Rev. Gary Halstead, Ph. D., Pastor
Rev. Halstead received a dual B.A. degree from Syracuse University, Psychology and Music. He graduated from Andover-Newton Theological School in Newton Centre, MA with a Masters of Divinity degree. He received a Ph.D. in Theology and the Human Sciences from Chicago Theological Seminary. His dissertation was on self-development across the lifespan with its affects on faith growth. Since the 1980's, he has been a Clinical Fellow of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors and the Center for Religion and Psychotherapy. Both organizations are based in Chicago. In 1995, Gary received the Advanced Clinician Certificate as an Imago Relationship Therapist. In May, 2010 he received the Certificate of Spiritual Direction from Neumann University, Aston, PA. He was a participating author of the book, Becoming and Belonging: A Practical Design for Confirmation, published by Pilgrim Press, 1993. He is currently completing authorship of another book. He served as Associate Conference Minister for Outdoor Ministries from 1998 to 2005 in the Pennsylvania Southeast Conference of the United Church of Christ. From 1985 to 1987, Gary served as Director of Outdoor and Retreat Ministries for the Presbytery of the Western Reserve, which is headquartered on Cleveland's east side. Over a 24-year period, he has served UCC congregations in Olmsted Falls, OH, LaGrange, IL, inner city Chicago, Oak Park, IL, Boyertown, PA and Oley, PA. Gary is married to Suzanne, who is a professional artist and retreat facilitator. They have two adult children: Emelia, who is serving as Associate Pastor of The Dover Church UCC, Dover, MA and Joel, who is a professional actor who performs in theaters on regional tours of Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Ohio.When Gary takes time off, he enjoys sailing, motorcycling, camping, hiking, golf, music and drama, reading and writing about process theology and self-psychology. firstname.lastname@example.org
Betsy Hinton, Secretary
Betsy Hinton has been the Church Secretary since March of 2005. Hers is the first voice and face you will encounter when calling or visiting the church office. A magna cum laude graduate of Baldwin-Wallace College (now Baldwin Wallace University), she holds a B.A. degree in Music and a business minor. Although music is now mostly a hobby, Betsy enjoys singing and playing piano. She lives in Berea with her two children, Taylor, a student at Allegheny College and Nick, a 2013 graduate of Berea High School, the last ever graduating class.
Bryan Bowser, Minister of Music
Bryan Bowser is the Minister of Music at First Congregational UCC where he has served since 1999. He is also the Assistant Director of the Conservatory for External Affairs at the Baldwin Wallace University Conservatory of Music where he manages the Community Arts, Summer Music, and Opera Programs in addition to consulting on matters of Conservatory fund raising, marketing, student recruitment and alumni relations; he also serves as Director of BW’s Arts Management Program. Bowser spent three seasons as Director of Operations and Development with Lyric Opera Cleveland before returning to his alma mater Baldwin Wallace as Director of the Conservatory Outreach Department; he was appointed Assistant Director of the Conservatory in 2004. He has been seen in many local theaters, colleges and universities as a music director and conductor. Bowser is an advisory board member of Brecksville Theater on the Square and Chair of the National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts’ Central Great Lakes Region. He holds an M.B.A. in Entrepreneurship and B.M.E. from Baldwin-Wallace College (now Baldwin Wallace University). He has been invited to present at numerous professional meetings including those of the Association of Arts Administration Educators, National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts and Ohio Music Teachers Association. Bryan leads the First Congregational UCC Choir and oversees the entire music ministry of the church.
Bertha Grant, Organist/Keyboardist
Fran Apltauer, Minister of Visitation
Fran Apltauer has been involved in the church all her life. She has served as Moderator of the Western Reserve Association and the Ohio Conference of the United Church of Christ and is currently serving as the secretary of the Western Reserve Association Council. She was a member of Trinity United Church of Christ for many years where she served in multiple leadership roles. Fran was employed at Metro Health Medical Center for 31 years and for the United Church of Christ Board for Homeland Ministries for 10 years. Fran is a licensed lay minister of the Western Reserve Association in the UCC, attends the Lay School of the Western Reserve and is a graduate of the Bethel Series. She leads worship services at nursing homes, has conducted funerals and has led worship in many churches in the area.