Posted on December 18, 2009 - Filed Under |
Nathan Dannison is a seventh-generation Michigander, born and raised in Alto, Michigan, in a home built by his father, Rusty, who was a decorated retired Army officer, a professor and a practicing attorney. His mother, Linda, recently retired from Western Michigan University after three decades as a professor and department chair in the College of Education.
Nathan graduated from Western Michigan University in 2005 with a combined B.A. in Political Science and Comparative Religion, minoring in Applied Ethics. That same year, following the sudden death of his beloved father, he rededicated his life to Jesus Christ and service to His church. He completed his Master’s of Divinity Degree with honors at the Chicago Theological Seminary (CTS) in 2009. During his time at CTS he concurrently worked at the historic Park Church, in Grand Rapids, under the guidance of the Rev. Mr. Todd A. Petty, as a seminary intern and as the Director of Outreach Ministries. While working at Park he helped establish several successful new ministries to assist the church in breaking down the boundaries between the membership and the community that surrounded them in the downtown Heartside neighborhood. Each week for three years he commuted the distance between Chicago and Grand Rapids, later adding the city of Kalamazoo to his weekly circuit. To this day he is a stalwart advocate for the commuter rail system.
It was also during this time that he met the love of his life, Heather. They share a passion for serving people in need through the church and a common love of music, the arts, and the outdoors. Heather is currently completing her PhD in Counseling Psychology at the University of Memphis.
During his time in graduate school at CTS Nathan was awarded several scholarships and fellowships, including both the Lilly Endowment Fund for Theological Education’s Congregational and Ministry Fellowships. In 2006 he was awarded the UCC’s Immanuel Endowment Scholarship and in 2007 he was named as the Kenilworth Union Centennial Scholar. Between the second and third year of his Master’s program, Nathan undertook certification as a medical first responder, earning his license as an Emergency Medical Technician with Wilderness upgrade at the National Outdoor Leadership School. From there he traveled to Bethlehem, West Bank, Occupied Palestinian Territories, where he served as an ambulance medic in the cities of Beit Sahour, Bet’Jala, and Bil’in. During this time he also contributed to the missional work of the organization Playgrounds for Palestine, financing and overseeing the installation of a playground in Bethlehem, and working alongside the Beit Sahour municipality to develop new models for sustainable playground development. He remains an active member with the board of Playgrounds for Palestine and is an outspoken advocate for the defense of the children of Palestine.
During his final semester at CTS, while writing his Constructive Theology thesis, he accepted a position as a Lead Organizer with ISAAC in Kalamazoo, Michigan, to oversee the fulfillment of the Arcus Foundation’s “Ordinary People for Extraordinary Change” campaign, partnering with the Hispanic American Council to bring new opportunities for economic success to the residents of the Edison neighborhood. This work led him to accept his first call to parish ministry in 2009 as the Intentional Interim Minister at the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, in Kalamazoo. Nathan uncovered his passion for interim and transitional ministry during this time. He concurrently served as the transitional worship leader at the Potter’s House, UCC, in Traverse City. He also accepted a position as a part-time instructor at Western Michigan University in the Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation and was asked to serve as the co-chair of ISAAC’s Kalamazoo Clergy Caucus. He was also blessed with four step-siblings when his mother, Linda, married Martin Grant on June 19th, 2010. Martin is a retired member of the Royal Air Force and professor at Western Michigan University.
Nathan was ordained the following morning, June 20th, in the sanctuary of Park Church, in the presence of denominational leadership from the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
After completing his work in Kalamazoo, he accepted a position as the Intentional Interim Senior Minister at Kingsway Christian Church in Memphis, TN. Heather and Nathan moved to Memphis, but returned briefly to Kalamazoo in the Spring of 2011, where they were united in marriage in the historic sanctuary of the First Congregational Church.
