Growing up at First Church the thought of one day becoming its Sr. Pastor was far from reality. As a native of Mesa, it’s a humble privilege to return to the place of one’s baptism and to the nurturing community where the seeds and call to ordained ministry has come into bloom. It still feels like only yesterday that I was attending Mesa Public Schools and earning a degree in secondary education at Grand Canyon University.
Seeking an experience beyond the desert southwest, the path took me to Washington, DC, where I earned a Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Christian Formation and Discipleship from Wesley Theological Seminary. The privilege of this vocation for seventeen years has been in serving and leading congregations in the Buckeye Valley, Yuma, Tempe, Payson, and west Phoenix. Over this time, becoming a father to my two adopted sons, Phillip and Dustin, has given me a sense of fulfillment and legacy. In addition activities that include reading, writing, making music, and the outdoors always lend to anticipating new lessons behind every corner. These moments are a reminder to extend hospitality and welcome to all people for a blessing lies in entertaining the angels.
Twenty-two years ago I began my ministry in the United Methodist Church at 1st UMC, Mesa. Returning to Mesa First in retirement feels like coming home! I am delighted to be working half-time in the areas of Christian Education and Pastoral Care.
Since moving from Mesa First in 1992 I have served two congregations in Phoenix and one congregation in Chandler. I have also served on a variety of Conference Boards including Education, Congregational Development, Camping and Retreat Ministries, and Ordained Ministry. For eighteen of those twenty-two years my wife, Kathy, and I provided leadership for the Mingus Mountain Elementary Music Camp. I have twice taught the class “Vocational Discernment and Spiritual Formation” at The Claremont School of Theology’s Phoenix Extension. I am currently serving as the Team Theologian for the Western Jurisdiction’s Two-Year Academy for Spiritual Formation at the Mercy Center in Burlingame, California.
My wife, Kathy, and I were married on August 14, 1970, the summer before our senior year at Ashland College in Ohio. After graduating we moved to Mesa, Arizona, where Kathy taught beginning orchestra classes in the Mesa Public Schools and I completed my MA in Music Theory at ASU in 1974. Two years later I enrolled in the MDiv program at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. I graduated from Fuller in 1980 and was ordained an Elder in The Brethren Church on August 2, 1981. I served Brethren Churches in Indiana and Arizona for seven years. On July 1, 1988, I began my career in The United Methodist Church at First UMC Mesa. In the intervening years I completed doctoral programs at Fuller Theological Seminary (DMin, 1994) and Claremont School of Theology (PhD, 2007).
Kathy and I have two grown children–Nathan, is a professional musician living Tempe, Arizona, and Amy and her husband Steve are post-doctoral researchers at UC Irvine. Kathy insures time together by purchasing season tickets to The Arizona Opera and the Phoenix Symphony’s Coffee Classics concert series.
A local graduate of Marcos De Niza High School, Gavin Rittenhouse grew up in Tempe, AZ. He is a Sun Devil fan at heart yet he went to higher ground to attend Northern Arizona University. He holds Bachelor’s degrees in Music Education and Vocal Performance, and also a Master’s in Secondary Education. This is his seventeenth year of teaching. He teaches choir and general music at Carson Junior High school, as well as private voice.
Katie is a second generation native Arizonan. She is married, with two children.
Katie has been a member of First Church all her life. She has worked as the Office Administrator of First Church since 2009, and before that worked at the First Church preschool in administration for two years. Katie loves the many challenges and opportunities that come with her work here at First Church, as well as meeting and helping the community surrounding the campus on a daily basis. Katie can assist you in any event scheduling such as weddings, funerals, or rentals.
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