Reverend Michelle E. Freeman, Senior Pastor
Reverend Michelle E. Freeman is a native of Austin, Texas and grew up in the Missionary Baptist faith. She is the youngest of four children in her family and enjoyed singing in the youth choir and faithfully participating in youth activities. In her spare time, Michelle likes to read and watch tennis matches as well as play with her dogs.
Michelle met and fell in love with Georgia Chambers in the Fall of 1994 and they united in covenantal relationship in June of 1996. Georgia and Michelle were both estranged from attending church. Together, in June of 1996, they found the Metropolitan Community Church of Austin, Texas where they both felt a call on their hearts for a future in ministry. Michelle and Georgia were legally married by Rev. Teddy Kissell, in Galveston, Texas on July 3, 2015. While attending a Christian Retreat in Dickinson, Texas in October of 2004, Michelle said “YES” to God’s call on her life for a future in ordained ministry.
Faithful to her call, in August 2008, Michelle was accepted and matriculated at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California. The Dean and Chaplain of the campus introduced Michelle to the United Church of Christ and subsequently Michelle united in membership with First Congregational Church of Oakland UCC in November 2008. In the Summer of 2009, Georgia and Michelle moved to St. Louis, Missouri to continue their studies at Eden Theological Seminary and they both received their Master of Divinity degrees in May 2012.
They moved back to their native Texas in the summer of 2012 and united in membership with Grace United Church of Christ in Houston, Texas. Michelle received her call to serve as Senior Pastor at Parkside Community United Church of Christ in Saukville, Wisconsin on Sunday, November 5, 2017. On January 6, 2018, in a packed Spirit-Filled service at Grace UCC in Houston, Michelle was ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacrament in the United Church of Christ.
Reverend Freeman pastored Parkside Community UCC in Saukville for two years with her call ending on December 31, 2019. Reverend Freeman moved to Evansville, Indiana to spend time with her wife of 24 years, Reverend Georgia Chambers, who is a Board-Certified Senior Chaplain at Ascension St. Vincent Medical Center-Evansville. They also spoil their beautiful 3-year-old Chihuahuas, Margarite and Manolo, who are currently living in Evansville.
During her time in Evansville, Reverend Freeman had conversations with the Search Committee of First Congregational Church of Riverside as they searched for a new Senior Minister. The fruitful conversations resulted in a totally virtual Call Process (due to COVID-19) and on Sunday, April 26, 2020, Reverend Michelle E. Freeman was called as Senior Minister. Reverend Freeman started her call with FCC Riverside on May 11, 2020 working remotely from Evansville. Reverend Freeman moved to Riverside on May 29, 2020 and is humbled to serve as Senior Minister of this beloved faith community. The community of FCC Riverside is committed to justice and love of each other and their fellow neighbors regardless of their identities. Reverend Freeman counts it as a privilege and honor to serve as Senior Minister of First Congregational Church of Riverside. May God be Praised!
Maggie DeGroff, Office Manager
Maggie DeGroff began working as our Office Manager in July of 2010 after retiring from Cal State University, San Bernardino. She has studied at Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA and Cal State University, San Bernardino. Born and raised in Maine, she lived for many years in Charlottesville, VA., where she began her family. After almost 30 years in CA, she considers this her home. She has two adult daughters and three wonderful grand kids.
David Wells, Music Ministry/Choir Director
In addition to serving as Director of Music Ministry and Choir Director at First Congregational Church of Riverside, California, David is the Artistic Director of the Temecula Valley Master Chorale. He currently is working with choir and orchestra ensembles with a specialty in vocal music. David Wells has a Bachelors in Vocal Performance from the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music at Cal State Long Beach and a Masters in Choral Conducting from Cal State University Fullerton. David has extensive experience with choirs and music programs of all sizes and ages, including founder of the Mission Viejo youth choir, director of music and worship at Los Altos United Methodist Church, and operations manager of the Long Beach Camerata Singers. In his free time, he composes and records music in his in-home recording studio.
Carrie Penrod, Wedding Coordinator
Carrie Penrod has lived in Riverside her whole life. Carrie and her wife of 20 years have two beautiful kids. The First Congregational Church of Riverside has been home to her family since her parents got married here in 1968. She has always had a creative spirit and looks for any reason to decorate her home for a celebration or a theme party. She especially loves capturing a single moment and making it into a photograph. Carrie is always excited about helping people celebrate something beautiful whether it be a wedding, birthday, or anniversary, and she has been assisting in wedding planning for approximately three years. She looks forward to celebrating your special day with you.