Meet Our Clergy

Rev. John W. Collins, Interim Senior Pastor

e-mail: jcollins@fccog.org

John Collins has been a settled pastor and an interim pastor. He led Lordship Community Church, a United Church of Christ church in Stratford, CT, for 21 years. Beginning in 2001, he began intentional interim ministry and has served through transitions at four UCC churches in Connecticut. Most recently, from February 2011 to April 2012, he was Interim Senior Minister at Monroe Congregational Church. He also served in that role at First Congregational Church of Southington; Huntington Congregational Church, in Shelton; and First Congregational Church of Watertown.

John lives in Stratford with his wife Margie; they have a grown daughter, Julie.


Rev. Mark D. Montgomery, Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry

e-mail: mmontgomery@fccog.org

Mark Montgomery is a native of South Carolina, where he spent the first 23 years of his life. He completed his undergraduate degree at Clemson University.

Mark has worked in the church via local church, campus ministry and camping ministry since he was 15 years old. He has also been fortunate to be part of youth ministry in the national church setting as a recreation, music and keynote leader. After completing his Masters of Divinity at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA, he served as the Associate Pastor at Union Congregational Church in Montclair, NJ.

Mark loves spending time with friends, playing on Cape Cod, traveling, fly fishing, and enjoying God’s creation. He and his partner live in Norwalk.

Mark found a place of belonging and grace at a young age in his faith community. Part of his call, he feels, is to encourage that same type of environment where all of God’s family members can come together to understand who they are and find great comfort in Whose they are. He looks forward to sharing this part of the journey with you!


Rev. Daniel B. England, Minister of Communication and Adult Education

e-mail: dengland@fccog.org

Daniel England joined the staff of First Congregational in September, 2007. He holds several Master’s degrees in theology including an M.A. from Cambridge University in England and a M.Th. from Princeton Seminary. When not engaged in the work of our church, Dan is a professional writer and consultant to corporations. He and his wife Claire live in Fairfield, CT.


Avery ManchesterRev. Avery C. Manchester, Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care

e-mail: amanchester@fccog.org

Avery Manchester joined the staff of First Congregational on March 1, 2009. Avery graduated from the College of Emporia in Kansas before pursuing his theological education at both SMU and Yale Divinity School. He is an ordained United Methodist minister and has served churches in Brussels, Belgium, the Congo and at the First Church of Round Hill for 15 years. Avery is a credentialed Psychoanalyst and Pastoral Counselor having received his training at the Center for Modern Psychoanalytic Studies in New York City. He spent 20 years serving with the Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church. He has extensive experience as a missionary, pastor and therapist.

Avery enjoys sailing and is chaplain of the Indian Harbor Yacht Club. He is married to Pamela, and he has four adult children and nine grandchildren. He and Pamela live in Stamford and they both have psychoanalyst offices in NYC and here.


Craig Scott Symons, Director of Music

e-mail: craigs@fccog.org

Craig Scott Symons began his tenure as Director of Music/Organist in October 2010. Craig is a native of Michigan, where he most recently served as Director of Music for 15 years at First United Methodist Church in Royal Oak, a suburb just north of Detroit. He attended the prestigious Interlochen Arts Academy for four years and graduated in 1980. Craig received his Bachelor of Music degree from Wayne State University as a student of Ray Ferguson and went on to receive a Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees from University of Michigan, where he studied with Robert Glasgow and James Kibbie.

Craig is active in a number of organizations, including serving as Repertoire and Standards Chair for Music in Worship for the American Choral Directors Association – Michigan Chapter, as Dean for the Detroit Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, and has held positions on executive boards for the Fellowship of United Methodist Musicians – Detroit Chapter, Choristers Guild – Detroit Chapter.

From 1990-2007, Craig was the Conductor and Founder of Ars Nova, an auditioned group of 24 singers, which presented concerts of music ranging from chant to vocal jazz and everything in between. He currently sings with sounding light, a professional chamber choir based in Detroit.

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