First Congregational Church | Where God is Still Speaking

No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here!

Staff

Posted on December 18, 2009 - Filed Under |

Rev. Nathan Dannison
Senior Pastor

Nathan Dannison is a seventh-generation Michigander, born and raised in Alto, Michigan. He graduated from Western Michigan University in 2005 and completed his Masters of Divinity Degree with honors at the Chicago Theological Seminary in 2009. It was 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.

Nathan has previously served God as a community organizer, an intentional interim pastor, and as an Emergency Medical Technician with the Palestinian Red Crescent Society.

He is an old-time fiddle player, he fishes when he’s able, and he 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.

Nathan@kazoofcc.org


Pam Cassino
2014 Moderator

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.

Moderator@kazoofcc.org


Becky Ramsey
Church Administrator

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.

Becky@kazoofcc.org


 

Michael Palmer
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

Michael@kazoofcc.org


Kory Heitzig
Organist/Children’s Choir Director

Kory@kazoofcc.org


Jill Busby
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.

Jill@kazoofcc.org


Sonja Elsholz
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.

Sonja@kazoofcc.org

 


Penny Schmidt
Associate Director of Children’s and Youth Ministries

Penny was born in Earl Shilton, England where she grew up until she moved to the Grand Rapids area as a teenager.  She graduated from Thornapple-Kellogg High School.  Penny then went into the hospitality field and later opened and operated a home-based daycare.  This is where she truly found her passion for working with children.  Her family relocated to the Kalamazoo area last fall for her husband’s job, where she found and quickly fell in love with First Congregational Church. Penny is very excited to join the Children’s and Youth Ministries Team.

She and her husband Rob have two young daughters, Sophie and Ella, who love exploring our historic church.

Penny@kazoofcc.org



Dianne Roberts
Director of Parish Care

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

Dianne@kazoofcc.org


Deborah Zandt
Housekeeper

Deb has worked as our Housekeeper since 2008 and is a valuable member of our staff.  She is here on Sunday mornings to assist you. Please let her know if you need anything related to the building.

 

 

Deb@kazoofcc.org


STAFF VALUES

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
others.

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
relationships.

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.