Welcome to the Church of the Open Door, an Open and Affirming congregation of the United Church of Christ! Please join us for worship!

Pastors & Staff

Our Pastors

Read our Pastors’ Blog.

Rev. Dr. Stephen P. Savides, Senior Pastor
(920) 851-3655 | Contact

About Steve

Steve grew up in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and graduated from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, with a degree in Theatre Arts. Steve was a two-time winner of the Best Actor award while in college. He performed professionally in the Twin Cities area and around the country doing improvisational comedy and street theater with SAK Theatre, through which he met his future partner, Dee, before being called into ministry.

Steve attended United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities as a George Dayton scholar and was given the graduating class preaching award. He was awarded the Doctor of Ministry in Preaching degree from Chicago Theological Seminary in 2009. Prior to coming to Appleton, he served churches in Zumbrota and Oronoco, Minnesota, and Williams Bay and Watertown, Wisconsin. Steve serves as the Senior Pastor here at First Congregational. Dee Savides works as a therapist with Samaritan Counseling Center of the Fox Valley. Dee and Steve have three children, Grace, Emily, and Paul.

Steve’s interests include playwriting, acting, movies, reading and racquetball.

Rev. Nicholas Hatch, Pastor for Youth and Family Ministries
(920) 733-7393 | Contact

About Nick

Nick grew up in Mahomet, Illinois, the son of Rev. DiAnne Hatch and Dr. Terry Hatch. His home church was First Presbyterian of Champaign, Illinois, where his mother was called to be an associate pastor. He has many fond memories of his Presbyterian upbringing and theological training. His summers were spent in Wisconsin at the family cabin on a lake just east of Park Falls. Renovating the cabin has been a labor of love for all ages. It continues to be Nick’s favorite place in the world and a true retreat for his spirit in the midst of ministry.

Nick graduated from Eastern Illinois University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. He then attended McCormick Seminary, where he was a Tomlinson Hampton Scholar. During seminary, Nick served as a youth director at Glenview Community Church UCC in Glenview, Illinois, and met his wife and best friend, Amanda, who is from Houston, Texas. They were married in 2005.

Nick’s first call was to First Presbyterian Church of Great Falls, Montana, in a general associate position for two years. In the summer of 2011, Nick was called to First Congregational UCC and his position has evolved over time in concert with the needs of the church and his developing skill set. Nick and Amanda have two children, Maddison and Elijah. Maddison’s interests include practicing her art and reading a lot. Elijah loves his Legos and cracking jokes. Amanda is currently enjoying being a mother and at-home teacher, while taking a break from her career in nursing. Nick and Amanda both feel very blessed that God has brought them to Appleton and opened up such a unique, specialized ministry opportunity in a place they feel called to be. Nick enjoys road biking, working out, hiking, woodworking, and anything with his kids. Nick also has extensive training in wilderness and outdoor recreation through the National Outdoor Leadership School. He has backpacked, sea-kayaked, canoed, and canyoneered across the continent and greatly enjoys sharing his love of God’s creation in the outdoors with others through the church’s Wilderness Ministry.

Rev. Laurie Lyter Bright, Interim Pastor for Congregational Care and Missions
(920) 733-7393 | Contact

About Laurie

Rev. Laurie Lyter Bright is delighted to be a part of the First Congo family. Laurie is a life-long Presbyterian from the north suburbs of Chicago.  She received her B.A. in English Literature from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, and an M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary and the Graduate Theological Union at Berkeley. She’s currently ABD on a PhD in Education and Research Methodology from Colorado State University. Laurie collects acronyms.

Professionally, she’s served as executive director of an international peace-building non-profit, a solo pastor, and an advocate for the church’s commitment to social justice, particularly around issues of child abuse, human trafficking, and sexual violence. Laurie’s first book came out in 2018 and her second will be out with Routledge Press in Fall of 2021.

Laurie also collects stamps in her passport. With her ever-patient husband, Jesse (currently completing a masters in nursing), and their two young daughters, Tillie and Sonora, Laurie has a willing crew to participate in the relentless quest for adventures.

The Lyter Bright crew can usually be found amidst a pile of books, painting impromptu murals, planting in the garden, and generally stirring up good trouble.

Church Staff

John Albrecht, Director for Music Ministries
(920) 733-7393 | Contact

About John

John joined the First Congregational UCC staff in August of 2007, having previously served as Director of Music at Worthington Presbyterian Church in Ohio. John holds degrees from Northwestern University (B.M.E.) and the University of Iowa (M.A. in choral conducting). He has taught senior high school vocal music in Iowa and Illinois, and has worked extensively with private children’s choruses, including serving as the Associate Conductor of the renowned Anima/Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus in Illinois. Prior to his ministry in Ohio, John also served as Director of Music Ministries at First Presbyterian Church of Glen Ellyn.

