Staff

Pastor Kris

Rev. Kris P. Snyder-Samuelson

Senior Pastor
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On October 2, 2016 Pastor Kris Snyder-Samuelson was elected to position of Senior Pastor.

Rev. Kris P. Snyder-Samuelson grew up in a United Church of Christ church in the small town of Slatington, Pennsylvania. She has known ever since she played “Take and Eat” as a child with her sister with perfectly cut white bread cubes and purple Kool Aid that the church would always have an important place in her life. She’s also known since then that one day she’d be serving “Take and Eat”, Holy Communion, to others as their pastor. God’s call in her life to love and serve others has been constant and strong.

In college (at Susquehanna University as a music major and then at Penn State University as an Elementary Education major) she knew she was meant to go to seminary but she wouldn’t say ‘yes’ for a few more years. While teaching middle school students at a Catholic School she tested the waters by taking classes at Lancaster Theological Seminary where her husband John was attending. When John graduated from Lancaster, they moved to Buffalo, NY where he served his first church and she attended seminary at Colgate Rochester Divinity School in Rochester, NY.  She graduated from there with honors. In Western New York she had the chance to serve a large city church and a small suburban church.

She was called to Union UCC, Neffs in 1996 as the Associate Pastor. Here she developed a team to take Communion and flowers to members, drafted and implemented a plan to call a visitation pastor, created new ideas for outreach and welcome, designed and led a Confirmation program for 25-30 students each year, generated a middle/high school ministry for over 60 youth, established and led a contemporary worship team, offered meaningful and creative worship and music experiences, and shared in all of the pastoral care, programming, and administration of a church of 1,400.

Since November 2014, she has served in a new way at Union as the Acting Senior Pastor when Reverend Thomas N. Thomas retired. Leading in this new role has allowed her to:  oversee the administrative pieces of our church’s life, support and empower the staff, develop a new approach to finances and Stewardship, collaborate in worship scheduling and planning, grow our church’s ministry and mission of Jesus Christ and create a vision and plan for the future.

Recently at a new member gathering at Union, a new member said, “You know the saying we use to open worship: ‘No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here?’  Well I think that’s the best thing I ever heard a pastor say. That’s the kind of church I want to join.” Pastor Kris is passionate about helping Christians practice and live the extravagant love, grace and hospitality of Jesus Christ and she’s glad to serve at Union, a place that shares that passion.

Pastor Kris says, “Being in ministry has always been my dream job, and I believe it is God’s dream for me too.” In November of 2016, it will be twenty years since she has been serving at Union. She is honored, humbled and grateful that Union would consider calling her to serve as the next Senior Pastor.  “This is another dream job for me, and I trust it is a chance for us to work together on continuing to be a beacon of light, love and grace for each other, the community and the world.”

Her family includes John, her husband of twenty-eight years who is an ordained UCC pastor that currently works with a family services agency; their daughter Hannah, who is twenty-three and who loves working on environmental issues and organic farms; and Roscoe, their five year-old beagle mix. She loves gardening and supporting the many wonderful local farms in our area. Reading, swimming, walking, traveling, being near the water and watching a good movie or musical or listening to wonderful music are the things that always reconnect her with God and renew her spirit.

Rev. Patience Stevenson

Pastor of Visitation
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Pastor Patience has been our Minister of Visitation since 2006.  Pastor Patience spends most of her time visiting members who are not able to attend worship.  She also assists in organizing and leading Golden Times, our monthly luncheon for our senior adults.  Pastor Patience assists in worship monthly, preaches quarterly, and leads the Adult Education class one month in the fall and one month in the spring.  She assists in the Helping Hearts committee, a group of wonderful lay visitors and lay communion minsters.  Pastor Patience also meets with those in need of pastoral counseling.

