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Beth BuettnerChurch Administrative Assistant
Julie Daab is married to Jeff; they have two children, Hanna and Levi. Julie teaches the third grade in the New Athens school district.
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Steve JacksonPraise Band Director
St. John is fortunate to have several people on call to play our pipe organ for traditional worship at 8 and 10:30 a.m. Of that group, Paul Bickel, with twenty years experience playing at St. John’s, has the most musical seniority. Paul is also the accompanist for the Quarterly Choir. When “Common Lot” came on the scene about five years ago, Paul expanded his duties to play piano for that group as well. Besides being an amazing pianist and organist, Paul is the retired director of the Freeburg school district’s grade school band program.
When not keeping worship humming alone in tune and in good time, Paul operates a large farming operation. He also recently obtained his pilot’s license. He’s married to Bonnie, and they have two sons, Alex and Zach. Paul (and the rest of his family) also enjoys spending free weekends at the Lake of the Ozarks.
Melinda Milligan began serving as Director of New Beginnings Daycare in April, 2006. She brought with her over twenty years of experience working in the child care field.
As director of New Beginnings, Melinda oversees a staff of approximately twelve employees, scheduling their work hours and supervising them while they’re on the job. Melinda is also responsible for steering the daycare through the maze of regulations that must be followed for New Beginnings to maintain its state license. A visit to the daycare on a “typical” day (if there is such a thing) can find Melinda doing anything from teaching in a classroom to serving lunch to dealing with the paperwork that is so much a part of her job.
Asked to introduce herself, Melinda said:
“My husband and I live in Belleville, and have been married for nineteen years. We have two children and two grandchildren. I grew up with six siblings in the Freeburg area, and have stayed close to home. I’m glad to be in New Athens because I’m still in the area, close to my family.
“I love children and that’s why I do this job. I’ve been in the daycare business for over 27 years. I’ve been a director for six years.”
“I really like the staff and people here at New Beginnings. We’re hoping to enroll more children in our facility, which is a loving and fun environment for children.”
Melinda MilliganDirector, New Beginnings Daycare
Cindy Vogler, along with her husband David, served as Sunday School superintendent for nearly twenty years. When St. John’s created the position of Director of Christian Education, Cindy made the transition from volunteer to paid staff. Cindy coordinates the Christian Education ministry at St. John’s, another one of the callings here that goes well beyond any job description. Cindy oversees the rotation model curriculum, picking and planning the various themes that run throughout the year. Cindy also helps with youth group activities, as well as with youth mission projects. She and Dave took a group of St. John young people to the last UCC National Youth Event in Knoxville, Tennessee, and are already making plans to attend the next gathering in Dallas, Texas. Cindy also coordinates summer Vacation Bible School classes, which St. John’s holds in conjunction with its neighbor across the street, St. Agatha Catholic Church.
Cindy and Dave have two children, Kim and Scot. Scot recently moved from college to the “real world,” taking a job in the Chicago area. Kim currently attends the University of Illinois. Cindy is a wonderful seamstress who enjoys working in her yard and spending time with family and friends.
Cindy VoglerDirector Christian Education
Tom Drake was hired as the St. John custodian in 2002. He’s responsible for the everyday cleaning and maintenance tasks, a tough job in a place that sees as much traffic as St. John’s does during the week. Tom is married to Amy (the church hand bell choir director). They have two children, Jordan and Julia. Tom’s full time job is that of a prison guard at Menard Correctional Center in Chester, Illinois. His hobbies include sleeping (he never gets enough, working two jobs!), yard work, listening to and performing music, and enjoying life with his family.
Tom DrakeJanitorial Services
Deb has worked in the church office since 1986. She’s the voice you’ll probably hear answering the phone—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg! At St. John’s, Deb keeps the office (and almost everything else) running. Her “job description” would be too long to print, but includes copying the weekly bulletins and monthly newsletter, answering the phone, entering attendance and financial information on the church computer, coordinating the church calendar, and generally putting her extensive knowledge of New Athens and everyone in it to good use.
Deb is active in the community as well, serving on the Family Care ministry and organizing much of the work for the village Merrier Christmas drive. In the past, she has also been an active member of the local PTO and the New Beginnings daycare board.
Deb is a life-long resident of New Athens, who grew up in St. John’s, graduated from our local high school, and has almost every phone number in town memorized. She is married to Clyde, and they have two sons, Josh and Jordan. Deb enjoys her cats, her garden, and especially collecting Snow Buddies.
Debbie ScherleChurch Administrative Assistant
Dr. Robert Koch, the pastor at St. John’s, was born in Columbia, Illinois and educated in the public school system there. After graduating in 1974, he attended McKendree College in Lebanon, Illinois, where he received his Bachelor’s degree, double majoring in English and Religion. Bob received a full tuition scholarship and teaching assistantship at Northwestern University, where he majored in the History and Literature of Religions, focusing on comparative studies in Theravada Buddhism and Christianity. After completing his Master’s degree at Northwestern, Bob attended Garrett Evangelical Seminary, earning his Master of Theological Studies degree.
While at his first yoked parish of Zion (New Design) and St. John (Fults) in the Illinois South Conference of the United Church, Bob completed his doctoral dissertation and was awarded a Ph.D. from Northwestern in 1988.
Bob has been the pastor at St. John’s since 1989. Under his leadership, our congregation has grown both in overall membership and attendance. Bob helped initiate televised worship services to the New Athens Home for Aged, brought our congregation into the Family Care Ministry, and brought student pastors from Eden Seminary into our family of faith. He was instrumental in the founding of New Beginnings Daycare, and worked hard to introduce contemporary worship to our congregation.
Bob has been active in the community life of New Athens as well, chairing the local Parents’ Club for many years, founding and chairing our school district’s After Prom event, organizing community wide dances for Junior High age young people, and chairing CESNA (Church Emergency Services of New Athens).
While at St. John’s, Bob also encouraged the construction of a new addition, and most recently worked with the Church Council as well as a special committee to redecorate our sanctuary and carry out a host of other building improvement projects.
Asked about his philosophy of ministry, Bob said: “I remember a professor at Northwestern who said all of our education as graduate students was useless if we couldn’t explain our studies to a kindergartener. The same applies to me at St. John’s. I’m worthless as a pastor if I can’t share the good news of Jesus Christ in ways people can understand. Jesus reached out using everyday language and met people where they lived. We Christians today have to do the same.