John’s responsibilities at First Congregational include developing the worship, music and fine arts ministries of the church, working in conjunction with the clergy, organist, program staff, the Worship and Music Ministry Team, and the church’s Lawrence University Music Scholars program. His time here has included starting and directing a children’s choir and a youth handbells choir, presenting major choral works with orchestra, coordinating mid-week summer worship services and concerts, directing children’s musicals, serving as music director for intergenerational musicals, implementing a new audition process for the church’s Lawrence University Music Scholars, and hosting workshops and concerts with numerous choirs, such as the world-renowned Vienna Boys Choir and the Millikin University Choir. John led the church’s Steinway piano project, made possible through a generous gift from the Trina Reynolds Bequest, providing a new Steinway B grand piano for the Sanctuary and a rebuilt Steinway B for the choir room. An Organ Preservation Fund and an LU Music Scholars Endowment Fund have been established during his tenure. The church’s Sanctuary Choir was honored to be selected by audition to perform a 25-minute program at the 2016 Wisconsin Choral Directors Association Convention. John was also honored to receive the WCDA 2016 Outstanding Church Musician Award.

John is an active member of the American Choral Directors Association and has served two terms as the
Repertoire and Standards Chair for Music in Worship in the North Central Division of ACDA. He currently
holds the position of WCDA Life-long Repertoire & Resources Coordinator, as well as the Music in Worship Repertoire & Resources Chair. John holds professional memberships with the Presbyterian Association of Musicians, the American Guild of Organists, and Choristers Guild. In addition, he served eight seasons on the Appleton Boychoir conducting staff, directing the Junior and Senior Choirs. John and his wife, Kristy (a German teacher), have a son, Ethan, a recent college graduate. John’s hobbies include traveling, reading, attending student recitals and concerts and attempting home improvement projects.

Colleen Berry,  Director for Children’s Ministries
(920) 851-9559 | Contact

About Colleen

Colleen grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin. She attended University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, where she earned a B.S. degree in social science broad field, U.S. history, and secondary education. She also earned a master’s degree in education. Colleen taught various social science classes for 32 years at New London High School, where she also raised her sons, Ian and Devin. The family belonged to First Congregational United Church of Christ in New London, where she served as a member of the Christian Education Committee and taught Sunday School. She joined the staff of First Congregational in 2017.

Her interests include daily walks, knitting, reading and playing with her granddaughters, Annabella and Kennedy.

Renee Taylor, Director for Youth Ministries
(920) 851-7745 | Contact

About Renee

Renee was born in Munising, Michigan and is a member of the Sault Saint Marie Band of Chippewa Indians. She grew up in Hortonville and graduated from Hortonville High School, studied at UW-Fox Valley, received a Bachelor of Science in Education degree from UW-Oshkosh, and a Masters Degree in Community Counseling from Lakeland University.  She has spent her work life helping to lift others up through positions in human services and counseling.  Some of her favorite positions included counseling in a boy’s group home, doing in-home counseling with families all around Wisconsin, and being a Wisconsin Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor for youth and adults in Waushara County. Renee served as a teacher, coordinator and Religious Education committee member for FVUUF in the 10 years prior to joining First Congo UCC, and has continued her passion for youth ministry in similar roles over the last 9 years.

When not at church, Renee loves traveling to see natural wonders – she enjoys going camping, hiking, and kayaking. When she is at home, you’ll find her gardening, cooking, grilling out and playing yard games with family and friends.

Carolyn Frederick, Office Manager and Administrative Assistant
(920) 851-9832 | Contact

About Carolyn

Carolyn grew up in Dayton, Ohio, and graduated from The Ohio State University with a degree in microbiology. After marrying her husband Dave, she left the world of medical research and became a stay-at-home mom with their children Andrea and John. She joined the staff at First Congregational in February 2007 as an Administrative Assistant with the Children, Youth and Families team. Currently, she works in the main office and serves as the Office Manager.

Carolyn loves spending time with her family and friends playing board and card games. She also enjoys gardening, arts and crafts, traveling, volunteering at the PAC and for other community arts groups.

Holly Volkman, Administrative Assistant for Communications 
(920) 851-9769 | Contact

About Holly

Holly grew up in Appleton, Wisconsin.  She attended Ripon College where she earned a B.A. degree in Psychology.  Holly has previously worked at SOAR Fox Cities and the Salvation Army. She enjoys spending time with her Dad and her cat, Jasmine.

Her interests include reading, volunteering and selling vintage toys on Etsy.

