona in 1983. She was born and raised into the United Church of Christ and began attending First Church UCC Phoenix in 2015. In 2016, she was one of 18 members of the “Visioning Committee”. In December of 2016 she was elected to serve a 1-year term as  Moderator of Light to the World . In 2017 she was elected to serve another 1-year term. In December of 2018 she was elected to serve a 2-year term which concludes at the end of 2020. She knows that we are called to be the Light of God’s shalom for the greater community, serving as beacon of hope. God’s light refracts as a prism through each of us, uniquely manifesting the Divine.  Yvonne is energetic, passionate, an analyst and an advocate. She endorses partnering with other communities, speaking truth to power, taking risks and seeking justice for everyone.

Yvonne is originally from the midwest, moving to Arizona in 1983. She was born and raised into the United Church of Christ and began attending First Church UCC Phoenix in 2015. In 2016, she was one of 18 members of the “Visioning Committee”. In December of 2016 she was elected to serve a 1-year term as Moderator of Light to the World. In 2017 she was elected to serve another 1-year term. In December of 2018 she was elected to serve a 2-year term which concludes at the end of 2020. She knows that we are called to be the Light of God’s shalom for the greater community, serving as beacon of hope. God’s light refracts as a prism through each of us, uniquely manifesting the Divine.

Yvonne is energetic, passionate, an analyst and an advocate. She endorses partnering with other communities, speaking truth to power, taking risks and seeking justice for everyone.

Yvonne Harrison
Light to the World Moderator

Born in Chicago, IL, Shaunynai joined the National Guard in 2005 and after two years of training moved to Flagstaff AZ to attend Northern Arizona University. In 2011, she graduated with a B.S in Criminal Justice and then moved to Phoenix to attend Grand Canyon University. In 2014 after obtaining her M.A in Criminal Justice she began working for the United States Postal Service and is a Supervisor of Distribution Operations. When she moved to Phoenix, Shaunynai began to question her faith but still wanted to explore a different form of religious expression and a church that was not going to judge her for being her true authentic self. She found First Church UCC Phoenix on the PFLAG website and decided to attend. She officially became a member in May 2013, has been on the Personnel Committee and is now the Moderator of Sacred Space. First Church has helped her grow and she wants to help First Church reach its fullest potential.

Born in Chicago, IL, Shaunynai joined the National Guard in 2005 and after two years of training moved to Flagstaff AZ to attend Northern Arizona University. In 2011, she graduated with a B.S in Criminal Justice and then moved to Phoenix to attend Grand Canyon University. In 2014 after obtaining her M.A in Criminal Justice she began working for the United States Postal Service and is a Supervisor of Distribution Operations. When she moved to Phoenix, Shaunynai began to question her faith but still wanted to explore a different form of religious expression and a church that was not going to judge her for being her true authentic self. She found First Church UCC Phoenix on the PFLAG website and decided to attend. She officially became a member in May 2013, has been on the Personnel Committee and is now the Moderator of Sacred Space. First Church has helped her grow and she wants to help First Church reach its fullest potential.

Shaunynai Weatherly
Sacred Spaces Moderator

 
 

Specialized Ministry

Teresa Blythe  has been working as a spiritual director with individuals, groups and organizations since 1997. Teresa works with people from a variety of faith backgrounds as well as those who are in-between, searching or from the "it's complicated" category.  In addition to running the Phoenix Center for Spiritual Direction and serving as spiritual director for First Church, Teresa is Director of the Hesychia School of Spiritual Direction at the Redemptorist Renewal Center at Picture Rocks in Tucson. She is a published author, blogger for Patheos (Spiritual Direction 101) and the Southwest Conference of the United Church of Christ, frequent public speaker and a full-time advocate for the practice of spiritual direction.  An ordained minister in the United Church of Christ (UCC), Teresa received her Master of Divinity and Diploma in the Art of Spiritual Direction from San Francisco Theological Seminary in 2000. She is a member of First UCC Phoenix and Spiritual Directors International.

Teresa Blythe has been working as a spiritual director with individuals, groups and organizations since 1997. Teresa works with people from a variety of faith backgrounds as well as those who are in-between, searching or from the "it's complicated" category.

In addition to running the Phoenix Center for Spiritual Direction and serving as spiritual director for First Church, Teresa is Director of the Hesychia School of Spiritual Direction at the Redemptorist Renewal Center at Picture Rocks in Tucson. She is a published author, blogger for Patheos (Spiritual Direction 101) and the Southwest Conference of the United Church of Christ, frequent public speaker and a full-time advocate for the practice of spiritual direction.

