First Congregational ChurchOf Bellingham

An open and affirming congregation of the United Church of Christ – 10 am Sunday Service

 

Rev. Sharon Benton, Lead Pastor

BENTON, SHARON; (Staff)65

Growing up I was very active in the United Methodist Church in my rural New Jersey town. In college I studied English and Spanish Literature, and both were useful when I entered Claremont School of Theology—literature served my imagination for preaching while Spanish helped in ministry as a hospital chaplain in Southern California. Claremont is also where Jamie Kepros and I met. We moved from California to Connecticut in 2000 and joined in marriage at New Haven’s United Church on the Green (also where I was ordained). In 2004 the Spirit called me to Plymouth Congregational UCC in Fort Collins, CO, where we lived for 10 years before I joined the First Congregational staff on January 1, 2015.

Jamie serves as Pastor at Lummi Island Congregational Church (UCC), and we celebrate how God led us to two congregations that we cherish so deeply. I still enjoy reading, but I’ve expanded my love of great literature to include young adult novels, fantasy, and historical fiction—you’ll often find me with my nose in a book. Our cat Teiresias feeds our spirits with never-ending curiosity and silliness, and Bellingham’s lush beauty keeps us surprised with joyful sights and experiences.

You can contact Sharon at sharon[at]fccb.net

 

David Weasley, Pastor of Youth, Young Adults, & Mission

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I grew up in small town Western New York (Chautauqua County.) I was well supported by my little United Methodist Church, including some wonderful adults who really believed in young people and in youth ministry! I went to Oberlin College and graduated with a BA in Religion- that’s also where I met Rachael, my partner. After college I headed to Chicago for an M Div. at Chicago Theological Seminary. I was ordained at Peace Community Church in Oberlin, Ohio in 2007.  In Chicago, I served at First Baptist Church of Berwyn, The Night Ministry, and Zion Lutheran Church.

Rachael and I moved here from Chicago in November 2015. I still think it’s super cute whenever somebody complains about the “traffic” or “cold weather” in Bellingham. We love music, games, and walking in the woods. I am a huge nerd, with particular passions for role-playing games (Dungeons & Dragons and others), Magic: The Gathering, church polity, comic books, storytelling, Hanuman, contact improv, the last great youtube video you saw, and whatever the young people in the church youth group are into these days. I serve on the board for The Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists (awab.org) and I play the mandolin mediocrely and enthusiastically.

You can call me at (360)734-3720, ext. 1105, or email me: david[at]fccb.net. Photo credit:Emily Garcia, emilyanngarcia.com

 

Reverend Deanna Kay Murray , Pastoral Care Associate

MURRAY, DeannaDeanna works with the Called to Care Team, the pastor and Sharry to provide pastoral care and support to our church including home and hospital visitations. Reverend Deanna Murray, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, has worked, played and prayed in ministry as a church pastor, as a chaplain, and as a spiritual director for thirty + years.

Deanna grew up in Oklahoma City and has lived in Missouri, Alaska, New Jersey, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, all before coming to Washington in 1998. She’s been a primary pastor or associate pastor with congregations in Berger, MO; St. Louis; Rhinelander, WI; Anoka, MN; Bellevue and Seattle. As a chaplain she was the Director of Pastoral Care at Providence Marianwood in Issaquah. Her most recent church position was as the Interim Pastor at Eastgate Congregational UCC in Bellevue.

She moved to Ferndale to live near her youngest grandchildren, ILuma and Lyric. Besides playing with her “grands”, Deanna engages in many spiritual practices including journaling, meditation, silence, walking, and observing nature. Deanna also loves and leads a spiritual practice called InterPlay, an improvisational movement and storytelling practice which helps us discover the intimate connection of body and spirit.

She can be contacted through the church office at 734-3720 or by email: deanna[at]fccb.net

   

Sharry Nyberg, Minister of Christian Education

Sharry Nyberg, Christian Education Coordinator, First Congregational Church of Bellingham

I was a 15-year member of FCCB who was managing and working at a local clothing store for several years when I was asked to apply for the position of Christian Educator in 1999. It is an honor and privilege to journey with this amazing faith community, which continues to live into the statement, No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey you are welcome here. I love connecting with the children and youth as we nurture them on their faith journey; they have amazing gifts and wisdom to share with all of us. The most important part of my job is creating a space where they feel seen, safe and secure, loved and at home while they grow and explore questions of faith honored and respected for the wonderful persons they are. I also love the opportunities I have to plan retreats, labyrinth walks, mission trips and other ways to experience the Holy Spirit outside of Sunday worship in creative and tangible ways.

I grew up in Bellingham and have been married to Joe for 33 years. My daughter Lindsay is a schoolteacher living in Seattle and son Eric is a mechanical engineer in Bellingham. My life outside of FCCB includes morning walks with golden retriever Maggie, reading, traveling, knitting and learning new creative crafts. Beach walks, gardening, cooking and eating great food with friends are some of my favorite things to do.

