Pastor - Rev. Paul Werner
Rev. Paul Werner is originally from the New York metro area. He moved to Florida with his family after high school and spent a considerable amount of time in Florida. He returned to New York to serve as our Pastor in January 2022.
Paul earned a B.A. in Spanish Language and Literature, a M.A. in Foreign Language Education (Spanish), and a graduate certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language from the University of South Florida in Tampa. He taught Spanish to middle school, high school, and college students and ESOL to college students for over 20 years.
He began attending First United Church of Tampa when he was 19 years old. He participated in various aspects of church life and ultimately decided to answer God’s call to ministry by earning a Master of Divinity from the Florida Center for Theological Studies (which has since merged into St. Thomas University in Miami). Paul was twice awarded the UCC’s William R. Johnson Scholarship, which is a competitive seminary scholarship for openly LGBT ministerial candidates in the United Church of Christ. He was granted licensure (now called lay ministerial standing) by the Florida Conference in 2008, and he was ordained by the Florida Conference in 2013.
Having spent his adult life in Florida, Paul served in a few ministry roles in the Florida Conference of the UCC. Most recently, he served as an Assistant Pastor of First United Church of Tampa, a church that has made being Open and Affirming, multiracial and multicultural, anti-racist, and accessible to all some of its core values. He also served as the Pastor of St. Andrew UCC in Sarasota and the Designated Pastor of Trinity Congregational UCC in Winter Haven. He was also a member of the Board of Directors of the Florida Conference.
Paul has a passion for social and economic justice, and he believes that the poor, oppressed, marginalized, and vulnerable are particularly loved by God, and that we are to emulate the actions and teachings of Jesus to work for justice and peace for all people and to end the sin of systemic injustice. Guided by the ethos of the United Church of Christ, he is especially interested in how churches can express a progressive Christian faith and witness with prophetic voices and actions to practice the gospel.
As a techie, Paul enjoys computers and technology. He loves (usually) healthy cooking, watching live bands perform, a good beer (after all, he is half German!), strong coffee, and anything with chocolate.
Director of Music and Choir Director - Ciaran Krueger
Ciaran Krueger is our Director of Music and Choir Director. Ciaran was hired in the fall of 2010. He has a Masters in Music Performance: Choral Conducting and currently is a Music Teacher for Youth Pre-Kindergarten to Eighth Grade in the Ken-Ton school system. He also has been a Music Director with Creative Allusions Productions and is a Vocal director with Opera-Lytes.
St. James UCC is pleased and excited to have someone of his expertise and ability to work with people of all ages directing our choirs. Since Ciaran has started, we have experienced a significant number of new members to our Adult Choir and a wide variety of musical experiences during worship. Ciaran is always eager for new people to try out our choirs!
Accompanist - Jonathan Rizzo
Jonathan Rizzo is our talented Accompanist. He began in the fall of 2010 and regularly receives ovations from our congregation.
Jonathan studied Music Education at SUNY Fredonia and currently is a music teacher as well as a band teacher. Our congregation has been enjoying his amazing keyboard skills, as he is a very accomplished pianist, and is becoming a very accomplished organist as well. Jonathan also accompanies the Praise Band as the percussionist. We are excited to have Jonathan working with Ciaran!
Administrative Assistant - Cynthia (Cindy) Hager, CAP-OM
Blessed in her ministry at St. James UCC, Cindy is living out her personal Mission Statement - “To love, praise and serve the Lord Our God and his children, abiding in him to tell the story of Jesus and his love.” In serving Christ's church (including work in the wider church) Cindy has loved serving God and God's people. In addition to her faith-based work, she has worked in the business world and attained her international certification as Administrative Professional of Office Management. She volunteers in her community, including as a member of the local Friends of the Library, and in professional organizations. Cindy is married to Doug, has grown children and four grandchildren. She is an avid reader, she enjoys sewing for her church, making quilts for wounded warriors and preparing crosses for cross ministry. Cindy is a member of the YMCA, but her most favorite time is at home with her children and grandchildren. So richly blessed, so eager to share God’s love.