An ordained minister in the United Church of Christ (UCC), Teresa received her Master of Divinity and Diploma in the Art of Spiritual Direction from San Francisco Theological Seminary in 2000. She is a member of First UCC Phoenix and Spiritual Directors International.

Teresa Blythe
Spiritual Director

Gordon Street is a Commissioned Minister who focuses on helping people find their own spiritual connection. He grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee, moved to Phoenix in 1988, and has been a member of First Church since about 2000. Gordon has served in many capacities in First Church leadership over the years and has worked with other churches and non-profit groups.  Gordon’s thirty years of recovery and working with others gives him special insight into the common struggle (in and out of recovery) of finding a genuine experience with God, which is the essence of spirituality instead of religion and dogma. Gordon likes to say his ministry is a gift from the recovery community back to the wider church. He currently facilitates a weekly spiritual connection group for anyone interested in exploring spiritually of any religious and non-religious tradition. He also is available for one-on-one meetings.  In Gordon’s spare time, he frequents too many coffee shops, enjoys life with his husband of 24 years and their furry children, two beagles. His fondness for beagles exemplifies his attraction to stubbornness and endearing bad behavior.

Gordon Street is a Commissioned Minister who focuses on helping people find their own spiritual connection. He grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee, moved to Phoenix in 1988, and has been a member of First Church since about 2000. Gordon has served in many capacities in First Church leadership over the years and has worked with other churches and non-profit groups.

Gordon’s thirty years of recovery and working with others gives him special insight into the common struggle (in and out of recovery) of finding a genuine experience with God, which is the essence of spirituality instead of religion and dogma. Gordon likes to say his ministry is a gift from the recovery community back to the wider church. He currently facilitates a weekly spiritual connection group for anyone interested in exploring spiritually of any religious and non-religious tradition. He also is available for one-on-one meetings.

In Gordon’s spare time, he frequents too many coffee shops, enjoys life with his husband of 24 years and their furry children, two beagles. His fondness for beagles exemplifies his attraction to stubbornness and endearing bad behavior.

Gordon Street
Commissioned Minister

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Chris Wickersham
Youth

 
 

Music

 
Born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, Joshua has maintained his career as a successful musician in and around the Phoenix metro area. Holding a Bachelors’ degree in jazz performance from ASU, he always strives to keep himself versatile in all styles of music ranging from jazz, to country, and even top 40 and beyond. Because of this, he has brought a new light into the music program at First Church UCC Phoenix, and revitalized and revamped the way the congregation connects to the divine through the spirit of music, and the journey that songs take us through. Joshua maintains a busy schedule between directing the music at Church, teaching private music lessons, as well as “gigging” around the valley on any given weekend.

Born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, Joshua has maintained his career as a successful musician in and around the Phoenix metro area. Holding a Bachelors’ degree in jazz performance from ASU, he always strives to keep himself versatile in all styles of music ranging from jazz, to country, and even top 40 and beyond. Because of this, he has brought a new light into the music program at First Church UCC Phoenix, and revitalized and revamped the way the congregation connects to the divine through the spirit of music, and the journey that songs take us through. Joshua maintains a busy schedule between directing the music at Church, teaching private music lessons, as well as “gigging” around the valley on any given weekend.

Joshua Santa Cruz
Music Director & Drums

Charles Smith is a dedicated pianist and jazz musician. Completing studies at Arizona State University in 2017, he soon after experienced a demand for the musical, managerial and inter-personal skills he had cultivated there. Answering the call to pass on his knowledge, Charlie teaches his own private students and is a substitute teacher in high school and middle school classrooms. (He’s learned that classroom management for teens is not a skill that one walks away with from a jazz-performance degree!).  In his free time, Charlie helps with “Friendly Fridays” - a weekly activities program working with people diagnosed with autism and catastrophic head injuries. This program is held at First Place, a transitional housing facility for people with disabilities.  Always looking for ways to bring music to the community, Charlie stays busy as a freelancer in Phoenix and across the valley. His favorite engagements are at the Nash, Arizona’s premier jazz venue. As a special guest artist, he’s shared the bandstand with Joel Frahm, Cyrille Aimée, Darcy James Argue, Ben Wendell and Jeremy Pelt.

Charles Smith is a dedicated pianist and jazz musician. Completing studies at Arizona State University in 2017, he soon after experienced a demand for the musical, managerial and inter-personal skills he had cultivated there. Answering the call to pass on his knowledge, Charlie teaches his own private students and is a substitute teacher in high school and middle school classrooms. (He’s learned that classroom management for teens is not a skill that one walks away with from a jazz-performance degree!).

In his free time, Charlie helps with “Friendly Fridays” - a weekly activities program working with people diagnosed with autism and catastrophic head injuries. This program is held at First Place, a transitional housing facility for people with disabilities.

