Reno First United Methodist Church Staff
Pastor, Judith Bither
Director Youth and Children's Ministries, Kayt Kruk
Director of Children's Ministries, Sarah Peters
Office Administrator, Cynthia Owen
Director of Music/Organist, Cheryl Shingler
Chancel Choir Director, Andy Sonnemaker
Handbell Choir Directors Linda and Ben Brown
Pastor Emeritus, John Emerson
Pastor Emeritus, Jacqueline Meadows
Wedding Coordinator, Kat Kruk
Custodians, Jim Gerbel and Jose Franco
Judith is the mother of two adult children: a son who's a doctoral student at UNC, Chapel Hill and a daughter living in Sacramento with her husband and children. She loves being a Nana! Judith has sung in choirs since the third grade and truly appreciates the wonderful music ministry of First Church! She loves all kinds of music and plays the guitar. She is a avid reader, enjoys good movies and hiking in the mountains. Judith also has a golden-doodle named Arlo who often accompanies her to the office.
Contact Judith by calling the office at (775) 322-4564 or see the Pastor's Page
Having recently moved here from NW Indiana, Kayt is quickly making Reno and First Church her home. For the past several years she has been a stay-at-home mom to her two amazing kids Maggie (6) and Tony (3). When not staying at home with the children she spent her time preparing taxes for H&R Block. Most recently Kayt started on her path to a degree in psychology through University of Phoenix and plans to transfer to University of Nevada when the time permits.
Kayt has always enjoyed working closely with youth. Whether it was with past churches, teaching swim lessons and lifeguarding, or judging for her local speech and debate team she has always found a kinship with this teens. She looks forward to getting to know all of the youth here at First United Methodist, on a one-on-one basis.
In her spare time Kayt loves to spend time with her family, read, and knit. Always looking for something new and exciting to do, she even has thought of taking up a few new hobbies since moving here, like kayaking.
Many of you recognize Sarah Peters as Sarah McCormick. She has been a member of this congregation since childhood. Sarah graduated with her degree in Environmental Engineering from UNR in May and married Matt Peters in June – hence the name change.
Throughout her science based educational path, Sarah has always found happiness and joy in working with school age children. In high school she volunteered with RAVE, babysat and volunteered during Sunday School projects. Throughout her years working as a research assistant in the university, she helped introduce school age children to the importance of environmental awareness and our human responsibilities towards environmental maintenance. She spent the last year working as a counselor/on-site coordinator with the YMCA of the Sierra, where she continued to cultivate her love for working with school aged children.
Sarah spends her free time playing with her yellow lab, Sierra, spending quality time with her friends and family and taking care of her house. This winter marks her second winter snowboarding, which her husband is patiently teaching her. She is hoping for a faster learning curve this year.
Cindy is married to Ron who until recently was stationed overseas in Kuwait. They have two children, Blake and Katie, who are both in college. Cindy has worked with the City of Reno in the Community Development department most recently and at Fairgrounds Animal Hospital.
Cindy is in the office Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m..
Director of Music
Cheryl has been organist at First Church since 1981. She has two children who grew up at First Church. She shares her outstanding talent each Sunday as she brings the church's Moller pipe organ to life.
Chancel Choir Director
Andy and his son Wesley live in Carson City. Andy earned a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Earlham College and a Masters of Music in Choral Conducting from the University of Oklahoma. In addition to directing church choirs off and on since his college days, Andy has taught voice, directed musicals and conducted choral ensembles from elementary through university levels in Indiana, Oklahoma and Nevada. Andy is the choral music educator at Carson High School. He has worked with the Brewery Arts Center Summer Stock Company as music director for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, a member of the cast of Smokey Joe's Cafe, and conductor and the voice of Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors. He also enjoys singing as a Tenor soloist with area ensembles and has performed comprimari and chorus member in various productions for Nevada Opera Association.
Handbell Choir Directors
Linda and her son Ben are a mother and son team. Linda, born in Kansas, is a strings teacher in the Washoe County School District, moving to Reno from South Carolina thirty years ago. She has been a member of first church for 25 years, and has raised two children in the church. Her major instrument is violin. She was a member of a local teachers' bell group for six years and occasionaly subs for Tintab. She plays violin in the Pops.
Ben is a grad student at UNR with a bachelors in Computer Science and Mechanical Engineering. He has been raised in the church since he was born. He has been playing bells since 1994 years and is a member of the "Tintabulations" community handbell ensemble. Ben has also played Cello since 1996, and is a member of a the Reno Pops orchestra.
A native of San Jose, CA, John received his B.A. from Washington State Univ. and his MDiv. from Boston Univ. School of Theology. He served as pastor of this church from Jan. 1981 to July 1, 1984.
John shares invaluable skills from a lifetime of ministry. He is actively practicing the Methodist version of retirement, which he calls "refirement" – being available to the pastor to assist in pastoral duties as needed. He has been known to say, "The United Methodist Church may have retired me [July 1999], but God hasn't! I still have a fire in my bones for ministry and a continuing sense of call."
John has been in ministry since 1956 with special post-graduate training in marriage and family counseling. In addition he has had clinical training in geriatric mental illness and health at Boston State Hospital. He has studied spiritual formation and development especially as it applies to senior adults, who he likes to call "Keenagers" and "Prime-Timers." He has had experience in grief counseling and crisis-intervention. In the 1980s and 1990s, John was an active volunteer in Kairos Prison Ministry.
John has been a civil rights activist, having marched with Martin Luther King, Jr.; has been a legislative advocate; and made an unsuccessful run for the Nevada State Senate. He is the past-president of the Retired Clergy Assoc. of the California-Nevada Annual Conference, and former United Methodist representative on and treasurer of the Board of the Religious Alliance of Nevada ("RAIN"). Among his active interests are writing prose and poetry, composing music, and writing hymns. Nevada Humanities has contracted John to author the History of Methodism in Nevada for the Online Nevada Encyclopedia.
Rev. Emerson is currently is a part-time chaplain with Circle of Life Hospice, Reno.
John and Janice have been married since 1955 and have three married daughters, 9 grandchildren, and 9 great-grandchildren.
Travis Linn (Oct. 6, 1938-January 17, 2003) a strong, influential and sensitive leader at First Church once said, "I believe in God, the innate goodness of people and the joy of learning." Jacqueline (Jacquie) resonates with his words, for her call to Ministry, faith in the goodness others and educations are active strains in her life.
From Pacific School of Religion she earned at Masters of Arts in 1961; and a Masters of Divinity in 1974. She served churches in the California-Nevada Annual Conference, was Fresno District Superintendent (1990-94) and was pastor at First Church from 1994-1999. In the retired status she was on staff at Sparks UMC and served the Yerington UMC for 4 years. She has been teaching World Religions and Core Humanities classes at Truckee Meadows Community College since 2003. She loves to read murder mysterious, historical novels and biographies. She bikes, goes to movies, works out at the gym and reluctantly works in the yard.
Jacquie has four children and whether single or married they make a contribution to church and the lives of others personally and professionally. She is proud of her two college age grandchildren.
The role of Pastor Emeritus provides the opportunity for her to increase her support of First Church and Judith's ministry.
Jacquie is currently serving less-than-full-time the United Methodist Church in Susanville, California.
Nursery Care Worker
We understand weddings to be an important part of the church's outreach ministry. The wedding coordinator guides weddings, from a couple's initial contact with the church through the wedding day. (See Kayt's biography under Director of Children's and Youth Ministries.)
Jim and Jose are both full-time custodians for the Washoe County School District. They are silent servants, angels in our midst, who keeps the church sparkling.