Support Staff

Dr. Nathan Birkholz, Organist, Downtown Site Music and Worship Coordinator, Handbell Choir Director (
Nathan Birkholz studied classical piano at Northern Illinois University (BM), Indiana University (MM), and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (DMA) while minoring in French, conducting, and musicology respectively. He became involved with the ELCA at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Urbana, IL and served there as pianist while pursuing his doctoral degree. He then moved to Berkeley, California where he maintained a private teaching studio and played for worship services at St. Paul Lutheran Church of Oakland and the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary. An Appleton native, he returned home a couple of years ago and began studying organ with Frank Rippl. He served as organist and pianist at Zion Lutheran Church of Appleton before coming to First English in the Fall of 2013. As a pianist he has appeared with the Fox Valley Symphony, the Green Bay Civic Symphony, the Northern Illinois University Philharmonic, the Ripon College Orchestra and holds top prizes in national and international competitions, including the 2010 Los Angeles International Liszt Competition. A former faculty member at Ripon College and the University of Illinois, he regularly concertizes, is a staff pianist at Lawrence University, maintains a private piano studio, and is principal accompanist for the Badger State Girl Choir and the Appleton Boychoir. Nathan currently lives around the corner from the FELC downtown site with his partner Meredith and their young son William.        



Dianne Droster, Caring Ministries Coordinator (
Dianne graduated from Lawrence University and received her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Warren Wilson College.  She trained as a Stephen minister with FELC’s initial class, attended Lay Ministry school, and has enjoyed her church adventures with God’s children of all ages, from the young to the young at heart. She is now enrolled in seminary. In her role as Caring Ministries Coordinator, she oversees our Stephen Ministry program, shares with the pastors in visiting the hospitalized and homebound, and looks for opportunities to expand the congregation’s caring ministries. 


Jeanne Gronholm, Administrative Assistant and Life Groups Coordinator (
Jeanne and her husband, Mike, relocated to the Fox Valley area for Mike’s new job in November 2010 after 24 years in Maple Grove, Minnesota. Before moving to Wisconsin, Jeanne was a church administrator for Maple Grove Lutheran Church.  She worked part time for First English at the Downtown site until February 2015 when she left for a full time position in customer service. Upon rejoining the First English staff full time in April, 2018, her dutie are Administrative Assistant at the Downtown Site and Life Group Coordinator.

Kathy Hoffman, Manager of Echoes, a Christian Thrift Store (
Kathy  has been the manager of Echoes since 2005. She and her family have been  church members since 1991. Her main duties involve both managing  and growing this mission opportunity.
Kristy Howard, Office/Worship Support and Accounts Payable (

Kristy grew up in Appleton and was baptized and confirmed at Prince of Peace. Kristy holds a degree in Human Resource Management from UW-Whitewater and a Master’s in Business Administration from UW-Milwaukee as well as a Certified Employee Benefit Specialist designation from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. While working in Milwaukee, Kristy met her husband, Shannon, originally from Kansas. They have two daughters and have been members of First English since January 2000. Prior to joining the FELC staff, Kristy worked in corporate Human Resources as well as for a software development company supporting and training on employee benefits related products. Kristy has been working for First English since May of 2008. In addition to greeting guests visiting or calling the office, Kristy is responsible for producing the weekly worship bulletins, posting member donations and processing invoices.

Meri Hujet, Communications Coordinator (
Meri and her husband Chuck joined First English in 1986.  They have two children.  Meri has worked in this part time position since 2009.  Her main duties include producing the weekly announcements and monthly newsletter, as well as updating the FELC website.

Becky Kallio, Fellowship Coordinator (
Becky and her family joined FELC in 1985. Becky has three grown children and four grandchildren. Two of her children, JoAnne and Jim, live in the Fox Cities area, John lives in Maryland.  Her husband, Bob, passed away in February of 2014, after a long struggle with dementia.  Becky retired from Thrivent Financial after 29 years of service as a computer programmer.  Her main duties include coordination of the LIFT meals and involvement in the 50+ Ministry.  


Bruce Koestner, Wednesday Worship Music Leader (
Bruce is originally from the Chicago area and received a music degree from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.  He has been the music director for Christus Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Greenville for about 25 years, and is happy to be a part of the First English Wednesday evening worship services.  Bruce also teaches piano students at Heid Music in addition to performing at other venues in the Fox Valley area.    


Kathy Larson, Discipleship Coordinator (
Kathy and her husband Gary have been members at FELC since Sept. of 1988. They have three grown children and three grandchildren. Retiring from Thrivent Financial after 25 years, Kathy felt a strong calling to serve others and was thankful for an opportunity to join the FELC staff as a Discipleship Coordinator. Her main responsibilities include working together with the Discipleship Pastor and the Congregational Life Ministry Team to foster the discovery of one’s personal call and empower people to live out that call in their personal lives, our congregation, our community and the world.  Kathy is also responsible for managing the FELC Wedding Ministry.  


Rodney McComb, North Site Music Leader (
Rodney's start in serving the church with music goes back to his middle school years where he started singing in his church's adult choir. Rodney has a passion for encouraging youth (and adults) to discover God's musical gifts and use them in service to the Church. He went to school at both Waldorf and Wartburg Colleges where he received a Bachelor's in Music Therapy and Music Education. Since college, he has played and sang in a number of worship bands and youth retreat bands over the years. Rodney enjoys learning new instruments and is excited when he can use them in worship. Lastly, he has a hobby of discovering classical composers that have written music for the Lutheran church and likes to explore music in early Lutheran worship.

Kirsten Owens, Faith Formation Coordinator (
Kirsten and her husband Dave live in Appleton with their two children and are First English members.  Kirsten was confirmed at First English and has been a member for close to thirty years.  In the past she has volunteered in various capacities at First English. Her duties in this role include curriculum and program development, and organizational support for the Confirmation program.

Dale Rude, Facilities Technician (
Dale and his family have attended FELC for more than 18 years. His 46 years as an aircraft mechanic,  along with an all around knowledge of general maintenance makes him an ideal person for this role.  


Heidi Schreiner, Youth and Summer Ministry Coordinator (

Heidi is from Appleton and grew up attending FELC. Heidi's role incorporates two positions, that of Youth Coordinator and Summer Ministry Coordinator. In her Youth Coordinator position she facilitates programs and trips for high school students. In her Summer Ministry Coordinator position she supervises and supports the Summer Interns and their ministries.  Heidi has stepped into the role in 2013 after three years as an FELC Summer Intern and graduating from St. Thomas University with a degree in Community Health Education.


Brenda Smongeski, Church Administrator (
Brenda has been attending First English since September 2001 upon moving to the Fox Valley with her children Kate and Bill.  With over 20 years of experience in the mutual fund industry and banking, Brenda assumed the role of Church Administrator.  As a member of the Lead Staff, her primary responsibilities include overseeing the church budget and finances, along with personnel, property and office management. Being the staff liaison for the Finance Committee, Brenda also serves on the Trust Committee, Property Oversight, Personnel, Arts & Environment, Stewardship, Intern Enrichment and is the staff liaison for the Technology Committee.