Always looking for ways to bring music to the community, Charlie stays busy as a freelancer in Phoenix and across the valley. His favorite engagements are at the Nash, Arizona’s premier jazz venue. As a special guest artist, he’s shared the bandstand with Joel Frahm, Cyrille Aimée, Darcy James Argue, Ben Wendell and Jeremy Pelt.


Charles Smith
Keys

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Dan Lovelock
Keys/Vocals

Charity Lockhart  has been entertaining audiences since she was six. As the daughter of a Pentecostal pastor and a music teacher mother, Charity grew up immersed in gospel music. As a young girl she studied violin, piano, classical and jazz vocals and studied music performance and music therapy in college . After college she performed in Italy, Germany, and Switzerland before returning to the states where she landed the role of Young Melba Moore in the national touring company of "Still Standing," a musical based on the life of the legendary R&B performer.  Through faith, she and her two young children left Ohio with nothing but her instruments, $100 and trash bag filled with clothes. She drove to Phoenix, living in her car and singing in nightclubs until she made enough to rent an apartment. Charity wasn't down for long, quickly rebuilding her career. Now she splits her time between Arizona and Japan, where she tours each summer. When not traveling, she leads a Citywide Youth Choir and teach voice lessons. Charity performs Worldwide with TAD Productions. She is also an accomplishment author pairing her life stories with bible stories. She has also co-authored a collaboration book, “In Her Shoes” and her latest book “How To Use Your Voice To Heal Your Heart” teaches you how to improve your voice with some vocal tips but also learn to use your voice to change the world.  Through the ups and downs, music gave her strength. "I believe in the power of music to heal and change lives. I've learned to live in love and enjoy every moment with gratitude," she says.  Charity pulls from her varied experiences to create music that's soothing to the mind, body and soul. "When people come to see me perform, no doubt they'll be entertained," she laughs, "But they'll also feel love, joy and peace. I always tell my audiences, expect to be transformed."   www.charitylockhart.com

Charity Lockhart has been entertaining audiences since she was six. As the daughter of a Pentecostal pastor and a music teacher mother, Charity grew up immersed in gospel music. As a young girl she studied violin, piano, classical and jazz vocals and studied music performance and music therapy in college . After college she performed in Italy, Germany, and Switzerland before returning to the states where she landed the role of Young Melba Moore in the national touring company of "Still Standing," a musical based on the life of the legendary R&B performer.

Through faith, she and her two young children left Ohio with nothing but her instruments, $100 and trash bag filled with clothes. She drove to Phoenix, living in her car and singing in nightclubs until she made enough to rent an apartment. Charity wasn't down for long, quickly rebuilding her career. Now she splits her time between Arizona and Japan, where she tours each summer. When not traveling, she leads a Citywide Youth Choir and teach voice lessons. Charity performs Worldwide with TAD Productions. She is also an accomplishment author pairing her life stories with bible stories. She has also co-authored a collaboration book, “In Her Shoes” and her latest book “How To Use Your Voice To Heal Your Heart” teaches you how to improve your voice with some vocal tips but also learn to use your voice to change the world.

Through the ups and downs, music gave her strength. "I believe in the power of music to heal and change lives. I've learned to live in love and enjoy every moment with gratitude," she says.

Charity pulls from her varied experiences to create music that's soothing to the mind, body and soul. "When people come to see me perform, no doubt they'll be entertained," she laughs, "But they'll also feel love, joy and peace. I always tell my audiences, expect to be transformed."

www.charitylockhart.com

Charity Lockhart
Vocals

Enrique has been playing guitar since the age of 11. He later graduated from ASU with a degree in Jazz Studies through the jazz guitar studio. Currently, he works with cover and variety bands playing at bars, private events, and everything in between.

Enrique has been playing guitar since the age of 11. He later graduated from ASU with a degree in Jazz Studies through the jazz guitar studio. Currently, he works with cover and variety bands playing at bars, private events, and everything in between.

Enrique Lara
Guitar

Chris Finet  plays regularly with First Church UCC Phoenix's Worship Team as well as with many of the state’s top jazz artists and historically has performed with jazz luminaries such as Jerry Bergonzi, Roy Hargrove, Dave Douglas, John Tchicai, Irvin Mayfield, and many others. An active bassist and national educator, Chris is currently a professor and Director of Jazz Studies at Northern Arizona University in addition to maintaining an active performing schedule.  As a classical musician Chris is the Principal Bassist of the Flagstaff Symphony and performs often with the Phoenix Symphony, Arizona Opera, and freelance orchestras throughout Arizona. While living in NYC Chris held positions with the Chamber Orchestra of New York, Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas, Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra, Allentown Symphony Orchestra, Binghamton Philharmonic, Glens Falls Symphony Orchestra, and regularly subbed with orchestras throughout the Northeast. He has appeared as a soloist with the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra and North Valley Symphony Orchestra. In addition, Chris is an active participant in the theater and commercial music worlds, playing for numerous Broadway touring productions, entertainers such as Don Rickles and Joan Rivers, and commercial productions such as the Latin Grammy Awards, Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience, and more.

