Rev. Kris P. Snyder

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

Rev. Kris P. Snyder grew up in a United Church of Christ church in 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. Later she attended seminary at Colgate Rochester Divinity School in Rochester, NY. 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 this church of 1,400.

In November 2014, she served as the Acting Senior Pastor when Reverend Thomas N. Thomas retired. Leading in this new role 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.

“Being in ministry has always been my dream job, and I believe it is God’s dream for me too.” In November 2016 she was honored, humbled, and grateful that Union called her to serve as the next Senior Pastor.

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 people practice the extravagant love, grace and hospitality of God and she’s glad to serve at Union, a place that shares that passion.

She loves flower gardening and supporting the many local farms and businesses in our area. Practicing meditation and Qigong nourish her spirit and fill her cup. She also enjoys reading, swimming, traveling, and being near water.

Rev. Kayli Freeman

Associate Pastor
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Rev. Kayli Freeman (she/her) was born, baptized, confirmed, and ordained in the United Church of Christ here in the Lehigh Valley. Growing up, she attended a local union church (Lutheran and UCC), where she faithfully attended worship and Sunday School, and living for the nights when Youth Group met. It was through that time where she believes that she truly felt a call by God, but she ignored it and went off to college. While in her junior year at Shippensburg University, Kayli felt her pull to ministry get stronger and decided to take the biggest leap of faith in her life and applied to seminary.

In 2013, Kayli received her Master of Divinity degree from Moravian Theological Seminary in Bethlehem. During her time there, she learned to truly embrace what it meant to not only be a disciple of Christ, but also what it meant to be a member of the UCC. “No matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey…you are welcome here.” This is the mantra that Kayli tries to live into, believing that Christ’s love for humanity was/is not conditional, so neither should ours as humans be. All are welcome, always, no questions asked.

Kayli joined Union UCC as Associate Pastor in November 2017. Beyond weekly worship and pastoral care needs, Kayli primarily focuses on our Youth (6th thru 12th grade) and Young Adult ministries. Growing, learning, and laughing with these friends in the congregation are what bring her the most joy. In April 2020, Kayli completed her Certificate in Youth and Theology from the Institute for Youth Ministry at Princeton Theological Seminary. Through that program, Kayli gained knowledge and resources to best equip our youth and young adults on their faith journeys…no matter where it takes them. Kayli strives to create a space for youth to feel they are welcomed, loved, and able to be as authentic as possible.

When Kayli isn’t doing things for the congregation, she participates in groups within the Penn Northeast Conference of the UCC. She is co-convener of the Spiritual Development Ministry Team, serves a working group in the Committee on Ministry, and has been a delegate to General Synod in the past. The work of the church is much larger than local congregation, and even the conference level, and having the opportunity to work with so many folks in different areas of the UCC has been fulfilling and rewarding.

In her free time, Kayli enjoys spending time with her friends and family. She can never express enough to them how grateful she is for their unending support. She also enjoys the shenanigans of her 6 pets: Penny & Lily (dogs) and Kinnley, Nali, Ina, and Rhee (cats).

Life is all about the journey. Sometimes its smooth sailing, and other times it’s rocky water. Kayli has enjoyed her journey so far with Union, and can’t wait to see where it will take her in the future.

Carrie Beleno

Pastor of Visitation
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Pastor Carrie grew up in Easton in the Lutheran faith, having active involvement in youth group and choirs, was the children’s pageant coordinator, and was a VBS and Sunday School teacher and superintendent. In 2004, she and her family moved to Slatington and joined Union where she was active with the youth, dance and praise worship and women’s retreats.

She has a M.Ed. in Educational Development and Strategies, an Administrative Certificate and had previously been an elementary teacher, math specialist and elementary principal.

In 2001, Carrie became a reiki master/teacher and participated with the pastor of her previous Lutheran church offering healing services. She owned her own reiki practice until 2022 as well as a spiritual healing center in downtown Bethlehem. Today, Carrie shares her healing gifts during “Prayers with a Pastor” Sundays, meditations and retreats and visitation.

