The Reverend Mark Montgomery, Interim Pastor
I grew up attending Allison Creek Presbyterian Church in South Carolina. This small church where everybody knew everybody shaped me and gave the foundation for me to explore my faith. Through ministers like Olin Whitener and Christian Educators like Deb Guess, I found leaders who loved, and built up the Church through this love. I stand on the shoulders of saints like these and hope the love I have to share will lead others to hear and heed their call.
After graduating from Clemson University, I continued church work in camping ministry at Bethelwoods Presbyterian Camp and Conference Center in York, SC. From there, I felt the call to continue my education and graduated in 2000 with a Masters of Divinity from the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA.
I’ve been blessed to serve congregations in South Carolina, Virginia, Texas, California, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut; working in camping ministry, hospice care, Presbytery and local church ministry.
What I love most about First Norwalk is our diversity. The racial/ethnic diversity, the diversity of backgrounds, the differences in how we believe. This variety of being makes this congregation strong as folks here realize God has created us with differences, but God has created us equal. From these differences, we boldly claim that which connects us: our faith in God, and our hope we know through Jesus Christ.
John Strybos, Director of Chancel Choir Ministry
John Strybos, Texan by birth/Yankee by choice, has degrees and certificates from Baylor University, the University of Central Oklahoma and Manhattan School of Music. Since moving to Connecticut he taught music in the Weston public schools and Convent of the Sacred Heart (NYC) before joining the staff at The Church of St. Joseph in Bronxville, NY where he was organist for all sung liturgies, directed 5 choirs, and also taught music and public speaking in the parochial school for 19 years. After being retired for 4 ½ months he joined the staff of First Congregational Church. He and Jim Wetherald, his partner since 1984, live in Stamford.
Chris Coogan, Director of Gospel Choir Ministry
Chris leads our Gospel Choir, Men’s Chorus and our newly forming Youth Gospel Choir. As well as a writer and arranger of gospel music. He weaves jazz black gospel and white choral music into a new brand of music that engages a broad, cross-cultural audience. In 1993, he founded the good News Gospel Choir with 15 members. Today, this 50-voice, multi-denominational singing group performs nearly every weekend at churches, festivals, fundraisers and various community events throughout the state of Connecticut. The group has released two albums, 1997’s Joy, Unspeakable Joy and most recently, Light a Candle. Through a choral workshops, Coogan has begun to help reinvigorate church and community choirs by teaching directors and members the vocal techniques and gesture that accompany Gospel music. These workshops have been offered throughout California and in Sydney, Australia and will be offered to churches throughout the country in Spring, 2001.I see myself as a catalyst who uses the medium of music to bring people together” Coogan said. “It’s my passion to help people find joy in making music and singing from their souls”.
Amanda Otero, Director of Children’s Ministry
I grew up attending First Congregational Church with my mother and great grandfather. After making my confirmation, I knew I wanted to be involved in the church and give back. I have held roles on the Finance Commission, led the Interim Pastoral Search Committee, and now serve as the Director of Children’s ministry. Our goal is to enable every child with the knowledge and desire to reflect Christ through their lives. These children are the foundation of the church, and I hope with the help of their parents to guide them to become leaders of FCC.
Kyle Kentopp, Summer Ministry Intern
Kyle Greyson Kentopp is a Master of Divinity student at Yale Divinity School with one year left in his program. There he is studying the varied impacts of theology on LGBT+ people from his perspective as a transgender person raised in the Southern U.S. Originally from Raleigh, North Carolina, Kyle now claims Connecticut as his home that he shares with his fiancee, Sparrow. He looks forward to working with and learning from all that First Congregational Church has to offer during his time working here this summer!