Meet The Staff
Minister, Head of Staff
Rev. Ben Konecny (he/him)
Ben is from Wisconsin but is very happy calling Colorado and its beautiful landscape (and better weather!) home now. Ben completed his undergraduate degree from Ripon College and his Master of Divinity degree from Vanderbilt University. Ben’s wife Caitlin is a lead collaborator at the Fred Tjardes School of Innovation in Greeley. Together they enjoy traveling, coffee shops, board games and spending time with their dog Zaley.
Minister, Head of Programs
Rev. Tamara Torres McGovern (she/her)
Rev. Tamara Torres McGovern found her way to ministry via a circuitous path that included spiritual formation as a yoga instructor, holistic cook, musician, and massage therapist. She has a BA in Cultural Anthropology from Mount Holyoke and a Masters of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary where her focus was Voices from the Margins. Tamara was ordained in 2013 and has served church congregations and emergent spiritual communities in both Connecticut and Maine. She also dreams of a spiritual community where people are welcome in all of their messy, passionate, embodied suffering and hopefulness. She dreams of a place where justice is being held up as not only as the right thing to do, but as a path to encountering God.
Tamara is trained as an Interim Minister, helping to guide communities through identity formation and transition. She is also a passionate Enneagram educator (2w3). She has volunteered as a Community Chaplain for Planned Parenthood New England, and co-hosts a Queer Spirit radio series (part of OUTcast radio at WMPG). When Tamara is not working, she can be found hiking, baking (or engaging in power struggles) with her precocious toddler, cuddling with the family dog, or listening to fantastical podcasts with her partner.
Minister of Music
Dr. Derek Chester
Derek is Associate Professor of Voice and Director of the Ursa Consort at the University of Northern Colorado. He is a featured soloist at the Staunton Music Festival and the Colorado Bach Festival. Though his career is concentrated primarily in concert work, Dr. Chester is also passionate about opera and opera history. Before receiving his DMA in Voice Performance and Opera Studies at the University of North Texas, he studied at the University of Georgia and the Yale School of Music and Institute of Sacred Music.
Dr. Keenan Boswell
Dr. Keenan Boswell received a Bachelors degree in Organ Performance from The Julliard School, a Masters in Organ Performance from Westminster Choir College, and a Doctorate in Opera Coaching from The University of Texas in Austin.
As a keyboardist for the Carmel Bach Festival between 2014 and 2018, Dr. Boswell served as chorale accompanist, orchestral keyboardist, and collaborative pianist for the festival's main stage solo vocal concerts. Selections from his voice-piano song cycle Trinity were premiered to much acclaim during one of the featured main stage concerts during the 2018 festival. As a composer, Dr. Boswell's works have been and continue to be performed across the United States in schools, churches, and concert halls.
Dr. Keenan Boswell is also a highly regarded professional coach who teaches self healing practices through music and metaphysics as the means through which one can access and actualize their most authentic expression of self.
In 2017, Dr. Boswell launched Return to Self Healing, commencing his work as a personal coach. Using metaphysical studies + astrological archetypes as the basis of his coaching, he works with individuals one-on-one and in group settings to help them consciously see and accept all aspects of self, as well as see any and all ways in which they avoid aspects of self. Most recently, Dr. Boswell has merged music and metaphysics together by offering coaching sessions in which he composes music that reflects one's authentic energetic expression and self healing journey.
Above all, Dr. Boswell seeks to explore and express the connection in all things through all that he does and loves sharing the journey of self healing with others.
Pianist & Director of Rainbow Choir
Shona Royle-Grimes (she/her)
Shona holds Bachelor's degrees in music education and piano performance from the University of Northern Colorado. Shona has been teaching in Northeastern Colorado since 1997. She taught K-12 music, choir and band in Merino, Colorado, for three years after her graduation from college. Shona has been teaching general music and keyboard classes at Union Colony Children's Music Academy for 18 years and maintains a large private piano studio in Greeley, working with students of all ages. Shona also currently serves as the accompanist for the 8:00 a.m. chapel service at First Congregational Church. After a hard day's work, she heads home to spend time with her husband, their two sons and their dog.
Director of Genesis & Jubilation Choirs
Wanda Vasquez de Garcia (she/her)
Wanda was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, in 1981. Wanda holds a piano performance degree from the National Conservatory of Music of Santo Domingo, a Licenciatura (Bachelor) in Music Education from the Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo, and a Master in Music Education with emphasis in Choral Conducting from the University of Northern Colorado. She has been an active member of renowned choirs in her country, including a position as soprano section instructor for the 150-voice Coro de la Catedral Primada de America (Choir of the First Cathedral of the Americas). At UNC, she was a member of Concert Choir and Prima Voce . She was a conducting student of Dr. Jill Burgett, whom she also assisted with the Women's Glee Choir, and Dr. Galen Darrough.
Children's Minister (Birth-Elementary)
Tammi Van Drunen (she/her)
Tammi is a Michigan native who has called Greeley home for over a decade. She graduated from Calvin University with a double major in Psychology and Spanish and followed that with an M.Div. from Western Theological Seminary in Holland, MI. Tammi deeply believes that children are already on a spiritual journey and that the grown ups' job is to make spaces for kids to meet God in ways that make sense to them. Children's prayer practices and play languages have allowed Tammi to meet God in new ways. Her favorite prayer practice is blowing bubbles.
Tammi is married to Phil, who does all manner of web and video things and is also the home cook. Together, they love hanging out with their two elementary-aged kids. When the kids aren't keeping her busy, she loves reading, doodling, and attempting to keep plants alive outside.
Youth Minister (Middle & High School)
Brady Ross (he/him)
Brady is honored to be joining the staff at First Congregational Church. Raised in the UCC, Brady has been at camp and in youth programs in the church his whole life. He spent his college years working in the youth programs at Wayzata Community Church (Wayzata, MN) and the Wayzata Community Church summer camp. He believes youth ministry should include music, fun, and unconditional love.
During the COVID outbreak, Brady worked with Vote Common Good, a national tour to push Christians closer to radical love and justice. Before he joins the staff here, he will spend his summer guiding canoe trips in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota. Brady's ministry is heavily influenced by a quote from Marianne Williamson, who says, "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure."
Laura Gurney (she/her)
Laura is a Greeley native who has called our church home since high school. She is an only child with a brother, a sister, and a full-of-love family story. Laura has a special love for the work we do with the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. In her free time, she enjoys singing a capella with Sweet Adelines. Laura lives life by the motto of a dear friend, also named Laura Gurney, who says "Give to the world the best you have and the world will give back to you."
Whitney Janzen-Pankratz (she/her)
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Jackie Russo (she/her)
I grew up in Michigan. My times living in Spain and the Netherlands were some of the best of my life. My family came to Colorado 6 years ago. I enjoy the mild winters but miss large bodies of water! My husband and I have been married for 16 years and we have two boys, ages 8 and 4, along with a furry kid: Buster the Golden Retriever. I hold degrees from Aquinas College and Franklin University and my last concert (long ago) was Bon Jovi in Pittsburgh. I am excited to be part of the First Congregational community and look forward to meeting many of you.
Tyler Rossman (he/him)
Tyler lives with his family in Loveland. In his free time, Tyler enjoys cycling and creating exceptional woodworking projects.