Pastor Betsy Happel
Betsy left a career in human resources management in 2001 to look for a larger purpose for her life. She found herself called to passionate faith and pastoral ministry, and enrolled at Eden Theological Seminary in Webster Groves. After completing her Master of Divinity degree in 2004, she was ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and served Red Top Christian Church in Hallsville, Missouri for five years.
Betsy began serving as the Pastor of Kirkwood UCC in June, 2009. Her vision is to foster an environment where people of all ages can thrive safely and spiritually: that is, where they can feel the presence of God so fully they are moved to be all God created them to be. Betsy inspires her congregation to think critically and live compassionately, and pursues social and racial justice issues, challenging her congregation to do the same. She begins every worship service by inviting congregants to make the time and space “whatever they need it to be” during that hour. In keeping with KUCC’s welcoming spirit, Betsy officiates at weddings of traditional and same-sex couples and offers pastoral care to many friends of our church in addition to its members.
Betsy enjoys reading and spending time with her husband, Rick, who is a CPA. They have no children, but lavish their love on the newest addition to their family: a rescue Lab-mix named Sox. If you have questions or would like to request prayers, you can email Betsy here .
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Director of Music Merry Keller
Merry brings both music and theological training and experience to her music ministry at Kirkwood UCC. With a degree in vocal choral music and advanced studies in choral conducting and vocal performance from West Chester University in Pennsylvania, Merry has been involved in performing, directing and teaching music for over twenty-five years. In addition, Merry completed her Master’s of Divinity degree from Eden Theological Seminary in 1993, and has served as chaplain, director of development, and music minister in Missouri and Illinois UCC churches.
Merry believes that music has the power to bring people together – those who participate in creating the music, as well as those listening and responding. The goal and purpose of the music shared in worship at KUCC is to communicate the good news of God’s love, and to open hearts and minds to God’s presence in worship.
KUCC’s music ministry is a ministry of the people, so Merry encourages everyone to participate – singers, instrumentalists, younger, older, and anyone in-between! Because Merry is a teacher at heart, she enjoys helping people find their singing voices and build their musical skills, which then allows participants to use their gifts to enrich the worship life of KUCC.
Currently, we have a Chancel Choir which rehearses weekly and provides worship music every other Sunday and for special services. Several smaller groups, as well as soloists provide opportunities for more individual music participation and leadership in Sunday worship. Instrumentalists from our church membership have provided solo special music and have accompanied the Chancel Choir, and last summer a group gathered and rehearsed to play in a special hand chime choir. The youngest members of our congregation have learned special songs for the annual Christmas Pageant and have sung special music with the Chancel Choir. There is a place for everyone in KUCC’s Music Ministry – no matter your level of expertise and experience!
Accompanist Ron Bryant
Ron has been playing the piano in church since he was twelve years old. For KUCC, Ron plays both piano and organ, working with Director Merry Keller to prepare each week’s music. Members appreciate his beautiful solos and the bits of melody he improvises at just the right moments to enhance our worship.
Ron is also a very active member of the St. Louis musical community. With a career spanning 35 years, he is heard regularly in clubs and concert venues throughout the St. Louis area and in concert with some of the finest vocalists in the area, Ron has appeared in concert on stage at Powell Symphony hall with members of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, at the Touhill Performing Arts Center, the Sheldon Concert Hall and the Fabulous Fox Theater.
His career highlights including working as an audition pianist for DreamWorks Studios on the motion picture Dream Girls and serving on the Piano Faculty of Webster University for 11 years. Ron also serves as the Musical Director for Cabaret St Louis and also is the Musical Director for “Throwback Edition” starring Daniel LeClaire and Adam Ray from nine-time Tony Award-winning The Book of Mormon. Ron has a B.M. and an M.M. in Jazz Piano from Webster University.
Administrative Assistant Donna Bay
I am thrilled to work at Kirkwood UCC as your Administrative Assistant. Let me tell you a little bit about who I am. Before coming to KUCC, I spent three years serving as the administrative assistant at St. John’s Evangelical UCC in Mehlville and St. Paul’s UCC in Oakville. I have been married to my husband and best friend, Dan, for 26 years. We have one son, Joey, who graduated from Webster University in May of 2013 with a Bachelor’s Degree in International Business (Japanese Language). I am blessed to have my parents healthy and enjoy spending time with them. I love the outdoors; walking is something I enjoy doing, and it gives me time to reflect and thank God for the many blessings he has given me. I am waiting to greet you in the KUCC office from 9 am-3:30 pm Monday through Friday or to speak to you when you call the church at 324-822-2240. Let me know how I can be of service.
Student Pastor Stephen Stark
Hello. I am a seminary student at Eden Theological Seminary in Webster Groves. I began my seminary studies in the fall of 2013 and I plan to graduate in 2017. I live in St. Charles with my beautiful wife Molly and our two boys, Seth 6 and Jonah 3. We enjoy attending worship together, and they will be joining me at Kirkwood as much as possible.
I grew up in Maplewood and moved to St. Charles in 2001. Molly and I met and were married at United Methodist Church of the Shepherd, in St. Charles. I received an Associate’s degree in teaching from St. Charles Community College. I am currently preparing for my future ministry as a member in discernment with the Missouri Mid-South Conference of the United Church of Christ in the Eastern Association.
My ministry prior to attending Eden Seminary has included serving as a youth leader at several churches including Manchester Community Church of the Nazarene and the United Methodist Church of the Shepherd, and serving as Youth Minister at St. John’s United Church of Christ. I also worked with the Upper Room program called Chrysalis as a speaker, musician, lay director and board member. Since beginning at Eden Seminary, I have worked at Lutheran Senior Services’ Breeze Park location as an assistant to the Chaplain. I have also recently completed my fieldwork at St. Luke’s UCC in Imperial, Missouri, working with the interim pastor and youth program. I am looking forward to learning and growing together as I continue my education, serving KUCC.
Nursery Attendant Jennifer Brockhouse
Jennifer Brockhouse, Nursery Attendant, grew up in KUCC. She now has returned to provide care for babies and toddlers during worship and children of all ages during adult education classes. Jennifer has worked as a lab assistant and as an accounting assistant at Washington University School of Medicine. She loves children and provides a steady presence for little ones so that their parents can worship or attend class without worries.