Rev. Melissa K. López
Melissa was born and raised in the suburbs of Denver, Colorado. She grew up in the PC(USA), was baptized and confirmed in her childhood congregation, and always felt at home in church. Melissa felt the call to ordained ministry in college and was blessed to have opportunities to explore her call to ministry serving alongside church staff in the Presbyterian university ministry at First Presbyterian Church of Ft. Collins, Colorado.
After college, Melissa moved to Austin,TX to attend Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. While living in Austin, Melissa fell in love with Tex-Mex, BBQ, and an Aggie named Jose. Melissa and Jose got married after she graduated and they have two awesome kids. Jose is also a Presbyterian minister serving in Baltimore Presbytery and they love being in ministry together.
Before receiving the call to FPC Bel Air, Melissa and Jose were serving as associate pastors of The Presbyterian Church of Traverse City, Michigan. Melissa has also served as a hospital chaplain at Seton Family of Hospitals in Austin, TX, and at Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church in Dallas,TX.
In her free time, Melissa loves being outdoors, hiking, running, going to the beach, and enjoying all of God’s creation. She also loves cheering for all of the Denver sports teams, especially the Broncos. The Lopez family enjoys movie nights at home, playing at the park, superheroes, and living room dance parties.
Director of Children’s Ministry and Nursery Coordinator
Shelley Akens has lived in Harford county for most of her life and has been serving FPC for over 15 years. Shelley lives with her husband and seven children, and enjoys working with children, helping them build a strong foundation in which their faith can grow.
Amy joined the FPC family as Office Coordinator in June 2017. Her experience in the non-profit sector, a degree in communication from the University of Scranton, and her position as elder at Christ Our King Presbyterian Church prepared her for the variety of tasks that her role at FPC presents each day. Favorite aspects of her job include collaborating with church staff and ministry teams and daily interactions with church members and food pantry guests. Amy enjoys volunteering, practicing yoga and walking in the town of Bel Air where she lives with her husband and two adult children.
Director of Music and Organist
Church music and glorifying “the Word” has always been Julie’s passion, even as a teenager. After studying piano for 12 years, she was offered organist positions in several churches in Harford County, and then given the opportunity to study the pipe organ for 2 years from a well-known teacher. Following this education, she accepted the position as Organist at First Presbyterian Church. Simultaneously, she was a preschool teacher at various Presbyterian churches and enjoyed teaching religious songs to the youth and encouraging children’s choirs.
Julie became Music Director at First Presbyterian Church while being pianist for the 8:30am Contemporary service and organist for the 11:00am service as well as accompanist to the Chancel Choir. The 40 years of service to church music, whether it be classical, contemporary, jazz, folk, or bluegrass has been very rewarding. “Hallelujah” to the 88 keys!
Choir director Kris Faatz joined the staff of First Presbyterian Church in 2014. Kris holds a master’s degree in piano performance and pedagogy from the Peabody Conservatory and bachelor’s degrees in music and engineering from Swarthmore College. She has also taught piano for fifteen years. Kris loves working with FPC’s choir, a group of terrific singers who are always willing to try out new musical adventures, and who have welcomed her into the FPC family. Weekly rehearsals are full of laughter and great music- making.
Kris is also a professional writer. Her first novel, To Love A Stranger, was released in 2017, and her short stories have appeared in various journals including The Baltimore Review, Kenyon Review, and Tiferet. She teaches creative writing with the Community College of Baltimore County, the Baltimore County public library system, Writopia Lab DC, and Baltimore Bridges. You can find out more about her writing and music at krisfaatz.com.
Handbell Choir Director
As a young girl growing up, Ruth was always interested in music both at school and church. She began taking piano lessons at age 9 and continued through high school. Along with the piano she was always in a church choir and school choruses. In college she was in the College Chorus for 4 years which was always fun and even gave her college credit!
Ruth was first introduced to handbells when she was in her 30s when a teenage girl started a handbell choir for adults using the skills she learned as a teen ringer. After that Ruth rang for many years at FPC and at Bethel Presbyterian where she learned the skills she needed to be a director.
In the 1990s-early 2000s she attended Music and Worship conferences. There she was able to play under many famous handbell directors and composers. She is a member of the Handbell Musicians of America which provides monthly updates and advice about handbell music.
Handbells provide an opportunity to make a “joyful noise” with others who enjoy ringing also. Many friendships are made in the Bell Choir room! Our favorite saying is – “I love Handbells!”