Contact Sharry by email: sharry[at]fccb.net

Deborah Brown, Minister of Music

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I grew up attending a UCC church in southern California, where my love of music and choir was fostered by a wonderful Music Director, Ralph Prime. I loved going to camp twice a year at Pilgrim Pines, the sister to Pilgrim Firs here in Bellingham. I received my degree in voice and lifetime teaching credential in music from the University of California at Irvine.

I love working with the talented singers and musicians at FCCB, and feel particularly blessed to have the opportunity to collaborate with Judy Widrig. Judy’s artistry helps our singers add beauty and color to all our endeavors. The FCCB community and staff are a treasure trove of talent, enthusiasm, love and welcoming support that adds to the joy I experience in my work at FCCB.

I am also the Artistic Director and Conductor of the 90-voice Whatcom Chorale and Sinfonia, and have been the director of award-winning choirs in schools in California, on Waldron and Shaw Islands in Washington and at Squalicum High School in Bellingham. Many athletic singers have been surprised to find their conductor wielding a tennis racquet in my work as tennis pro at the Bellingham Tennis Club!

 

Judith Widrig, Organist

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Pianist Judith Widrig is a native of Syracuse, NY and currently teaches on the piano faculty at Western Washington University. She received a Doctorate in Piano Performance from the University of Colorado in May of 2000, and Piano Performance degrees from The Hartt School of Music and The University of Minnesota. Prior to commencement of her doctoral work, Judith was collaborative pianist for the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. She has also studied at the Banff Centre for the Arts, the Schweitzer Institute, and the Holzhausen Music Festival in Germany. Judith has taught both private and class piano at the Universities of Colorado and Minnesota.

Judith also maintains a private piano studio, and many of her students have been prize winners on the local and state level. Former students now study piano performance at The New England Conservatory, Oberlin Conservatory, The University of Washington, and the University of Colorado. Judith has performed with orchestras on both coasts, including local appearances as concerto soloist with the Whatcom and Skagit Symphonies.

 

Cydne Cochran, Office Manager 

COCHRAN, TOM; (Staff)3

I love working with this wonderful community at FCCB. I have worked at two churches previously, most recently the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship, as well as the First United Methodist Church in Los Alamos, New Mexico, my home town. In addition to my work in church offices, I have more than twenty years of experience in administrative and clerical support in a variety of fields, including home health, environmental remediation, and a newspaper. I have also worked as a victim advocate and mental health counselor.

When I met my husband Tom in New Mexico in 2003, he talked often about his years living in the Pacific Northwest and Bellingham in particular. He proposed to me a week before he moved back to the Bellingham area. I followed him when we married nine months later. I love big mountains and big water, and both are here. What could be better? I am the proud mother of a son who is an EMT in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a daughter who lives outside Savannah, Georgia with her husband and my three grandchildren, and a stepson in Olympia, Washington. When I’m not at work I love reading, crochet, knitting, observing nature, and doing water aerobics and yoga. My best time is spent just relaxing at home with Tom and our furry housemate HallieCat.

Contact Cydne: office[at]fccb.net

Kurt Aagard, Custodian/Maintenance

Aargard-kurt; (Staff)3

I grew up in Seattle and moved to Bellingham in 2006 to attend Western Washington University where I studied Psychology, Political Science, and ultimately Cultural Anthropology. I graduated in 2012 with a BA in Cultural Anthropology and met my future wife, Emily, near the end of my time at Western. About two years after graduating, we decided to move out to Birch Bay to run a summer camp that Emily had been working summers at for about 8 years already, where I assumed the maintenance position and she took on the camp director position. Around that time, we also brought a new member into our little family, our golden retriever named Cooper! We married in May 2016 and moved back to Bellingham in the Fall of 2016 to pursue our future together.

In my personal time I love learning about the world around us, and the universe which encapsulates and surrounds us. There is a lot out there, and so much left to be discovered both on Earth and beyond. This is the driving thought behind why I do most of what I do – there’s always something you can learn, even if you think you already know everything. Like I say, “The more we learn, the more we know, and the more we grow”.

Outside of work I love taking Cooper to the park, lake, and beach as well as hikes around the county. When not being active, I also thoroughly enjoy many video games, movies, and television shows of all types (my guilty pleasure is “The OC”), although my favorites are procedural crime dramas (Law & Order anyone?), well made sitcoms, and over produced prime time dramas. I like to cook and work on projects around the house, as well as some woodworking when time allows. My other main hobby is riding bikes, something I’ve done my whole life. Bellingham is the perfect little town for getting around on two wheels and offers so many opportunities on bikes that you just can’t get in a vehicle.

I look forward to meeting everyone here! It’s my privilege to work for FCCB making your church sparkle and shine, and I’m very excited to see where this new adventure takes us all. You can contact me at custodian[at]fccb.net

Denise Hoffman, Church Accountant

I have been with FCCB since 2007 and enjoy working with the members of this church — they’re a special group of people. I grew up in New England and moved to the Northwest after marrying my husband Roy, who works for US Customs. We have two sons Michael, a junior at WWU and Brian, a senior at Sehome. We’ve lived in the Northwest for a total of 17 years, but spent several years in Guam and Hawaii. I love to quilt.