Support Staff

Dr. Nathan Birkholz, Organist, Downtown Site Music Director (        Nathan Birkholz holds degrees in piano performance from Northern Illinois University (B.M.), Indiana University (M.M.), and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (D.M.A.), with minor fields of study in conducting, French, and musicology. He studied organ with the late Frank Rippl of Appleton. He sang in the Appleton Boychoir as a child, an experience which defined much of his early musical training. He has served as pianist at St. Matthew Lutheran Church of Urbana, Illinois, and played for mid-week worship services at the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, California. Before coming to First English, he was organist and pianist at Zion Lutheran Church of Appleton. He has served on the keyboard faculty of Ripon College and currently works as a staff pianist in the voice area at Lawrence University of Appleton. 




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. 


AJ Frea, Fellowship Coordinator (
AJ has been a member of FELC for nearly five years. He is presently employed in the hospitality industry and works and resides in Green Bay. Music, kayacking, gardening and outdoor activities are a few of his hobbies. FV symphony, PAC shows and of course GREEN BAY PACKERS are always priorities. He is currently on the board of The Arthur Krempin School of Music & Arts. Says AJ: "God has given each of us a unique gift, and mine is assisting people, serving the Lord, and taking time to breathe and enjoy everything in this beautiful world."


Jeanne Gronholm, Discipleship Administrative Assistant  (

Jeanne and her husband, Mike, have been part of the Fox Valley area for 10 years. They have family in many different states, so travel is a big part of their free time along with biking, movie watching and dining out. She spends time working at the Church Office as an Administrative Assistant and Worship Volunteer 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, Worship Support and Bookkeeping (        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, a Master’s in Business Administration from UW-Milwaukee, a Certified Employee Benefit Specialist designation from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania as well as certificates in Bookkeeping and Accounting Assistance. 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, processing invoices, and reconciling the church's bank accounts.          
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.

Karen Kneisler, Welcome Host (                                                             Karen and her husband, Merle, joined FELC in 2017 and they have been excited to become active in the life of the congregation.  They live in Appleton, are Luther College grads and have two children, Dan and Katie. Karen’s main duties are to welcome and connect with those who wish to join FELC, and to schedule and coordinate New Member classes.


Deni Kuchler, Neighbor Network Coordinator (                                           Deni received her B.A. in Journalism with an emphasis in Advertising and Public Relations from UW Oshkosh. She’s been a member of First English for over 10 years and has been active in many volunteer roles including Reconciling in Christ, Congregation Council, Leadership Transition and the North Site Women’s Group. Most Sunday mornings, you can find her worshipping with her husband, Dan, and two daughters, Ruby and Margot, at the North Site. Deni’s interests include cooking, working out, traveling and exploring her community. Deni is excited to help strengthen and build relationships within First English as well as all its neighbors. Has something been urging you to volunteer in the community in some way but not sure where to start? Contact Deni and she can help you work through how you might best be able to serve others and live your call.


Kathy Larson, Faith Connections Coordinator (
Kathy and her husband Gary have been members at FELC since Sept. of 1988. They have three grown children and five 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. Her main responsibilities include implementing new ways for people to connect to small groups.  Kathy is also responsible for managing the FELC Wedding Ministry. She takes great joy in assisting couples walk through the logistics of getting married at FELC.


Heidi Masse, Youth and Summer Ministry Coordinator (              

Heidi is from Appleton and grew up attending FELC, however, she and her husband Dylan currently live in Green Bay. 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 a FELC Summer Intern and graduating from St. Thomas University with a degree in Community Health Education.


Rodney McComb, Live Stream Coordinator and 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 over 35 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 Sunday School and Confirmation programs, as well as contribute to the Mental Health Ministry and Reconciling in Christ Team.

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 and has been on staff at First English since 2002. As a member of the Lead Staff, her primary responsibilities include overseeing the administration of the church’s finances and properties, along with personnel and office management. Being the staff liaison for the Finance Committee, Brenda also serves on the Endowment, Property Oversight, Personnel, Arts & Environment, and Stewardship committees, and Intern Enrichment Ministry Team.