Rev. Ryan Otto, Acting Senior Pastor
My ministry began at First Congregational in October of 2008 as Associate Pastor. This is my first call after graduating with a Master of Divinity degree from Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. I have been in the role of Acting Senior Pastor since September 2014.
I grew up on an acreage outside of Pierce, Nebraska, and learned a love of nature, science, music, and family. After high school, I studied vocal music and government at Augustana College in Sioux Falls. It was there I met my wife, Louisa, who has a passion for science and education. We have two incredible daughters who teach us new ways to see the world every day.
In 2011, I was honored to have my song "Juntenos, Espiritu" published in Gifts in Open Hands, a global worship resource collected and edited by Maren Tirabassi and Kathy Eddy.
I am a member of the Next Generation Leadership Initative (Target 2030), a program established by the United Church Board of Ministerial Assistance to support and challenge young clergy in their first years of ministry.
Rev. Elaine Miller, Acting Associate Pastor
Elaine Miller has served as interim pastor in several congregations in the southeast part of the S.D. Conference over the past 21 yrs. In her current position as Acting Associate Pastor, she shares the various tasks of pastoral ministry with the Senior minister . Those tasks include worship, hospital visits, preaching and Team leadership, and “other duties as assigned.” Elaine is the staff liaison to the OutReach Team which is charged with promoting and supporting mission and ministry projects that are outside of the immediate congregation. She also provides regular leadership for the Spiritual Care Team as well as the adult education programs: Sunday morning “Explore,” Wednesday evening “Imagine” worship, and Thursday morning Keeping the Faith Bible Study. Elaine has a great appreciation for the many ways the Staff and members of First Congregational Church live out their core values through “a thinking faith, unbounded welcome, creative worship, and generous service.”
Jack Mohlenhoff, Minister of Music and Arts
I am a native of Eastern South Dakota - born in DeSmet and spending most of my childhood years in Brookings. After spending time in the Pacific Northwest (undergraduate music studies at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA) and in the Northeast (graduate studies in church music at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ), I came back to the Midwest, serving as a full-time church musician at First Lutheran Church in Brookings, Trinity Lutheran Church in Moorhead, MN, and First Presbyterian Church in Sioux Falls. In 1998, I left First Presbyterian and pursued a career in Human Resources. I was fortunate to find First Congregational Church at this time, as well - first as a part-time church job, and more importantly as a church home for me and my family. After serving for ten years as Music Associate (director of the bell choir, youth choir and organist/choir accompanist), I began my full-time work as Minister of Music and Arts in February, 2008.
I have held local and regional office in the American Guild of Organists, The American Guild of English Handbell Ringers, and Choristers Guild. I am a past director of the Singing Legionnaires and Heartland Handbells - a community handbell choir. I am also Executive Director of The South Dakota Chorale, a professional chorus based in Sioux Falls that the First Congregational Arts Ministry helped get started. My wife, Marilynn and I enjoy sharing our music - mostly piano duets - in the church and community. Our children Katie and Jonathan are both musicians, as well.
Becky Pagone, Christian Education Director
I grew up in Spring Valley, MN and after high school attended Augustana College where I graduated with a BA in elementary education and special education. I worked in the Sioux Falls Public Schools for several years in special education and received my master's degree in educational leadership from SouthWest State University. I married #7 on FCC's church league softball team (not Mickey Mantle) more like John Pagone. I became an active member at FCC's bell choir and boards. Then #7 and I decided to start a family and work toward building our own softball team. We enjoy Ellie, Katie, Michael, and Jacob at all their stages. I am grateful to have the opportunity to participate in the life of the church as Christian Education Director.
Janel Fillingsness Bak, Christian Education Associate
Chris Laughlin, Office & Communications Coordinator
Tanya Harris, Financial Administrator
Greetings and welcome to First Congregational United Church of Christ. My position has me involved in many aspects of church life as finances, donations, paying bills, etc. affect our church life in multiple ways. I have many more responsibilities, which makes my work interesting. I married Dana Nelson and gained a beautiful granddaughter in the process. Our children are grown. I find it exciting to see them carve out their niche in our world. My undergraduate degree is in Accounting. I am currently attending the University of South Dakota working on a Masters of Public Administration degree. I also volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, The Community Outreach and our church. My motto is “Life is an Adventure.” God has blessed me beyond all expectations and in ways that continuously surprise me.
Paul Vincent, Custodian
For almost twenty years I have been the everything man at FCC: the sound man and keeper of the grounds, greeter, cleaner-I've done it all but preach. Before joining the staff I traveled for twenty years in a band as the bass player then I joined a local Sioux Falls jazz and classic rock group. I like to laugh, tell jokes and enjoy life.