Pastor Patience graduated from the American International School in Vienna, Austria.  She received a B.A. in Elementary Education from the College of William and Mary.  After serving as a college chaplain for four years, she went to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where she received her M.Div.  She was ordained in 1988 in Wyomissing, PA.  Pastor Patience then went on to study for a M.A. in Pastoral Counseling at Moravian Theological Seminary, matriculating in 1989, shortly after the birth of her first child, Ethan.  In 2002 she received her Doctorate of Ministry from Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary (now Palmer Seminary) near Philadelphia.  In addition to serving in numerous Interim positions in the PNEC, Patience has maintained a private practice as a Marriage and Family Therapist since 1986.

Pastor Patience lives with her husband, Bruce, daughter, Catherine and cat, Sebastian.  Her son, Ethan, has flown the coop and lives in Washington, D.C.  She loves to spend time with her family, read, garden, swim, ride her bike and research her family history.

Thomas N. Thomas, Senior Pastor

Rev. Thomas N. Thomas

Pastor Emeritus

Tom began his service as Senior Pastor on the first Sunday of August, 1984. He completed his service in ministry here at Union UCC on October 26, 2014. He now holds the esteemed title of Pastor Emeritus.

Kathy Bonsell, Director of Christian Education

Kathy Bonsell

Director of Christian Education
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Kathy Bonsell is our Director of Christian Education.  She oversees and supports the faith formation opportunities we have for all ages at Union UCC. The majority of her time is spent planning and organizing the activities and groups involving children from nursery age to fifth grade.  She began her journey here in 1997, mainly focusing on Children’s Church and Vacation Bible School. Her responsibilities now include the Little Lamb Nursery, Sunday School, Junior Youth Group, and a weekday family Lent program. Kathy is also a member of the Christian Education Committee and the Neffs Preschool Board.

Kathy graduated from Parkland High School.  She received her B.S. in Elementary Education from Kutztown State College. Upon graduation, she returned to Parkland as an elementary teacher and taught in the district for ten years.  She resigned from teaching after the arrival of her first child, Kelsey.  Nicholas was born two years later. In order to occasionally get out of the house and have conversations with other Moms, Kathy sold Discovery Toys for five years.  By the time Megan was born, Kathy was helping a friend start a business by selling home décor products, Tranquility at Home, at home parties. Lugging a van-load of toys or decorations all over Lehigh County and beyond did not provide her with too much tranquility, especially with three young and busy children at home.  She was sitting in church one Sunday morning trying to keep her three children quiet and content, when a member of the congregation asked her why she didn’t apply for the Director of Christian Education position. She couldn’t shake the conversation and knew in her heart that she had to apply for the job.  After an interview and sample lesson, Kathy was called to the position.  That was sixteen years ago. Kathy and her husband, Rick, feel so fortunate that they were able to raise their children in the church (spiritually and physically) and she feels honored to have worked with so many wonderful children and parents in our church and community.  She is just as excited about her position and possibilities today as she was when she first began this journey.

Tara Henninger, Communications Coordinator

Tara Henninger

Communications Coordinator
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Tara joined the staff as secretary back in 2004, took an 18 month hiatus, and returned as Communications Coordinator in 2014. Tara has a Bachelors in Fine Arts degree from Tyler School of Art. Following graduation, she worked in the website design and development industry. In order to spend more time with her family, she decided to find part time work. She has grown up in the computer age (starting with a Texas Instruments home computer) and has always had an interest in technology. She has used this knowledge and curiosity to help the church keep up with the 21st century.

Some of her many duties include, publishing the weekly bulletins and monthly newsletters, maintaining the membership database, and communication mailings (paper and electronic).  While her first love is art and photography, her calling is in helping others. Tara is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Non-Profit/Arts Administration through Drexel University.

Barbara Carinci

Office Administrator
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Barbara Carinci has been Church Administrator at Union UCC since 2009. As
administrator she is responsible for all financial aspects of the church, including weekly
offering envelopes, paying all bills, reconciling all bank accounts, assisting with budget
planning, the church audit, running payroll, maintaining the church schedule, preparing
all financial reports for Consistory and assisting church members with everyday issues.

