Rev. Erica Wimber Avena
Interim Senior Pastor

860-233-9605 x101
erica.avena@whfirstchurch.org

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Erica has served as Transitional Associate Minister at Asylum Hill Congregational Church. She completes her time with AHCC at the end of January.

Erica received her Master of Divinity and Master of Sacred Theology degrees from Yale Divinity School. She is ordained by The American Baptist Churches, USA, and has standing in the UCC while serving UCC churches. After graduating from Yale with an MDiv degree, Erica first served as Pastor at the First Baptist Church of Essex, and then as Senior Minister of Colchester Federated (Baptist and UCC) Church. She has done extensive additional training in interim ministry and church consulting, and since 2015 holds certification with the Interim Ministry Network as a “Professional Transition Specialist.”

Since 2007, when Erica chose to become an intentional interim minister, she has served six churches, including First Baptist Church just north of us on Main Street in West Hartford, from 2013 to 2015.

Rev. Amie Giguere
Acting Associate Pastor

860-233-9605 x102
amie.giguere@whfirstchurch.org

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Amie Giguere began serving First Church as Acting Associate Pastor in 2019. She is a gifted educator, excellent in working with youth, well versed in the practice of faith formation, and was ordained into the Christian ministry by the Tolland Association of the Connecticut Conference.

In the summer of 2019, Amie served as the Sabbatical Senior Pastor in the Vernon Congregational Church – a community that was also the setting for her seminary internship a few years earlier.  In May of 2019 she completed a yearlong assignment as the Acting Associate Pastor at the Ellington Congregational Church. Prior to that she served for 11 years as the Director of Children and Youth Ministries at her home Church, Union Congregational in Tolland.

Amie was also an Adjunct Faculty Member at Eastern Connecticut State University; and a public school teacher in Health Education in settings from Hartford to Hebron to Tolland.

Amie holds a Master of Divinity Degree from Andover Newton Theological School; a Master of Arts Degree in Education from the University of Connecticut; a Bachelor of Science Degree from Eastern Connecticut State University; and a certificate in Clinical Pastoral Education from Bay State Medical Center in Springfield.

Amie and her husband Bruce have 3 daughters – one just out of college, one in college, and one just finishing high school.

Lauren Dube
Director of Children and Family Ministries

860-233-9605 x106
lauren.dube@whfirstchurch.org

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Lauren spent nine years as a Sunday School teacher and three years as a Christian Education board member at the First Church in Windsor. Lauren is a Windsor native and a graduate of the Loomis Chaffee School. She loves spending her free time with a good book and her “adorable and universally cherished” rabbit, Theodore. When she runs out of things to read, you are apt to find her outdoors running, ice skating or simply hiking in the woods. Vocationally, she aspires one day to become an ordained pastor in the United Church of Christ with a special focus on ministry to children and youth.

Program Staff

First Church West HartfordRev. Susan Izard
Minister of Spiritual Life
860-233-9605
rev.susan.izard@whfirstchurch.org

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Susan Izard is the Minister of Spiritual Life where she assists in the ministry of the church and offers individual spiritual direction to clergy and laity throughout Connecticut. She is particularly interested in the contemplative journey, listening for The Holy One in everyday life. Her focus extends to creating meaningful worship and small group gatherings, such as Taizé services, book studies, labyrinth walks, pilgrimages and retreats, for First Church and others. She’s a leader of workshops and retreats and frequently speaks on topics about Christian Spirituality. Susan is also involved in an interfaith ministry as a volunteer teacher at Covenant Preparatory School, a middle school for underserved boys the Hartford area, and at the Spiritual Life Center in West Hartford.

Susan was educated at Yale University, Candler School of Theology, Emory University and the Spiritual Life Center. She is the co-author of the award winning book Knitting into the Mystery: A Guide to the Shawl-Knitting Ministry and numerous articles on spiritual topics. An amateur photographer, Susan loves to photograph interesting images of nature and compose haiku to express the spiritual experience conveyed in the picture. She enjoys long walks and hikes, playing golf, gardening and spending time with her husband, three adult children and extended family, including her two dachshunds.

Susan is a contemplative, compassionate listener who brings a creative approach to her ministry.

James Boratko
Director of Music

860-233-9605 x109
jim.boratko@whfirstchurch.org

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Jim Boratko gained a love for choral music at a very early age. As a cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point, he sang with both the Cadet Chapel Choir and the Cadet Glee Club. With those groups, he sang at St. Thomas’ Cathedral in New York, the National Cathedral, and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. He was very active in barbershop quartet singing, both with choruses and with a quartet, A Family Affair, the latter of which went on to compete at the International level.

He graduated as a music teacher from Central Connecticut State College, taught public school music in the Winchester Public School system, was rehearsal pianist for the Nutmeg Ballet Company, and toured professionally with the top 40 band, Countdown.

More recently, he is a founding member of Gaudeamus, a Grammy award winning chorus based in Torrington, CT.  With this group, he’s had the good fortune to perform at Ozawa Hall at Tangelwood, and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City with noted musicians such as Pete Seeger, the Paul Winter Consort, and Paul Halley. He’s also directed or played in numerous Broadway musical productions, including Godspell, and A Chorus Line. Throughout his entire music life, he’s been involved with church music as an organist and choir director, at churches in Burlington, CT, Winsted, CT, and his current post, the First Church of Christ, Congregational, in West Hartford, CT. Jim brings all of these varied interests and experiences together in his approach to music, preferring to perform works in as authentic a style as possible, but with something special and unique with each performance.

It’s hard to believe, but music is Jim’s part time profession, as his full time position is Configuration Manager at MassMutual in Springfield, MA. Jim resides in Canton with his very understanding wife, Kathi, and two sons: Jeffrey, who is studying music composition, and Keith, who is studying drama. A third son, Michael, a doctoral candidate of mathematics at UMASS, Amherst, is married and resides in West Hartford.

Jessica Berube
Handbell Director

jessicaberubesings@gmail.com

Greg Wilfrid
Youth Ensemble Director

774-364-0492
greg.wilfrid@gmail.com

Administrative Staff

Suzanne Nardi
Office Manager

860-233-9605 x111
suzanne.nardi@whfirstchurch.org

Lisa Reed
Business Manager

860-233-9605 x105
lisa.reed@whfirstchurch.org

Mark Swanson
Building Superintendent

860-233-9605 x108
mark.swanson@whfirstchurch.org

JPW Library Staff

Jennifer deSimas
Director

860-232-3893 or 860-233-9605 x115
jpwebsterdir@whfirstchurch.org

Karla Grafton 
Librarian
860-232-3893 or 860-233-9605 x114
jpwebsterlib@whfirstchurch.org