It was during Nathan’s service at Kingsway in Memphis that he was invited to begin work toward a Ph.D. in Religious Studies at Vanderbilt University. During his time at Vanderbilt he was awarded the William Gilbert and Florence Leonard Jones Scholarship and was invited to join the Lilly Endowment’s Bethany Fellows. After completing 45 credit hours of doctoral coursework Nathan discerned a call to place his higher education labors on hold and return full time to parish ministry. Heather and Nathan prayerfully attended to the discerning work of the UCC’s search and call process. During this time of meditation Nathan briefly served as the Interim Pastor of a wonderful Disciples congregation in Paris, TN. The First Christian Church of Paris has now called a talented settled pastor and Nathan and Heather have greatly enjoyed the prophetic and meaningful conversations they’ve had with congregational search committees in several areas of the United States. Ultimately, Nathan feels called to serve a church where his gifts for liturgical renewal and community outreach will find space to flourish, in a community committed to the welfare of “the least of these who are members of my family.”
In his precious spare time, Nathan enjoys playing bluegrass and old-time fiddle music, and is a member in good standing with the Michigan Artisan Blacksmith Association. He was also recently invited to join the National Planning Committee of the UCC’s 2030 Clergy Network and is very much looking forward to contributing to this vital denominational ministry. He fishes when he’s able and is the adoring Uncle Nate to three brilliant nieces and two awesome nephews. He is a tireless laborer for the Kingdom of God, an advocate of the historic church in America, and a devoted follower of Jesus Christ.
Please click here to read the wonderful article in the Kalamazoo Gazette about Pastor Nathan!
The Kalamazoo area has been home to Pam for 26 years. She joined the FCC family in the fall of 1991 and married her husband, Mark, in our lovely chapel that same Thanksgiving weekend. Since that time, Pam has enjoyed participating on numerous boards, committees, and special projects within the FCC and in our wider non-profit community.
Pam’s professional background is in the area of healthcare/non-profit financial administration. She has recently retired from full-time work and is enjoying the opportunity to more actively engage in the FCC and the wider community. Of personal importance to Pam is gaining a better understanding of the ways our complex environments are impacting the day-to-day needs of those around us and becoming a better listener – to God, and to each other.
Pam loves the First Congregational Church and is grateful and proud, in the best sense of the word, to be part of a loving church community that honors God’s unique gifts in each of us, and works together to make our world a better place.
Becky was born in Nebraska and she and her family moved to several other states before finally ending up in Michigan. She graduated from Northwest High School in Jackson and then received a Bachelor of Science degree from Western Michigan University. She fell in love with Kalamazoo (and her husband, Rick) while attending Western and, after a brief move to Oregon shortly after they got married, has called this area home. They have three adult sons: Chase, Kellen and Tucker.
Becky and Rick joined First Congregational Church in 1984. She has been a member of the church staff since 1993.
She loves First Congregational Church and feels honored to be a part of the staff and congregation of this wonderful community of faith.
Interim Director of Music
Michael is a native of Michigan, and has lived in and out of the Kalamazoo area since 1978. A church musician for 25 years, he has served congregations in California, Florida and Michigan. Having stepped away from full time ministry five years ago, Michael has worked in the non-profit sector as Finance Coordinator for International Child Care-USA, Inc. based here in Kalamazoo. He has served as Director of Music for Oshtemo United Methodist Church and, since 2004, has been Music Director/Conductor for the Kalamazoo Male Chorus. Michael has taught in the public schools and performed in over forty operas and musicals — both on stage and as conductor. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California, Western Michigan University and the Methodist Theological School of Ohio. Michael and his wife, Barbara, reside in Portage and are the proud parents of six wonderful children
Associate Director of Music
On February 24th, 2014, our beloved Associate Director of Music, Connie Utrecht, passed from this life into life eternal. We miss her dearly and are grieving her passing. Connie’s light shone so brightly amongst our faith family. She was a brilliant organist and accompanist and she led the Celebration and Bell choirs with talent and care. We give thanks to God for all that she was and for all the gifts that she shared with our church and our community during her time with us.
Connie’s obituary can be found here.
Director of Youth Ministries/Secretary
Jill Busby, a happy and out-going person who enjoys life to the fullest, is the Director of Youth Ministries at FCC. She moved from Indiana to Michigan in 1994. She loves Michigan and is happy to call it home!
Jill loves being the mother of three boys, Nathan, Nicholas, and Adam. Most of her free time is spent watching them play sports, but when she has the chance she also likes to read and scrapbook.
