Photo of Melissa Lopez

Rev. Dr. 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. Melissa received her Doctor of Ministry degree from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, IL.

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 the Denver sports teams, especially the Broncos. The Lopez family enjoys movie nights at home, playing at the park, and exploring the Mid-Atlantic.

Photo of Kate Ciufo

Kate Ciufo

Director of Children’s Ministry

Kate is a Harford County native who has always felt called to work with children. She holds a Master’s of Education in Instructional Technology and a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education. She was a teacher for Harford County Public Schools for 6 years before becoming a stay-at-home mom. Kate has additional training in special education, Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy, English as a Second Language/English Language Learners, and diverse intervention techniques.

Kate grew up attending a Harford County church, playing the handbells and singing in the children’s choir. It was at church where she met her husband, Mike, on their confirmation retreat at 16 years old. Kate and Mike live in Bel Air with their three sons.

Kate enthusiastically joined FPC as the Director of Children’s Ministry in 2021. She says that it is a dream come true to work with children and touch children’s lives with God’s love. Kate’s favorite passage is James 1:19, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

Photo of Julie Hall

Julie Hall

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!

Photo of Ruth Howard

Ruth Howard

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!”