We are a community of Christians,
learning God’s ways,
sharing God’s love,
extending God’s peace and healing grace to all.
A Heritage of Faith since 1719, and an Open, Affirming, Reconciling congregation, Niantic Community Church is a federated congregation of the United Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ. It is also a welcoming home to people from a great variety of church backgrounds and life experiences.
The Niantic Community Church exists to celebrate God and to follow in the way of Jesus Christ: serving our neighbors near and far; striving for wholeness, justice, and peace in our church, our community, and our world. We affirm that every member of our congregation is a minister: a servant of God.
We have strong commitments:
- To outreach;
- To faith formation for both children and adults; and
- To living out Jesus’ extravagant, joyful hospitality.
We understand that “belief” and “faith” are mostly about where we put our trust. We put our trust in God; we come to know God primarily through Jesus Christ. We also understand that God is filled with mystery and wonder: everything human beings know is the size of a drop of water in the ocean of God.
“How” we believe has more meaning for us than “what” we believe. Both are important — but we have a primary concern for how our faith leads us to live in ways that revere God and honor all of God’s creatures and creation.
We recognize Jesus of Nazareth as God’s Living Word: the one who calls us, and leads us, to an intimate relationship with our Creator. Putting our trust in Jesus means practicing his teachings — starting with deep humility, radical forgiveness, and joyful acknowledgement of our interdependence with all creation. Committing to follow Jesus also allows us to appreciate and treasure our neighbors who have committed to follow other religious traditions.
We take the Bible seriously, as a primary testimony about God and the human experience of God. Because we take the Bible seriously, we do not take it literally. The books of the Bible contain poetry, story, song, prophecy, and apocalyptic writings, but not facts or history in the way that we moderns have come to use. Learning what the Bible has to teach us is a lifelong commitment, revealing insights that change with age and experience — so studying the Bible and other books that reflect on the Christian faith is an essential part of our church life.
We practice two sacraments — rituals where we understand that God is the main actor, and we are receiving the mysterious and wonderful gift of God’s presence. Those sacraments are Baptism and Communion: please click here for more information.
Open, Affirming, and Reconciling
In January, 2002, after lengthy study and prayerful discussion, church members approved the following statement:
“We the members of the Niantic Community Church are called to love one another as God loves us, freely and unconditionally.
We further believe that diversity enriches our faith community.
Therefore, we welcome persons of any age, gender, race, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and physical or mental ability into full membership and participation in the body of Christ. We celebrate family in all its diverse forms and honor, support and bless all loving and committed relationships.
As we are one in Christ, we are called to accept and respect one another in the face of our differences. We agree that continued dialogue is necessary as we each grow in learning and understanding. We commit ourselves to work diligently to end all oppression and discrimination which afflicts God’s people in our society. We seek to explore new ways of affirming our faith in community according to the wisdom of the Gospel. We work, as individuals, to become more Christ-like in our love for one another.
We come from different perspectives and experiences and pray for courage, blessing, and God’s unifying love as we respond to God’s call. We invite all who seek God’s guidance to join our Open, Affirming, Reconciling faith community and share fully in our church’s life and opportunities for ministry.”
Our Ministry Team
The Rev. Dianne E. Arakawa
Pastor Dianne is a seasoned Transitional Pastor in the United Church of Christ. While she holds standing in the Pilgrim Association of the Massachusetts Conference, she appreciates the leadership, mission and diversity of the Connecticut Conference. She is glad to be sharing ministry with the congregation of the Niantic Community Church.
Most recently she completed her ministry as Transitional Senior Minister of the First Church of Christ in Simsbury, CT. Before that Dianne served as the Interim Senior Minister at King’s Chapel in Boston, MA, and several other churches in the Boston area. Earlier she served in settled positions in New York City and the Chicago area. She understands that each congregation is a family system and unique, and that in order to express Christ’s mission we need to embody spiritual vibrancy and behavioral health.
Dianne was Chair of the Transitional Ministry Committee of the MACUCC, which addresses issues related to interim ministry. She continues to participate in the first Clergy Community of Practice dedicated to excellence among interim ministers. Prior to that she volunteered on numerous national denominational committees, including the Women and Ministry Committee of the National Council of Churches of Christ, and local clergy and community groups.
Born and raised in Honolulu, HI, Dianne graduated from the Punahou School, which was founded by Congregational missionaries from New England for the education of their own children. She received degrees from Wheaton College in MA (BA in Religion and Art History), Harvard Divinity School (M.Div. and a Certificate in the Teaching of Religion), and the University of Chicago Divinity School (MA in the History of Religions).
