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) 851-9156| 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. Dr. Laurie Lyter Bright, Pastor for Congregational Care and Mission
(920) 733-7393 | Contact

About Laurie

Rev. Dr. 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 recently earned her 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) 851-8097| 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.

Dr. Nathan Birkholz, Organist
(920) 851-9981 | Contact

About Nathan

Dr. Nathan Birkholz has been active in church music ministry for over a decade, most recently as organist and music director at First English Lutheran Church of Appleton. Nathan holds degrees in piano performance from Northern Illinois University, Indiana University, and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign with minors in French, conducting, and musicology. He studied organ with the late Frank Rippl of Appleton, was a member of the Appleton Boychoir, and has served as principal accompanist for the Appleton Boychoir and the Badger State Girl Choir. Dr. Birkholz also serves as staff accompanist at Lawrence University for the Voice Area.

Dianne Droster, Director for Children and Middle School Ministry
(920) 851-9559 | Contact 

About Dianne

Dianne grew up on a small hobby farm in Burlington, Wisconsin. She was an active member in her church, Cross Lutheran, and has fond memories of bugging her pastor with all sorts of faith questions.

Before her call to ministry, Dianne was a professor for many years at Lawrence University, her alma mater, teaching in the Freshman Studies program and in the ESL program for Japanese exchange students.

Since 2017, Dianne has been the Caring Ministries Coordinator for First English Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Appleton, providing pastoral care for the homebound, hospitalized, and those in hospice care.

Beginning in January 2020, Dianne served for seven months as the Interim Pastor for Our Shepherd UCC in Howards Grove, Wisconsin, leading them into the era of on-line worship and outdoor services, including baptizing a baby under the carport.

Most recently, Dianne returned home to First Congregational UCC in Appleton to serve as an interim pastor during the senior pastor’s sabbatical.

Dianne is an avid reader, enthusiastic walker, and nature lover. Her pandemic partner has been Pip, a bouncy Bearded Collie dog.  She has two beloved step-daughters, Tanya and Kate.

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.

Beck Fritsche, Administrative Assistant

(920) 851-4518 | Contact

About Beck

Beck grew up in Stevens Point and recently relocated to Oshkosh from Milwaukee. They have a fire science degree and paramedic studies degree from Mid-State Technical College in Wisconsin Rapids. Beck has also worked as a firefighter/paramedic in Stevens Point and Milwaukee. Beck has also managed several restaurants in the Milwaukee area, and has been an account manager for an insurance company as well as a travel agent.

In their free time, Beck enjoys playing any kind of game, and spending time with their spouse Andrea, their dog Sweet Pea and cat Lup. All of them can usually be found curled up watching a movie.

Beck will assist in the front office and with the CYF (Children, Youth and Families) Team.

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.

Matt Feuerhelm, A/V Coordinator
(920) 915-7974 | Contact

About Matt

Matt grew up in Omro, Wisconsin. He attended the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh where he earned a College of Sciences, B.A. degree in Radio-TV-Film. Matt currently also does freelance videography for weddings around Wisconsin.

Matt previously worked at WFRV-TV, Channel 5, in Green Bay. He enjoys spending time with his twin daughters – Alejandra and Tallulah, as well as his two cats – Sir WigsALot and Squanch. His interests include golfing, bowling, snowboarding, biking, long boarding and going to the gym.

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.

Patrick Metoxen, Custodial Assistant
(920) 733-7393

About Patrick

Patrick’s main joy in life is his family. He looks forward to visiting his daughter and son-in-law in Washington State.

He also enjoys outdoor activities, treasure hunting with a metal detector and various arts and crafts projects.

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