Rev. Dr. Charles Svendsen - Interim Minister
Reverend Charles Svendsen has been the Interim Minister of First Congregational United Church of Christ, Portland since July 1, 2013. Charles’ calling for the past 30 years is intentional interim ministry, and he has served 20 interim pastorates in six states and three countries. Charles has a BA from Wheaton College, IL, an M. Div. from Westminster Theological Seminary, PA, a Th. M. from Princeton Theological Seminary, NJ and a D. Min. from Union Presbyterian Seminary, VA. His thesis was entitled “The Nature and Practice of Interim Ministry.”
Charles is delighted to serve First Congregational UCC. Our church enjoys unique opportunities for ministry in an urban setting. Its historic and cultural presence downtown is important to the community as we “embrace diversity of thought, belief and action.” Charles is honored to be a part of the transitional months in the life of our church. Personally, Charles is happy traveling, reading American history and frequenting Portland’s famous food carts.
Rev. Sara Rosenau - Assistant Minister
Rev. Sara Rosenau’s vision for ministry is to be a facilitator of holy conversations so that the church can continue to listen to the still-speaking God. Sara has a passion for ministries of faith formation and education. She is also interested in how the UCC’s legacy and vision for social justice can contribute to church revitalization. Sara’s ministry is informed by many years of experience in non-profit and educational settings where she has been involved in advocacy with people experiencing homelessness, adults with disabilities, and children in foster care.
Sara holds a B.A. from Earlham College, a M.S.W. from University of Denver, and a M.Div. from Iliff School of Theology. Sara is currently working on a PhD in Theology with Drew University where her dissertation focuses on how the practices of the church can contribute to social justice and political change. Raised a Quaker, Sara has been a member of the United Church of Christ since 2005. Sara enjoys hiking, yoga, and spending time with her spouse Kat, children Ingrid and Severin, and the family dog, Finn.
Michael Kelly - Music Director
Dr. Kelly has been our Music Director since May 2005. He has many years of experience, not only as a music director, organist, and choirmaster in several large churches, but also as a performer and professor. In addition to serving as our Music Director, Dr. Kelly is the pianist for the Portland Symphonic Choir, and is an active vocal coach and accompanist. Dr. Kelly performed at Lincoln Center in New York City as winner of the 1982 Bach Society Competition. He has taught piano and music theory at the Manhattan School of Music, the Brooklyn College of CUNY, and the University of Puget Sound. He earned a Master’s degree in piano at the Juilliard School and a doctorate in piano at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City. Thanks in large part to Dr. Kelly, the truly professional quality music we enjoy during services each week adds depth to our worship experience.
Grant Edwards- Organist
Grant Edwards has been organist of First Congregational United Church of Christ since June 1995, on occasion of the 100th anniversary service of the landmark building. He holds a B.A. in Organ from Lewis & Clark College. Grant has also studied at the Ludwig-Maximillians-Universität in Munich and as a Deutsche-UNESCO scholar in Weimar, East Germany. An organ builder as well, he has been a craftsman at Bond Organ Builders since 1993. Grant installed his first self-designed organ at the Episcopal Church of the Nativity in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. In collaboration with Bond, he also constructed the amazing organ in our sanctuary, incorporating mechanical portions of the original 1951 instrument as well as an ornate 1877 organ case. Other pursuits include composition; he is currently completing a large-scale choral work based on the poetry of Emily Dickinson, and has created and performed several original compositions for our worship services. Grant has performed for three National Conventions of the Organ Historical Society. In 2003, he recorded an eclectic album, “A Musical Feast,” (ProOrgano CD 7181) at St. Stephen’s Episcopal, Seattle. Active in the local chapter of the American Guild of Organists, Grant is currently that organization’s Sub-Dean and chair of the Program Committee.
Batya Podos - Youth Ministry Coordinator
e: Coming soon
Batya Podos discovered the Greek Myths at age nine, and ever since then, she has been chasing a good story. For over thirty years, she has been a storyteller and performer, workshop leader, teacher and playwright. She worked as an artist in residence and educational consultant in the U.K. where she lived for over a decade, and later, when she returned to the U.S., as a middle school drama teacher.
Batya is an ordained maggid, a teacher and storyteller in the Jewish tradition, and now that she has retired from teaching middle school, she works with young people who are about to have their Bar or Bat Mitzvah, and is one of the directors of “Abraham’s Tent”—an interfaith summer camp for Christian, Jewish and Muslim children. Her goal is to have children connect with the Divine through their personal experience of the stories within their tradition. Batya also leads services, facilitates holiday celebrations, and has taken the pulpit on more than one occasion.
Recently, she contributed to the book, The Language of Life, by Milt Markewitz which explores the meaning of the energetic patterns of the Hebrew letters, and her own book for middle level readers, Rebecca and the Talisman of Time, has just been published by Portal Center Press.
John Behrens - Bookkeeper
Jonathan Dyer - Office Manager
Since August 2012, Jonathan has been responsible for keeping the church office operating smoothly and producing all of the church's publications. Previously, Jonathan has worked in higher education and the nonprofit sector giving him years of experience in administration and communications. He holds a BS from Middle Tennessee State University and an MPA from Portland State University.
Jonathan is excited to work at such a progressive church with a strong commitment to social justice. When not at work, Jonathan enjoys playing board games, reading comics and spending time with his fiancée and their two cats: Moon Pie and Sebastian.
Doug Emmons - Facilities Manager
Doug wears many hats. He has worked with us at First Congregational UCC for over 30 years in building maintenance. In 2010 he became our Facilities Manager, coordinating the schedules of six custodians, as well as overseeing the maintenance of the building as a whole. Doug also has a passion for the arts. Working in drawing including pencil, paint, and oil sticks, he manages the artistic efforts of two groups. One is the art group within NW Pilot Project, an organization serving low income seniors. The other is the Troy Laundry Lifedrawing group. When he has time at home, Doug enjoys working on his own pieces.
Cara Rothe - Director of Marketing and Community Relations
Cara Rothe is responsible for promoting the church’s activities to the public, building partnerships with other organizations and coordinating all of the events happening at First Congregational. Previously working in health care, Cara developed an interest in nonprofit management and decided to switch gears. While working on her Bachelors in Business Management from Portland State, Cara worked as a Marketing and Development Assistant and as a Volunteer Coordinator.
Cara is excited to apply her love of organizational behavior and marketing to First Congregational during this exciting time of transition. Cara enjoys kayaking, backpacking and attending meditation/spiritual retreats. She plays the Native American flute and loves to act and sing.