Minister: The Rev. Dr. Damaris D. Whittaker
The Reverend Dr. Damaris D. Whittaker is United Church of Christ minister who joined the church staff in September, 2012. She previously served as the Director of Marketing and Development at the Christian Activities Council of the UCC, and as the co-pastor at Iglesia Cristiana Nueva Esperanza. Rev. Damaris has been an active speaker and advocate on issues of domestic violence, women’s leadership, and health care, and has worked in grassroots organizations that have provided pastoral and substance abuse counseling. She holds a Doctor of Ministry (DMin) from New York Theological Seminary. Originally from Humacao, Puerto Rico, and now residing in Marlborough, Rev. Damaris is married to Sabas Whittaker.
Interim Director of Music/Organist: William Ness
In 2015, William Ness was awarded the title of Minister of Music & Arts Emeritus on his last Sunday at the First Baptist Church, Worcester, Massachusetts, where he worked for over fourteen years, leading two singing choirs and three bell choirs. He has two degrees from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and has done further study at the University of Iowa.
William has performed on Iowa Public Television, 3ABN, Pipedreams on National Public Radio, as well as in Australia, Europe, and the Caribbean. As an accompanist, he has performed with many choral organizations. In May, 2015, he played a farewell recital at First Baptist Church which included the complete Pictures at an Exhibition of Mussorgsky transcribed for organ.
In May, 2015, the Teacher of the Year award was presented to Mr. Ness at the Annual Meeting of the Worcester Chapter of American Guild of Organists. Presently, Mr. Ness has nine organ students. Professional memberships include American Guild of Organists, Organ Historical Society, and American Choral Directors Association.
You may email William at firstname.lastname@example.org
Church Administrator: Marie Ferrantino
Born and raised in Newington, Connecticut, Marie Ferrantino joined the staff of Center Church in 2000. Marie manages the Church Office, assists staff and church members with various tasks, and assists in managing the church buildings and grounds. Marie has worked exclusively in church administration since 1982, and strives for excellence in church office procedural and technological efficiency. Marie enjoys reading, gardening, the arts, and studying multifaith spirituality. Marie holds a Certificate in Spiritual Direction from the Spiritual Life Center in West Hartford, Connecticut, and is an active Spiritual Director. She is a member of Spiritual Directors International. You may email Marie at email@example.com
Warburton Director of Outreach Ministries:
Nate holds a MSW from the University of Connecticut, as well as a BA in Metropolitan Studies from the College of Arts and Sciences in New York. He has worked extensively in social services since 2008. Nate and his wife, Claudine, reside in Hartford. You may email Nate at firstname.lastname@example.org
Director of Faith Formation: Jana Russo-Priestley
Jana Russo-Priestley is a Connecticut native and life-long member of the United Church of Christ. She is a graduate of Central Connecticut State University, where she studied the performing fine arts, and Andover Newton Theological School, where she completed the Masters in Divinity. Her educational journey exploring the arts, justice issues, urban ministry, and theology has all led to her call at Center Church.
Jana’s life has been enriched by her vast experiences in advocating for women’s health and justice, and her eagerness for adventure and meeting new people. Her experiences as a campus leader for the LGBT fellowship and active participation in the African-American Women fellowship, as well as a border crossing experience in Ghana, are all huge highlights.
She views ministry with children, youth, and families at Center Church as a blessing of which to be a part. To be part of another’s faith journey and provide encouragement, teaching, and support as they discover how their faith can call one to action in their community and the world is a gift that she is excited to explore with the whole congregation.
You may email Jana at email@example.com
Bookkeeper: Charlotte Cardone
Charlotte Cardone has worked as needed with Center Church since the 1990s, and also works as a freelance bookkeeper/accountant with many area churches. We are grateful for her expertise in all financial matters. She lives in West Hartford with her husband, Ed.
You may email Charlotte at firstname.lastname@example.org
Receptionist/Office Assistant: Monique Young
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Born and raised in Hartford, Connecticut, Monique Young joined the staff in August, 2015. She worked as a Program Coordinator/Facilitator for over seven years in the adult education field. She has also served the community through outreach, always with the goal in mind of empowering people and changing their lives. Monique was blessed with her son - her pride and joy, and her rock, Khalique Brown - in 2007. She enjoys being a mother, listening to music, singing, dancing, cooking, reading, and most of all, helping people to be their better selves.
You may email Monique at email@example.com
Youth Coordinator: Anne Russo-Priestley
Anne Russo-Priestley grew up in Milford, Connecticut and completed her Masters of Arts in Art Therapy Degree from Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, Connecticut. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor and has worked with children, youth, and families professionally for over ten years. Anne currently manages a foster care program, which supports relatives raising their family members, such as grandparents raising grandchildren aunts and uncles raising nieces and nephews and siblings raising siblings. This program is called Kinship Care Support.
Anne believes in utilizing art as a safe space, to connect with the Holy, meditate and express one's self. She offers art therapy groups for children and youth, and tries to incorporate art and creativity in all that she does. She has volunteered with the Connecticut Conference of the United Church of Christ using these skills with teens at Synod, Silver Lake Conference Center, and True Colors.
Anne loves spending time outdoors, as well as spending time with friends and family. She loves animals, especially dogs, and has an obsession with Snoopy from The Peanuts! She enjoys Dollar Tree shopping, listening to all types of music, and watching movies. She looks forward to getting to know the teens and their families, through mission, service, prayer and fun!
You may email Anne at firstname.lastname@example.org