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Reverend Ken Peterkin


Rev. Kenneth D. Peterkin was born and raised in Avon Lake, Ohio where he attended Avon Lake UCC. He graduated from The Ohio State University in 1984 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education and received his Master of Divinity from the Pacific School of Religion in 1996. He previously served St. Paul United Church of Christ in Saline, Michigan, and prior to that served a UCC church in Indianapolis, IN. Ken enjoys his family, watching basketball and football, golfing, choral music events, cooking and entertaining. Ken’s extended family resides in southern Ohio.  Ken’s wife, whom he met while at seminary, is the Rev. Suzanne Personette, also an ordained UCC clergyperson.

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 a Financial Analyst at Infiltrator Systems in Old Saybrook, 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. She’s proud of the three choirs she directs at church: the Grace Notes, the Rainbow Ringers and the Cheerful Chimers.  She lives in Ivoryton with her husband, Scott and their two daughters, Sierra and Leah.

Susan Saltus

Interim Organist

Susan Saltus received her B.A. in Music from Smith College, where she majored in organ performance and musicology. As a student, she also played bassoon, viola and glockenspiel.  Presently, she serves as the Associate Music Director and Accompanist of the Con Brio Choral Society.  She has held organist positions in Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey and is the former Music Director and Organist at the United Church of Chester CT. As a choral singer, she has performed with the Berkshire Choral Festival and Harmonium Choral Society.  Since moving to Essex in 2000, Ms. Saltus has served on the boards of the Community Music School, Bach with Verse and Con Brio, and on the committee for the Collomore Music Series in Chester. She is a home care volunteer for Middlesex Hospice and Palliative Care. Also in 2000, she retired from American Re Asset Management as Managing Director – Equities.

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!

Jeff Birch

Ministry Intern

Jeff Birch is a first year seminarian at Lexington Theological Seminary in Lexington, Kentucky. FCC Essex partners with the seminary to oversee and support Jeff's theological education.  Jeff was born in Riverhead, New York and raised in Battle Creek, Michigan.  He graduated from Northwestern Michigan College in 1982 and completed a twenty-one year career in the US Navy, retiring as a Master Chief Petty Officer in 2007. He and his partner, Mike, live in East Lyme.

First Congregational Church in Essex

United Church of Christ

6 Methodist Hill

Essex, Connecticut 06426

phone:  860-767-8097

fax:        860-767-7855