Open and Affirming (ONA) is an official designation of congregations and other settings in the United Church of Christ (UCC) affirming the full inclusion of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender persons (LGBT) in the church’s life and ministry. In 2012-13, FCC undertook a discernment process to consider becoming an ONA church. Out of its deliberations came the following Open and Affirming Statement which was approved at the Annual Meeting on January 27, 2013:
Mindful of scripture and our mission to be a caring community, we acknowledge, accept and affirm that all people are equal children of God and that we welcome into the worship, work and fellowship of this congregation all people.
Trusting in God’s grace and with the hope of guidance from the Holy Spirit, we commit ourselves to strive to fulfill this affirmation.
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
“There is no longer Jew or Greek,
there is no longer slave or free,
there is no longer male or female;
for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
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Keith has served as the Director of Music at FCC for over 30 years. In 2014, at a luncheon celebrating his 25 years at FCC he was officially given the title of Minister of Music. He was educated at Baldwin-Wallace College Conservatory; Keith has worked for the Manhattan School of Music, where he was director of chamber music; the First Reformed Episcopal Church, both in New York City; accompanist-choir director at Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester; and served on the faculty of Rippowam Cisqua School. He was dean of the Westchester AGO Chapter from 1997-1998.
Jonathan Riedel, our Director of Christian Education, has been a member of FCC Chappaqua since 2018. A life-long student of Judeo/Christian traditions, he also studies Buddhist philosophy, world religions, yoga, meditation, Kung Fu, and considers the Arts and creative expression as integral to his spiritual beliefs, practices, and teaching.
While undertaking his work with our children, Jonathan discerned a call to ordained ministry. He is currently under care of FCC and the Hudson Mohawk Association of the New York Conference of the UCC. He is enrolled at the New York School of Ministry.
He began his professional career as a dancer with the Limón Dance Company (limon.org) in NYC, touring and performing throughout the US, Europe and South America. He then began his own company, Riedel Dance Theater (riedeldancetheater.org) that he helmed to critical acclaim for over ten years. Jonathan has been on the faculties of The Boston Conservatory, Brown University, Pace University, and currently, his alma mater, Purchase College (BFA 2001, MFA 2011). He has been a guest teacher at the Juilliard School, LABAN (UK), Good Moves Dance Consort (Atlanta, GA) and the Steffi Nossen School (White Plains, NY.) An artist of many media, Jonathan also leads the industrial rock band, Rubber Skulls (rubberskulls.com). He creates original, punk-inspired hats and jackets under the brand, Righteous Stitch (righteousstitch.org). He is currently working on a series of fantasy children’s books and also refurbishes used stuffed animals with hand-made unicorn horns for his side project, Horns-A-Plenty (find them on FB!). He is a proud son, brother, husband, father of two, and resident of Pleasantville, NY.
Jonathan’s Sunday School classes explore prayers, songs, and stories from the Bible and what they might mean. He hopes to inspire in his students spiritual curiosity, self-awareness, inter-religious tolerance, and a life-long appreciation for God, love, and all things divine. He does so through his weekly youth messages, age-appropriate Q&A sessions, outreach and charity initiatives, art and crafting projects, and creating original plays with the class. He loves his job, his students and the entire FCC community. If you have any questions about the Christian Education program at FCC, feel free to contact Jonathan.
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Martha has been our pastor since April of 2014. She came to FCC after a 20+ year career as a professional chaplain. Martha graduated from New York Theological Seminary with her doctorate in 2005. Her book, A Clergy Guide to End of Life Issues, has been a must-read for seminary students, clergy and lay people. She continues to teach and lead workshops both nationally and internationally on end-of-life issues. For several years, she blogged about end of life issues for The Huffington Post. Martha believes that the greatest gift we can give to our loved ones is letting them know what our wishes are as we near the end of our lives.
Martha was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware, the youngest of 4 children. She was raised Jewish, and converted to Christianity when she was 17, having been exposed to Jesus when a friend asked her to sing some solos at his church. She learned about a different kind of God than she had been exposed to growing up. She learned about a God who was inside of her. And, she learned about Jesus, who she uses as her role model, mentor and rabbi.
Martha loved being a chaplain. However, after more than 20 years of being present with patients and families as they dealt with some of the most difficult times of their lives, she realized that God was calling her to serve in a church. Her greatest concern, when discerning her call to become our pastor, was that she would not being able to come up with a sermon every Sunday. But, so far, more than 8 years after accepting the call to FCC, Martha has had a meaningful message for us each Sunday. She relates it to what is happening in our world and in our lives and tries to give us some respite from the difficulties of our world. That doesn’t mean that she doesn’t talk about the difficulties we face, but she tries to put them into perspective and brings God into the conversation around how we live our lives and how we function in our world and how we treat each other. Because FCC members and friends span the spectrum of political and social activists, she preaches about the issues, and how Jesus expects us to handle them and not the politics that can often divide people.
Martha has a healing and loving and accepting spirit. She has helped us to accept that we are human and make mistakes and that God does forgive us for the things we don’t necessarily do that are in the best interests of ourselves or others. She has also opened our hearts and hands and minds to help us to not just tolerate people who are different from us, but to actually welcome and embrace them for all that they are.
Martha has been with her spouse, Pat Yost, for more than 40 years. While Pat did not expect to be married to a minister (they met when they were both in the theatre), she has become an important part of our church in her own right. She pitches in and helps us, as does Martha, when we have our Barn Sale, Tag Sale and other church events. They are both hands-on, and have helped us celebrate all that we are.
Truly, Martha embodies – no matter who you are or where you are on your life journey – you are welcome to FCC.