Jane Malin, Administrative Assistant
(920) 851-4518 | Contact

About Jane

Jane grew up on a farm on the outskirts of La Crosse, Wisconsin. She attended high school at West Salem and upon graduation attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Jane is married with two children and enjoys spending time with them. Jane and her husband also own 18 rental properties.


Jennifer DeWitt, CYF Coordinator
(920) 851-6938 | Contact

About Jennifer

Jennifer grew up in Menasha, Wisconsin and graduated from Menasha High School. After many years as a homemaker and stay-at-home mom, Jennifer attended Fox Valley Technical College and earned an Associates’ Degree in Meeting and Event Management. Jennifer is the Children, Youth, and Families Ministry Coordinator at First Congregational. In that role, she plans CYF special events, mission trips and other fellowship activities, along with fulfilling various administrative duties. She especially enjoys sharing these experiences with the children and their families!

Jennifer is blessed with a loving, supportive family which consists of her fabulous husband Shad, a Chicago truck driver with NM Transfer, and their awesome son Quinn, who is a student at Fox Valley Technical College in the Criminal Justice program. They have three dogs and enjoy traveling, dining out, going to the movies and entertaining family and friends.

Siri Witt, Bookkeeper
(920) 851-8605 | Contact

About Siri

Siri grew up in Appleton, Wisconsin and is a life-long member of First Congregational. A graduate of FVTC and Lakeland University, she has more than 30 years of experience in accounting, finance and administration. She returned to the church staff in 2016 as the Church Bookkeeper.

Siri and her husband Jeff have enjoyed traveling around the country to watch both their sons compete as track athletes for Carroll University and the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. When not at track meets, they enjoy spending time at their cottage in Minocqua and biking throughout the state.

Jonathan Steffen, Technology Coordinator
(920) 915-7974 | Contact

About Jonathan

Jonathan was born in Neenah, Wisconsin, and graduated from Neenah High School. After high school, he worked as a duct technician for several years until his daughter Chloe was born. After her arrival, he returned to school and earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in audio engineering and music technology from Madison Media Institute. While there, Jonathan became certified in Pro Tools Music and Apple Logic Pro, and he opened a commercial audio recording, production, and mastering suite in Neenah. After successfully running Suite Five Media LLC for two years, he decided to return to college to pursue a liberal arts education. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin Fox Valley with an Associate of Arts and Sciences degree in ethnic studies with honors and an emphasis in geography. During this time, Jonathan was inducted into the Sigma Kappa Delta English Honor Society and was awarded a Recognition of Excellence award from the Earth Sciences Department. He subsequently transferred into Lawrence University of Appleton and graduated in June 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts and a major in environmental studies, cum laude. During his education at UW-Fox and Lawrence, Jonathan had the opportunity to travel around the country and present the findings of his research projects at academic conferences as well as political functions.

In the past, Jonathan has done Front of House mixing as well as audio engineering at other houses of worship in the Fox Valley. Jonathan tremendously enjoys being the Technology Coordinator at First Congregational UCC and coordinating the Church’s audio/visual and technological endeavors daily.

In his free time, Jonathan enjoys being with his family, two dogs and other pets, including a common snapping turtle that he rescued. Additionally, Jonathan enjoys breeding and raising many types of exotic fish from all over the world, designing audio and producing music for various television shows, speaking and learning Spanish, gardening, visiting state parks, camping and working on automobiles.

Bart Forseth, Custodial Supervisor
(920) 851-9907

About Bart Forseth

Bart was born and raised in Appleton. He graduated from Appleton East High School. Bart and his wife, Ann, both volunteer at the PAC and for the Salvation Army. Bart enjoys cheering for the Packers and Badgers.

Mary Lou Cliff, Custodial Assistant
(920) 733-7393

About Mary Lou

Mary Lou grew up on a farm west of Oshkosh. She has a nutrition degree and worked in healthcare. She’s lived in LaCrosse, Madison and Appleton.

After she left Ascension Healthcare and sold her Stockbridge home of 25 years, Mary Lou started this new custodial assistant venture.

She enjoys spending time with her husband and two sons. Mary Lou’s hobbies are: being out in nature such as walking and biking, living in downtown Appleton and finding joy in God’s Presence.

Lauren Micke, Weekend Custodial Assistant
(920) 733-7393

About Lauren

Lauren comes from a family committed to working in the non-profit sector. Her family is greatly involved in the Fox Cities community and Lauren is proud to continue that tradition in her role as custodian.

When not working, Lauren greatly enjoys crossword puzzles. Love of words and reading are integral to her psyche and her ability to empathize with others.

Tom Ott, Custodial Assistant
(920) 733-7393