Rev. Miloslav (Mel) Munchinsky
Senior Pastor, Interim
What a wonderful privilege to be able to serve First UMC again! It’s been 12 years since my first appointment at this congregation and now it feels like a homecoming. I’m delighted to be an interim pastor this Conference Year, joining a wonderful, talented staff.
Since 1985, I’ve served several congregations in the Phoenix area but over the last fifteen years I’ve made Mesa my home. Not since leaving my parent’s home have I stayed in one place so long – and it feels good!
Sometimes people wonder what they should call me since I have an unusual name. Although “Miloslav” is common in Central Europe, it cannot be translated and so over the years Pastor Mel has become the norm. I’m a “third culture kid,” which means that my heritage is a mix of Czech, Canadian and American elements which produces a unique outlook on many issues. Over the last six years I’ve also worked for Global Ministries (our mission agency), initially in Central Europe but now in Eurasia, and this has further enriched my cultural outlook and relationships, both locally as well as in global contexts.
Initially, four of us moved to Arizona from Canada in 1985. After our daughter was born, we wanted to be close to one set of Grandparents. It was an easy choice since the Arctic express of western Canada could be long and hard in the winter time. Over the years our family has grown to a total of thirteen with the result that now I have six grandchildren which range from two to twelve years of age. This is hard to take in since the first time I was assigned to First UMC, my oldest grandchild wasn’t even born yet!
As far as education is concerned, my first college degree was in Political Science with the objective of becoming a Foreign Service Officer. After God’s call to the ministry and attending seminary, a Master of Divinity was granted along with another Master’s Degree in the area of missions/global international relations. Post graduate work was done at Arizona State University in the field of Sociology with an emphasis in inter-cultural relationships.
Over the last few years I’ve had the joy of indulging myself in study or reading of astronomy/astrophysics which has always been an interest of mine. ASU School of Earth and Space Exploration provides a wonderful place to explore and learn more about our universe. To feed the right side of my brain (and science has never supported this notion although it is a popular belief), I enjoy the arts in many of its forms, including opera, the symphony, popular music, drama and art galleries. Other interests including hiking, attending baseball games and travel.
Rev. Dr. Bob Mitchell
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.
Youth Director & Children’s Ministry Coordinator
Nicholle is a lifelong member of First Church. She has been blessed by many wonderful leaders over the years who have invested their time and love to help shape and develop her faith. Nicholle feels fortunate to be able to pass on that gift to the next generation of children and youth at First Church.
Nicholle started serving in youth ministry the summer of 2003 as the youth summer intern. She found that youth ministry was her calling and started volunteering after her internship. In 2005 Nicholle accepted the position of Youth Director and served until the fall of 2010. Nicholle then shifted focus for a year to serve as the Director of Children’s Ministry. In 2011 Nicholle moved to Lake Havasu City where she lived for 4 years. In 2015 shortly after moving back to Mesa, the position for Youth Director was again offered to Nicholle and she has been serving in that position since that time. In the fall of 2017 Children’s Director was added to her position.
Nicholle loves having the opportunity to develop a strong foundation of faith with the children and then continue with the youth on their spiritual walk as they wrestle with questions, own their faith and deepen their relationship with God.
Nicholle met her husband Colby at First Church while attending youth group. They were married in 2007 and were blessed with two children, Noah born in 2009 and Emmalyn born in 2015.
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 2010, 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.
As Receptionist and Administrative Assistant, Linda is the first person you see when you visit our church office. She joined us in 2017 after being out of the work force for 10+ years. Most of her past experience is working in the homebuilding industry in an administrative capacity. She is happy to be at First Church where she can be a part of the downtown Mesa community.
First Church has always been an important part of Linda’s life. She has attended here since her family relocated to Mesa in 1962 and is now attending with her husband and children. She loves that First Church embraces its history but also looks to the future and has a modern message.
Family Life Center Coordinator
Lois began attending the First Methodist Church in 1957. She attended youth group with Coach Heath, and was married to Bruce Cummins in the Chapel in 1963. She raised her three children and grandchildren at First Church, taught Sunday School for many years, and assisted with youth group when her children were young.
For the last 8 years, Lois has enjoyed being the Coordinator of the Mildred Fitch Family Life Center. She also continues to volunteer in several aspects of church life; ranging from Sunday School teacher, Sunday morning Greeter, Nursery worker, Girl Scout Leader, and iHelp Program Coordinator. For the iHelp Homeless Women’s Program Lois provides an evening meal, opportunities for a shower, access to the Wesley’s Wardrobe clothing closet, and overnight shelter. IHelp meets every Wednesday evening, and every other Saturday night. Lois finds great reward and friendship in her volunteer efforts, and within her role as FLC Coordinator.
Be sure to read our mission, vision and core values and come join us if even a bit of it resonates with you (or come join us even if none of it does!).