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Our Staff

David A. Kaden

Senior Minister

I'm the husband of a fabulous wife, and the father of two delightful children and two kitties. I root for God's team, the New York Yankees, enjoy films and novels (especially McEwan’s work), and I love (good) music, anything from Thievery Corporation and Mastodon to the Wu-Tang Clan and Vivaldi. I hold degrees from Messiah College (B.A.), Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Harvard University (Th.M.), and the University of Toronto (Ph.D.). In addition to serving as FCCI's Associate Minister from 2005-2009, I have served churches in Massachusetts, worked as an interim college chaplain at the University of Toronto, and filled the pulpit regularly at the College Street United Church in Toronto. I taught at St. Olaf College, and at the University of Toronto, and was a research fellow at U of T’s Jackman Humanities Institute. I have published articles and book reviews on various topics in the study of religion, and authored the recently published book, Matthew, Paul, and the Anthropology of Law (Mohr Siebeck, 2016). My new book project is titled, Progressive Christians are NOT Mushy-Brained Liberals. I'm a progressive Christian who sees religion as inseparable from culture, so my sermons are peppered with cultural references. I look forward to meeting you soon!

You can follow me on Twitter:

David was recently on a panel discussing Christianity and Homosexuality at Cornell University

David appeared on WHCU's All Things Equal


Susan Fast

Designated Assistant Minister

I am a student in the New York School of Ministry’s Word and Sacrament (Ordination) Program. Trained as a geologist, I was an Earth Science, Earth History and Environmental Science teacher at SUNY Cortland for over 10 years; and most recently at Ithaca High School, where I taught ninth-grade Earth Science for 10 years. For fun, I enjoy tent-camping in the Adirondacks, traveling in the Western US, photography, baking, writing, sewing and crocheting.

Jessica Galbreath-Nocera

Church Manager

I have lived in Ithaca for most of my life and love the culture and natural resources here. I was a stay-at-home mom for the last few years until both my children entered school. When I'm not here I'm playing with my kids, spending time with family or traveling around NY. I love working with the staff and members here at FCC.


Diane Beckwith

Director of Youth Ministries

When I’m not organizing a church dinner or youth activity, or teaching my Gymnastics classes at Cornell, you can see me driving my teenagers to theatre practice or music lessons, paddling on Cayuga Lake or running or biking on the roads of Lansing and Ithaca. This has been my family’s church for 16 years, serving as our second home for Scouts, music lessons, choirs, plays, recitals, over-nights, dinners and much more. Now I’m lucky enough to have an office up in the Youth Room, with all the drums, games and comfy couches.


Stacy Wilder

Director of Childrens Ministries

I grew up in Fonda, New York but have lived in the Ithaca area since 2000. My husband Grant and I have two teenagers who keep us on the run. In addition to my work at the church, I own a preschool. In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my friends, going to movies, and cooking. It brings me joy to see the church children respond to the Bible stories that we hear in our specially designed Children’s Worship and I love helping them connect the Bible and God's messages to their lives.


William Cowdery

Music Director & Organist

Lauren and I both came to Ithaca as undergraduates in 1969. Even though we “tried” to leave Ithaca many times, we kept coming back. We both have PhDs from Cornell, hers in English and mine in music. We have both taught at several colleges in the area, including I.C. and Cornell. Currently I work as a full-time supervisor at the Cornell music library. Lauren is a free-lance seamstress and designs theatrical costumes for many local groups such as the Ithaca Shakespeare Company. Our daughter Betsy graduated from Cornell in mathematics and is now in graduate school at Boston University. FCC has been our second home for the past nineteen years, and its members are very much a part of our virtual extended family.


Mary Ellen Stewart

Financial Manager


Jim DuPay


I love working with my hands and spending time outdoors – gardening, working on cars, fishing & hunting, and camping. It’s best when I can share it with my grandsons Ethan and Mason, granddaughter Sophie, my 4 kids, my wife Robin, my dog Zero, and my cats Zoe and Poop. We live in the country in Watkins Glen, where the scenery is beautiful and the people are kind and down to earth. I enjoy the quiet environment and friendly staff at First Congregational Church – while I don’t always get to interact with church members, I’m easy-going and happy to help where needed. And I can’t pass up good old fashioned junk food!

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