Barbara graduated from Post University with a degree in Secretarial Science, but she
spent most of her working career as a Produce Manager in the grocery business before
retiring and moving to Pennsylvania from upstate New York.

The mother of two children and grandmother of five grandchildren, she enjoys spending
her spare time with her extended family. She lives with her husband, Rich, and their two
cats, Snowball and Pepper, who are now their “spoiled princesses.”

Maria

Maria Beltz

Facility Caretaker

Maria assists with the responsibilities of the Facility Caretakers at Neffs Union Church. She cleans the restrooms and the sanctuary once a week.

Maria enjoys seeing the other staff members when she is in the building. “When I’m in the sanctuary it makes me feel close to Jesus and God. It sure is a different feeling coming in seeing the pews empty compared to a Sunday. This is Gods house so it’s one of my duties to keep it clean.  When I received the phone call from Pastor Tom asking me if I’d be interested in cleaning I felt this is what God wants me to do and it brings me to church even if I don’t make it on a Sunday. ”

Maria lives with husband Wesley, 2 daughters Allison and Laura, 2 Siamese cats Beckham and Colby.  She enjoys scrapbooking, walks, the beach, riding on the back of  her husband’s motorcycle seeing the countryside, spending time with family and friends, fellowship here at Neffs church.

“We truly have a beautiful church, starting with the building, land around it, staff members and congregation whom fill it. We are blessed to have so many people whom care about Neffs Union Church.  I love hearing the bells on the hour. When the wind is blowing towards my house I can hear them in the distance. What a lovely sound.”

Blake Hoppes-Organist/Accompanist

Blake Hoppes

Minister of Music
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Blake Hoppes is a man with a passion for music.  He began playing piano at age 11 and progressed quickly, dazzling New York with a performance at Carnegie Hall at only 17 years old.  That same year he won an international piano competition in Denton, Texas.  Recognizing that his abilities could pave the way for a lifelong career in music, Blake enrolled at Penn State in 1997, where he studied piano with Marylene Dosse and Dr. Timothy Shafer.  He also served as accompanist for the Glee Club, during which time he toured Trinidad and Tobago, Colorado, and Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  Blake graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Music Performance in 2002.

While he has spent the past ten years working as an estimator for M.F. Ronca and Sons, Inc. in Lower Nazareth Township, his music is anything but forgotten.  In contrast, Blake feels a strong responsibility to help others reach their full musical potential.  Consequently, he provides weekly piano, guitar, bass and voice instruction to both children and adult students.  In addition to his role as a music teacher, he performs as organist, pianist, and accompanist on Sunday mornings at the Neffs, Union UCC.  He is a frequent musical guest at wedding ceremonies and receptions throughout the Lehigh Valley.  In his free time, Blake enjoys hunting, cheering on his beloved Penn State and Eagles football teams, and spending time with his family.  He and his wife Kathryn are the proud parents of twins, Jordan Noelle and Cayden Robert, along with son, Gavin Matthew, and daughter, Brooklyn Jolie.

Carol Fella

Instrumental Assistant Choir Director
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Welcome Carol Fella to our staff to work with all of our instrumentalists, especially at the holidays.
Please contact Carol or Blake to let them know that you play an instrument and that you’d like to play in worship. There are opportunities to play solos, in a group and with other groups.

Ori Handwerk

Facility Caretaker
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Ori was a Head Custodian in the Parkland School District for 35 years, retiring in 2014. Most of his years he worked at Schnecksville Elementary School and the last seven years at Ironton Elementary. Ori has experience in all aspects of the job and comes to us with wonderful recommendations. He lives in Coplay with his wife Shelly. They have 3 adult children, and 3 grandchildren. When he’s not cooking for his family or spending time with his grandchildren, he’s playing in his band Third Degree. Welcome to our church and to our staff Ori.

AJ DiPaolantonio

Sunday Set-up/Night Lock-up