Dianne enjoys the ocean, walking, visiting historical sites and museums, listening to classical music and opera, and being with friends. Since graduating from divinity school Dianne has been married to the Rev. Stephen C. Washburn, also a UCC transitional senior pastor and serving in CT. They have a son, Jonathan, who is a graduate student, and other family near and far.
Contact Pastor Dianne by email: email@example.com
Or by phone: 860-739-6208 ext. 3
Julia Manners - Christian Education and Youth Minister (CEYM)
Christian Education & Youth Minister
Julia came to us with seventeen years of experience leading faith formation programs for all ages, with a strong emphasis on spiritual growth. Prior to joining the ministry staff at NCC, Julia served as the Director of Christian Education and Family Life Ministry at the First Congregational Church of Westbrook (CT), becoming authorized as a Commissioned Minister of Faith Formation in the United Church of Christ in January 2012. She is a trained faith formation mentor for the Connecticut Conference (UCC), as well as a member of the CAUCE (Connecticut Association of United Church Educators) coordinating committee.
Julia views faith not as simply a set of beliefs to which we adhere, but as a relationship that grows and forms throughout our lives. Her emphasis is on accompanying children, youth and adults as they take steps in their relationships with God, strive to follow Jesus, and open up to the presence of the Holy Spirit. She has a gift for healing ministry, empowering volunteers, and providing fun and meaningful faith experiences for all who participate. As Youth Minister, Julia is passionate about creating safe spaces through weekly meetings, lock-ins, local service opportunities and relationally-based mission trips, where teenagers can explore and grow in their faith at their own pace.
Julia grew up in Branford, where her father served as Senior Minister at the First Congregational Church. She graduated with distinction in Communication Sciences from the University of Connecticut, and later received certification in Elementary Education from East Stroudsburg University, in Pennsylvania. After graduation, Julia worked as a sign language interpreter, photographer, and full-time parent before formally entering into ministry.
During her free time, Julia enjoys visits with her family, reading, needlefelting, camping and walking along the ocean watching seals. Her favorite place in the universe is Star Island, one of the Isles of Shoals off the coast of New Hampshire and Maine. Her family consists of three grown children; a son-in-law; a delightful canine companion, Daisy; and 13 ‘grandchickens.’ Julia lives in Clinton with her son Nathaniel.
Or by phone: 860-739-6208
Patty Chaffee- Community Minister
Patty Chaffee joined the ministry team at Niantic Community Church in January 2008 and currently serves as Community Minister. Her position entails providing support for members and committees; communications and publicity; and creating programs and events for nurturing faith. Her retreats and programs are often related to the expressive arts and invite participants into a creative experience that encourage growth in the spiritual life. As a freelance writer and photographer, she is a regular contributor to local, regional and national publications and a former columnist and journalist for Sun Publishing. She has two adult sons and lives on the Connecticut shoreline with her partner Jim Steele.
Contact Patty by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or by phone: 860-739-6208 ext. 4
Learn more about Patty’s work at www.PatriciaAnnChaffee.com.
Lynne Floyd- Choral Minister and Bell Choir Director
Choral Minister & Director of Handbell Choirs
Lynne grew up in East Lyme, Connecticut, and has been attending and singing in the choirs here at Niantic Community Church since she was a child. She is excited to now be the Choral Minister and Handbell Choir Director. As a choral director, Lynne has worked at Mitchell College in New London and Paradise Valley Community College in Arizona, as well as in churches in Woodstock, CT, Paradise Valley and Scottsdale, AZ.
Lynne is a Summa cum Laude graduate of the University of Connecticut, from which she received dual degrees in Vocal Performance and Music Education. After teaching public school music for two years, Lynne moved to Phoenix to pursue a Masters degree in Vocal Performance at Arizona State University. While in Arizona, Lynne performed extensively throughout the southwest with both the Royal Renaissance Singers and “Opera-tunity,” a company specializing in introducing opera to children and the general public. She has performed many roles in opera and musical theater. As a concert soloist, Lynne has sung with the Phoenix Symphony, the Arizona State Chamber Orchestra, The Oklahoma City Philharmonic, and the American Institute for Musical Studies Festival Orchestra in Graz, Austria. An accomplished recitalist, Lynne has performed wide varieties of repertoire in many parts of the country.
In addition to her work at Niantic Community Church, she is the music teacher at Sayles School in Sprague, Connecticut where she teaches general music, chorus and band. Lynne lives in Waterford with her husband, Peter and their dog, Bailey.
