The Rev. Emily C. Goodnow, Senior Pastor
Emily is a New Hampshire native who moved from Oregon to Bridgton to be our Pastor in September of 2016. She is passionate about creative worship, intergenerational community, counter-cultural and gospel-centered living, and church as vehicle for social change. Emily was ordained in the United Church of Christ in 2013 in Dover, New Hampshire, and served as the Associate Pastor at the First Congregational Church of Salem, Oregon until 2016 when she and her husband, Noah, drove across the country and joined us here in Western Maine. Emily received her Master of Divinity from Yale University and her BA in Creative Writing and Religious Studies from Colby College. Between Colby and Yale Emily worked in Bamako, Mali with Save the Children and on a small grant-funded project called Awn Be Se, and then taught creative writing at The Telling Room, a nonprofit storytelling center in Portland, Maine. Emily also spent 5 summers working at the Maine UCC Summer Camp Pilgrim Lodge, first in the Craft Cabin and later as the Assistant Director.
Emily is honored to be a participant in the United Church of Christ’s Next Generation Leadership Initiative, a program for young clergy who have been identified by the UCC as transformational leaders with an important role to play in leading “the Church of the Future.” She grew up in the UCC and loves the denomination both for the ways in which it is rooted in tradition, ritual, and history, and for its courage to speak truth in love and stand for justice in the world.
Emily’s joys beyond church include camping, hiking, music, dance, theater, reading, learning the ukulele, making pickles, and roasting s’mores. Emily is partnered with Noah Garrison, a native of Minnesota who is a carpenter, potter, runner, banjo player, and beekeeper.
Pastor Lisa M. Burger, Associate Pastor
Lisa and her partner Bea Walker first attended First Church in October 2017, shortly after Lisa retired from a career in healthcare administration. New residents to the area, First Church was their first stop in finding a church home – and they soon realized after that first Sunday, there was no reason to look further; they had found their spiritual home. Through prayer and discernment over what she perceived as an “unfulfilled call to ministry,” Lisa began to feel God had brought her to First Church for a reason. In January of 2020, Lisa returned to ministry as a Licensed Pastor at First Church and a Member in Discernment with the Oxford Union Association of the Maine Conference of the UCC.
Lisa graduated from Hope College in Holland Michigan with a BA in Education. She received her Master of Science degree from Indiana State University with a major in Sport Psychology. Lisa attended Bangor Theological Seminary where she worked towards a Master of Divinity. She is also a graduate of the Small Church Leadership Program at Bangor Theological Seminary; a program targeting the development of lay people in positions of leadership for their local congregations.
Lisa served as a licensed local pastor from 2004-2010 at the East Boothbay United Methodist Church and the Southport United Methodist Church. Lisa has also held a variety of professional titles outside the church, and has worked as a college instructor, athletic coach, business owner, executive in the credit card industry, and a human resources professional at many levels before her last secular role as the Director of Physician Practices for two small rural hospitals in Maine.
Pastor Lisa is excited to be given the opportunity to be in ministry with the Rev. Emily Goodnow and this amazing congregation. It is her fervent hope and prayer that this journey will culminate in her ordination in the United Church of Christ; a place where God is still speaking, and where all are welcome; a place where we can all find our spiritual home.
Sandy Wissmann, Christian Education Coordinator
Our children run down our church walkway on Sunday mornings to see Sandy, and Sandy loves every one of them!
With a background in Elementary Education and art and a love for little people, Sandy is always turning our church into a pirate ship for Vacation Bible Camp, learning a new song for Sunday School, or trying out a new craft to teach our church’s youngest.
Her artistic talents, compassionate heart, and gifted classroom skills are a blessing to our whole church community, though her focus here is with children, youth, and young adults. Sandy holds a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Stetson University.
Before moving to Lovell, Maine, and beginning at First Church in 2004, Sandy worked at St. Thomas Episcopal Day School in Coral Gables, Florida, as a teacher and, later, as the Director of Religion Education.
Debbie Owen, Interim Music Director
Deborah has directed various church choirs for over 20 years, but also wears many other hats in order to share her love for the gospel of Jesus: choir director, singer, violinist, spiritual director, coach, educator, presenter, author, and podcaster.
Debbie has Masters degrees in Choral Conducting and in Library and Information Science, as well as certifications in Spiritual Formation and Spiritual Direction, and coaching certifications in the Enneagram, Strategic Intervention, parenting, life, and mindset. Debbie is passionate about the profound power of disciplemaking to grow the church and change lives; her forthcoming book is Inside Out; Experiencing New Life in Christ Through Integrated Discipleship with the Enneagram.
While raising their three children, Debbie was a public school library teacher for 12 years, achieving National Board Certification. These days, when she’s not singing with the Cantata Singers in Boston or directing the FCC choir, she splits her time between writing marketing content and copy, coaching clients with the Enneagram, and working as a spiritual director. She has written and led retreats and hopes to do more of that in the future.
Debbie and her husband Arch – who is an engineer – moved to Stoneham full-time in December, 2021. They have three millennial children, a daughter-in-law, and a granddaughter. They love to go hiking with their two flat-coat retrievers, and they love to ski at Sunday River and hang out at the lake. They enjoy being with family more than just about anything else, as well as traveling, reading, watching movies, and playing Settlers of Catan and Splendor.
Judy Harrison, Junior Choir Director
Judy Harrison joined the Senior Choir and the church in 1988, and has been directing our Junior Choirs since 1989. She is a certified K-12 music teacher, and currently teaches in the Oxford Hills School District.
Judy has been performing in choirs since age 5, and currently sings with the Choral Art Society, the Mostly Bach Festival, the Promise Singers, and the First Church Choir. Judy has also sung with the Ralph Farris Chorale and the New Vocal Collective.
Judy has taught generations of children at First Church to love music, church, and God.
Kylie Morel, Office Manager
Kylie and her partner Johnathan found First Church when they began the search to baptize their new son Jesse. After meeting with Rev. Emily and learning more about the church, they knew this was the place they wanted to be! Kylie and Johnathan became new members, and a few short weeks later, a job posting for office manager caught her eye. Kylie felt God had opened this door for her and answered her prayers of wanting to be more involved.
Kylie is a Maine and New Hampshire native growing up in Brownfield, Maine and North Conway, NH. In 2019, she graduated from Saint Joseph’s College of Maine in Standish with a bachelor’s degree in Health Studies and a minor in Business Administration.Her work experience includes an internship with the Institute of Aging, running dispatch for her family’s towing company, and tending bar at Applebee’s in Windham. Following college, Kylie loved this area and its beauty and now resides in Naples with her son Jesse, partner Johnathan, and the rest of Johnathan’s immediate family. She is excited to learn more about our congregation from both a staff and member perspective.