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 Susan Cartmell

Rev. Dr. Susan Cartmell, Interim Senior Pastor

(920) 851-3655| Contact

About Susan

Susan comes to us from the Congregational Church of Needham, MA. Needham is a Boston Suburb. She served there as lead pastor for 18 years. While there, she wrote a book on preaching entitled, Uncommon Preaching: An Alternative to the Lectionary and has led workshops on preaching in New England and the Midwest. Most recently, Susan has interviewed fifty clergy from across the country about how the pandemic has affected them and their church. She is working on this research with her wife, the Reverend Peggy O’Connor, an experienced interim pastor, herself.

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

Pastor Mary Jo Laabs, Interim Associate Minister for Congregational Life
(920) 851-9455 | Contact

About Mary Jo

Mary Jo is a seasoned interim minister who has served six different churches in the Wisconsin Conference. Four of them, including First Congregational Appleton, were/are interim positions. Most recently she served as Interim Pastor at Hope UCC in Sturgeon Bay.

An accomplished musician and graduate of St. Norbert College and the Lay Academy, Pastor Mary Jo is a licensed pastor whose previous churches raved about her energy, her enthusiasm, her preaching and her hard work as a pastor who quickly knew everyone’s name.

Rev. John McFadden, Pastor Emeritus
(920) 733-7393 | Contact

About John

John T. McFadden, M.Div., is an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ who served in parish ministry for 34 years, including 23 years as senior pastor at First Congregational UCC in Appleton.  After leaving parish ministry, he served for five years as chaplain for Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin.

John and his wife, Dr. Susan McFadden, are co-authors of Aging Together: Dementia, Friendship, and Flourishing Communities, published by Johns Hopkins University Press in 2011.  Susan and John helped to create the Fox Valley Memory Project, a comprehensive dementia-friendly community initiative.  They have given many talks in Wisconsin, other parts of the US, and internationally, including the International Conference on Palliative Care, National Church Residences, Meeting of the Minds, and Alzheimer’s Europe. He is now attempting to be Really, Truly Retired and practice the ukulele daily.

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.

Sarah Wilterdink, Director for Children and Middle School Ministries
(920) 851-9559 | Contact

About Sarah

Sarah and her family have been members of First Congregational UCC for over 15 years. She taught Kindergarten through 8th grade in the Appleton School District for 21 years. She is married with two children and is also fostering one child. She enjoys playing games and hiking at local nature parks with her family.


Zaina Gonzales, Temporary Office Manager
(920) 851-9832 | Contact


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.

Tom Ott, Custodial Assistant
(920) 733-7393


Tim Krause, Weekend Custodial Assistant
(920) 733-7393