Chris Finet plays regularly with First Church UCC Phoenix's Worship Team as well as with many of the state’s top jazz artists and historically has performed with jazz luminaries such as Jerry Bergonzi, Roy Hargrove, Dave Douglas, John Tchicai, Irvin Mayfield, and many others. An active bassist and national educator, Chris is currently a professor and Director of Jazz Studies at Northern Arizona University in addition to maintaining an active performing schedule.

As a classical musician Chris is the Principal Bassist of the Flagstaff Symphony and performs often with the Phoenix Symphony, Arizona Opera, and freelance orchestras throughout Arizona. While living in NYC Chris held positions with the Chamber Orchestra of New York, Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas, Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra, Allentown Symphony Orchestra, Binghamton Philharmonic, Glens Falls Symphony Orchestra, and regularly subbed with orchestras throughout the Northeast. He has appeared as a soloist with the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra and North Valley Symphony Orchestra. In addition, Chris is an active participant in the theater and commercial music worlds, playing for numerous Broadway touring productions, entertainers such as Don Rickles and Joan Rivers, and commercial productions such as the Latin Grammy Awards, Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience, and more.

Chris Finet
Bass

 
 

Church Staff

 
A native of Southern California, Charity moved to Arizona in 2017. She is pursuing her BA in Marketing Management while serving as our Office Coordinator. Charity brings to the seat over 20 years of management in various fields, including small business, retail, food service, and events. When she is not at work, you will find her imparting feminist wisdom upon her two teenagers while thrifting and trying new local food spots with the wife.

A native of Southern California, Charity moved to Arizona in 2017. She is pursuing her BA in Marketing Management while serving as our Office Coordinator. Charity brings to the seat over 20 years of management in various fields, including small business, retail, food service, and events. When she is not at work, you will find her imparting feminist wisdom upon her two teenagers while thrifting and trying new local food spots with the wife.

Charity Gleason-Davis
Office Coordinator

ellie hutchison is the founding director of la Phoenikera Writers' Guild (laPWG) and the current Community Outreach and Development team member at First Church UCC Phoenix. She brings a wealth of experience as an educator, community collaborator, writer, arts-rooted organizer, and theologian who earned her B.A. in English and M.Ed. in Special Education from Arcadia University. As a recent graduate of the M.A.R. – Public Leadership program at United Lutheran Seminary, her current scholarship investigated interfaith engagement and activism through the arts and humanities. ellie spent 10 years as a teaching artist and poet throughout the Philadelphia School District, with Native youth in Arizona, and youth diagnosed with special needs. ellie is committed to building bridges with communities through the lens of womxnist liberation and black theology.

ellie hutchison is the founding director of la Phoenikera Writers' Guild (laPWG) and the current Community Outreach and Development team member at First Church UCC Phoenix. She brings a wealth of experience as an educator, community collaborator, writer, arts-rooted organizer, and theologian who earned her B.A. in English and M.Ed. in Special Education from Arcadia University. As a recent graduate of the M.A.R. – Public Leadership program at United Lutheran Seminary, her current scholarship investigated interfaith engagement and activism through the arts and humanities. ellie spent 10 years as a teaching artist and poet throughout the Philadelphia School District, with Native youth in Arizona, and youth diagnosed with special needs. ellie is committed to building bridges with communities through the lens of womxnist liberation and black theology.

ellie hutchison
Community Development & Outreach

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Barbie Whiteman
Church Treasurer

After serving for nearly 40 years as a Language Arts teacher and Educational Administrator, in Colorado, Illinois, Nebraska, and Japan, John Kasel retired in 2018 to thrive in the warm Phoenix desert. John is grateful to be able to serve Christ as a member of the Administrative Team at First Church – United Church of Christ.

After serving for nearly 40 years as a Language Arts teacher and Educational Administrator, in Colorado, Illinois, Nebraska, and Japan, John Kasel retired in 2018 to thrive in the warm Phoenix desert. John is grateful to be able to serve Christ as a member of the Administrative Team at First Church – United Church of Christ.



John Kasal
Church Clerk

 
 

FACILITIES STAFF

 
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Marcos Amparan

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Al Garcia

Thank you for Brian Kelly for the amazing leadership and staff photos.