In addition to visiting our homebound and hospitalized members, she organizes Golden Times and Helping Hearts/Meals and assists with worship, preaching, communion and funerals. She works about 20 hours a week at Union where her hours were recently increased to add GriefShare groups, faith formation, Breathe services, and serves on the Leadership Planning Team. She also has a focus on mental health awareness, is certified in Youth Mental Health First Aid and is leading the congregation in widening their reach in the community regarding wellness.

She is also currently a hospital chaplain for St. Luke’s University Hospital Network. Spare time is spent with her husband, children and grandchildren as well as traveling and golfing. She is licensed through the Penn Northeast Conference and is excited and blessed to continue to grow with the congregation at Neffs and to offer her support, love, insights and ministry.

Tiffany Lakatosh

Faith Formation Minister for Children and Families
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Tiffany is a member at Union UCC who grew up here and has raised her daughter, Miranda, here as well. She has served as a Sunday School teacher, Vacation Bible School teacher, and sang on our Saturday Night Alive team for several years. Currently she is a fitness professional that works with all ages throughout the Lehigh Valley and online.
She impressed us throughout the interview process with her enthusiasm, thoughtfulness, positive spirit, and her love for God and God’s church. She has a heart and passion for working with children and families and a heart for working here.

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.

Blake has spent the past 15 years working as an estimator for M. F. Ronca and Sons, Inc. in Lower Nazareth Township and currently serves as their Director of Engineering and Surveying. However, his music is anything but forgotten.  Blake feels a strong responsibility to help others reach their full musical potential, and 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 is the Minister of Music at Neffs, Union UCC and performs as organist, pianist and choir director on Sunday mornings.  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 six children, including twins Jordan and Cayden, Gavin, Brooklyn, Lincoln, and Darren.  A puppy, two guinea pigs and a hamster round out his family’s crazy but beautiful life.

Mitchell Roth

Instrumental Assistant Choir Director

Mitchell Roth graduated from Parkland High School and will be going to Lehigh University. We are excited that he will continue working with our student instrumentalists and playing in worship again this year as our Assistant Instrumental Director. During his senior year he played trumpet in District Band, District Jazz Band, Region Band, All State Jazz Band, All East Symphonic Band, District Orchestra, and Region Orchestra. Mitchell’s work here will continue to focus on leading and organizing our student musicians on holidays and playing in worship with our choirs, Jazz Ensemble, and for special music.

Ori Handwerk

Facility Caretaker

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.

Shelly Handwerk

Facility Caretaker

Shelly is the wife to Ori Handwerk, our Facility Custodian, and mother of 3 grown children, 3 grandchildren and doggie mom to Doc & Wyatt. She is a practicing hairstylist for 33 years and currently working at Studio 924 Salon and Spa in Allentown. She grew up in Emmaus and has lived in the Lehigh Valley her whole life. She enjoys being outdoors in her yard, reading, walking her dogs and watching Ori do the cooking!

Bryce Thrash

Night Lock-up

Bryce is in 10th grade at Northwestern Lehigh high school. He does cross country for the school and loves to be outside. Some of the things he likes to do are skiing, mountain biking, and hanging out with friends and family. He loves to watch sports and cheer for the Giants.

Luke Thrash

Night Lock Up

Luke is a 10th grade student at Northwestern Lehigh high school. He enjoys spending his time being active and outside doing things such as mountain biking and skiing. He has two pets – a dog named Kick and a cat named Mason. He likes to watch the Phillies and the Broncos as they play in their seasons.

Hannah and Ryleigh Minnich

Sunday Set -Up

Hannah is a 11th grade student at Whitehall High School. Hannah is also a 7th generation member of this church. She is always looking for opportunities to volunteer. She is the vice president for serve club. A club that dedicates itself to serve the community. She is also a part of many other clubs and extracurricular activities. Hannah is a very active member of our church and is involved with the leadership planning team, youth advisory team, and youth group.

Ryleigh is in 11th grade at Commonwealth Charter Academy. She volunteers at Neffs Volunteer Fire Company and just completed the EMT program. She is a 7th generation member at this church and is involved with the leadership planning team, youth advisory team, and youth group.