Contact Lynne by email: email@example.com
Richard Schenk- Music Minister
Richard Schenk has a wealth of experience playing for Christian worship, but being Music Minister at Niantic Community Church is his first long-term position. Richard is committed to providing a variety of musical styles and involving the musical gifts of the congregation and special guests, and finds that being able to use musical gifts to serve and worship God resounds as both a calling and a blessing.
Richard received degrees in Music Composition at Oberlin Conservatory of Music and The Ohio State University (Masters) and also studied at Trinity Lutheran Seminary and Boston University School of Theology. Richard was the first Music Director at OSU’s Department of Dance; he joined the Connecticut College Dance Department in 1995 where he teaches, composes, and accompanies dance classes. In addition to piano and organ he plays cello, piano, guitar, mandolin, banjo, dulcimer, accordion, and percussion and uses music software for notation, recording, and live electronics. In 2011 Richard presented “Songtracks” — an evening of his instrumental and vocal compositions — at Connecticut College.
Judy Snitkin- Church Secretary
Judy Snitkin is the glue that holds our ministry team together. As Church Secretary, a position she has held since 1999, she welcomes people with a warm and inviting smile as they come through our doors. She guides them to where they are headed or helps them with information. She distributes food from our Emergency Food Pantry and is actively involved in our Prayer Shawl Ministry. With her finger on the pulse of the church, she is the “go to” person for information about the people and places around NCC and Niantic for that matter. The thing she likes most about her job is helping people. That says it all.
Judy has been a member of NCC for over 30 years. She grew up summering in Niantic until she moved here full time in 1967. She has been married to Alan for almost 40 years and they have two daughters and four grandchildren — Madeline, Andrew, Anna, and Emily — who are the sunshine of her life. Ask her about them. She just might have a picture or two.
Contact Judy by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or by phone: (860) 739-6208 ext. 2
Leola Wilkerson & Nichelle Rollins- Children's and Gospel Choirs Ministers
Directors of the Children’s and Gospel Choirs
As a teenager, Leola Wilkerson started playing piano at the church she attended from childhood, which is located in Chicago. She played for the Sunday School and also for the junior choir.
When she moved to Connecticut, Lee became a member of Miracle Temple Church in New London. She started a children’s choir there, which continues.
“Although I am not an official member of Niantic Community Church,” Lee says, “I feel as if I belong to the family.” She started her music ministry at Niantic Community Church about eighteen years ago. NCC asked her to restart a children’s choir. Eventually the mothers from the children’s choir asked to start a gospel choir, which continues to this day.
Lee notes that she has seen the music ministries steadily grow. She particularly appreciates that the church has presented combined choir performances, which represent an opportunity for everyone involved to perform various types of music.
Nichelle (aka “Nikki”) has been singing since the age of 3. She was surrounded by music all her life, and grew up listening to a variety of music from the 50’s to the 80’s. Her first experience singing with a church choir was one summer at her mother’s home church, St. James AME in Chicago, Illinois — and her first solo was at the age of 10. In her teens, now located in New London, CT, she began directing gospel choirs at Miracle Temple Church. She has been a member of The Miracle Voices off and on since age 13, as well as being a member of the praise team, Women’s Chorale, and the Community Choir at Miracle Temple Church, where she is a member.
Nikki has been at NCC for about 18 years along with her mother, Leola Wilkerson, who is in charge of both the children’s and women’s gospel choirs. Both choirs continue to thrive, blessing listeners and singers with their songs of praise!
Financial Secretary: Judy Layden
Bookkeeper: Sandra Kuchta
Librarian: Jennifer Datum
Newsletter Editor: Heather Larson
Sound Ministers: Dick Robinson and Peter Crizer
Nursery & Childcare Ministers: Judith David and Emily Gregor
NCC Children’s Center Executive Director: Kathy Tiller
Niantic Community Church is a house of prayer for all people.
On the main floor, the sanctuary and the office area are accessed through doors with automatic openers, compliant with ADA recommendations. On the lower level, the dining hall is equipped with one automatic door. A lift in the southeast corner of the sanctuary also allows access to the dining hall below.
Parking spaces nearest to the sanctuary / narthex entrance are sized for persons using wheelchairs or other assistance, and labeled for their use.
Hearing Assistance Devices
Hearing assistance devices are available for the Sanctuary. Please ask an usher for assistance.
Large Print Bulletins
Large print bulletins are available for worship services. Let an usher know you would like a large print bulletin when you enter the Sanctuary.
Sermon and Worship Service Recordings
Video recordings of most sermons are posted to the church’s website and Facebook page, usually by Sunday evening.