Jill received a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. She always thought she would use her degree to teach in a classroom setting, but has found that God has led her in a different direction. Jill feels very blessed to work with young people. She encourages youth to dig into the Word and get to know what it has to say about God and life. “I am very passionate about youth and enjoy guiding, teaching, counseling, and challenging them on their spiritual journeys.”
Jill also serves as our Secretary. Her primary responsibilities are the church publications (Spire, eSpire and worship bulletins). If you have submissions for a publication, please direct them to Jill.
Interim Director of Children’s Ministry
There is much to be said for the saying “it takes a village”. Sonja loves her village here at First Congregational Church UCC in Kalamazoo. She and her family have been members for three years and she has worked in the Director of Children’s Ministry position for most of that time. She is thrilled to be back serving as Interim DCM.
Sonja is the mother of four boys, ages 5-19. Her Husband, Roy is an overhead Lineman and together they try to keep a handle on the circus that is their home. At present they have (in addition to their kids) two dogs, two cats, a bird and three turtles.
Sonja and her family have lived in Kalamazoo for six years and are very happy to make it their home. Sonja has lived in various parts of Michigan her whole life and loves it here. She graduated from Saginaw Valley State University with a degree in Secondary Education in English, with a minor in Communications and Theater Arts.
There is no greater pleasure for Sonja than helping someone discover something new that will make their lives better — that’s why she loves working at the church and especially with children. She would love to help include you as a part of the village in which we all belong.
Hospitality Coordinator/Wedding Hostess
Hospitality for Dianne is not just a “job”, but it is a way of life. She believes offering welcome is basic to Christian identity and practice. Knowing that in welcoming visitors and strangers we may be entertaining angels or even the Christ, is an awesome thought. The Bible is rich with accounts of hospitality and with encouragement toward its practice. Whether we open to the story of Abraham, Sarah and the angels or to the account of the widow of Zarephath and Elijah, we cannot miss the blessing and mystery that accompany the practice of hospitality. A quick review of Jesus’ life and ministry finds hospitality at the center. Jesus is both the guest and host, dependent on others for welcome and startlingly gracious in His welcome to outsiders, seekers, and sinners.
“I am grateful for the confidence the Personnel Committee and the Deacons have placed in me and I humbly ask your assistance and cooperation as we minister together to extend FCC’s extravagant welcome with grateful hearts in response to the love and gratitude for God’s love and welcome to us.”
Dianne is here to make visitors and members feel welcome. Part of the extravagant welcome that Dianne provides is working with wedding parties to make sure everything goes smoothly on their important day. She is available for any questions you might have about First Congregational Church UCC. Feel free to contact her
These are the values which our ministry team tries to incorporate in our lives in our work here at First
Congregational, and in our daily lives. We affirm these in one another and hold one another
accountable, as well, as we minister in our own special ways.
Devotion/Worship- We, as a ministry team strive to have a variety of worship experiences that will
inspire all people no matter where they are on their faith journey.
Creativity- We believe that creativity is a key aspect in the planning and implementation of our
ministries. Creativity expands the experiences of those we minister to and helps link them to a deeper
relationship with God.
Dedication- We are a ministry team that is committed to God and we are committed in putting our
whole hearts into serving.
Flexibility- We understand as a ministry team that we need to be willing to bend and change according
to God’s will. We know that being flexible will allow for more growth in our church, ourselves, and
Quality- We recognize the importance of always doing our best and we attempt to be accountable to
each other. Accountability is the best means to achieve quality in our work.
Humor- We think that laughter is instrumental in building strong relationships, finding happiness, and
alleviating stress. God gave us each other to help find this type of joy.
Integrity- We always try to be like Dr. Suess’ character, Horton. “I meant what I said and I said
what I meant, an elephant’s faithful 100%.” Having integrity establishes trust and builds warmth in
Compassion- We embrace the belief that Jesus was the most compassionate person and we believe that
we should strive to live by his example.
Respect- We value each other’s differences and commonalities and we have the goal of listening with an
open heart to those around us. We protect and honor the spirits of other people.
Humility- We know that God is responsible for all that we have accomplished and we fully give the
credit of our successes to God.
Questioning- We trust that there are questions that are unanswered and beyond our understandings. As
a ministry team we feel that questioning is a great way to grow in our faith and to learn more about the
power of God.