From Many Paths, Embracing our Differences, Finding Our Story Together

An Open and Affirming Congregation



Ministries and Education






News and Events


About us


Our minister and Staff








Contact us

Rev. Dave Stambaugh


Rev. Dave Stambaugh has served churches in New Jersey, California, and Connecticut as both a solo and associate minister over nearly 25 years of ministry. Together with his wife Becky, they have led a number of in person and online workshops for the Southern New England Con-ference of the UCC, as well as multiple Confirmation retreats at Silver Lake Conference Center. He and Becky have been married for 22 years and they currently live in Guilford.
Dave holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Seminary and a Masters of Sacred Theology from The Theological School at Drew University. He is an avid cyclist and pickleball player. He also enjoys playing drums and working on Tai Chi.

Shari Wilcox

Choir Director

Shari graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a Bachelor of Music Performance Degree. She is a member of the faculty of The Community Music School in Centerbrook, where she teaches piano and voice. As a mezzo-soprano, Shari has appeared in opera, musical theater, and as a guest soloist with regional orchestras. She has performed in a variety of roles including The Mother in "Amahl and the Night Visitors", Sharon McLonergan in" Finian’s Rainbow", Lady Thiang in "The King and I", Ensign Nellie Forbush in "South Pacific", Mme. Ernestine von Liebedich in "Little Mary Sunshine", Pitty-Sing in "The Mikado" and the Queen of the Fairies in Gilbert and Sullivan’s "Iolanthe" for which she received a Eugene O’Neill Award. Ms. Wilcox has performed in many opera scenes programs including Carmen in "Carmen", Madame Flora in "The Medium", Miss Todd in "The Old Maid and the Thief", Suzuki in "Madama Butterfly" and Marcellina in "The Marriage of Figaro."

Cheryl Harger

Bell Choir Director

Cheryl Harger has been directing handbells at FCC Essex since 1999 and also has been ringing in the community handbell choir, Shoreline Ringers, since 2008. Her degree is in Accounting and she works as an Accounting Manager at The Clark Group in Essex as well as helping her husband manage their business Essex Indoor Golf Center.  But music has always been a part of her life; her mother taught piano, so Cheryl began playing at an early age and then took up the clarinet in elementary school. This background proved to be most helpful as she began directing handbells with no formal music education at all.

Kevin Xiao


Kevin Xiao was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and moved with his family to Connecticut in 1999. Kevin graduated from South Windsor High School and the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts in 2013.  He won the CSMTA Audrey Thayer Competition in 2012 and 2013, and won second place in the American Protégé International Music Competition of Romantic Music in 2018.  He received his Bachelor of Music Degree in 2017 and his Master of Music Degree in 2019, from the Hartt School of Music, University of Hartford. Kevin joined the Music Ministry of FCC Essex in September 2019. Prior to joining the Music Ministry in FCC Essex, he was a piano accompanist volunteer at his previous church since he was in high school.

Karen Burzen

Office Administrator

Karen and her family have lived in Ivoryton for the past twenty-four years. She is married and has three children and two dogs.  She enjoys reading books of any genre - but favors reading historical fiction.  In the Spring and Summer, She likes to garden and in the Fall, she enjoys harvesting what she has planted.  Her office hours are Tuesday through Friday from 9am to 1pm. We're so happy to welcome her to the FCC Essex Family!




First Congregational Church in Essex

United Church of Christ

6 Methodist Hill

Essex, Connecticut 06426

phone:  860-767-8097