Clergy & Staff
Melanie has strong ties to Newington and the Church of Christ, Congregational. Melanie was ordained here in 1991 and then served as our Associate Pastor for 4 ½ years. During that time Melanie forged additional ties to Newington when she met her future husband, Newington native Jonathan Tinkham, married and started her family. We now count this native Oregonian and graduate of the Yale Divinity School as one of our own. Melanie’s calling to serve others was apparent in her next position as the Director of Pastoral Care at the Institute of Living, Hartford Hospital’s mental health network. She loved her work at the hospital but parish ministry kept calling her back. We are fortunate that Melanie returned to her Newington “roots” at the Church of Christ, Congregational when her calling brought her back as Associate Pastor in 2008. In May 2013 she became our Senior Pastor! She feels blessed to work within this congregation and to serve God in this way. She and Jonathan Tinkham have three children: Sam, Kelly and Zachary. When Melanie has time, she loves the outdoors, reading and scrapbooking.
Rev. Elizabeth Arulampalam (Liza) grew up right around the corner in Glastonbury and, as a youth, was very involved in her own local UCC church. She is so excited to return to the UCC and get to know Newington! After high school, Liza attended Emory University in Atlanta and Yale Divinity School. She graduated in 2012 and was ordained in 2014 in the American Baptist Churches of Connecticut. In addition to serving churches, Liza has worked in a variety of ministry contexts including two middle and high schools in New Haven, Hartford Hospital, and most recently at Hartford Seminary. Liza currently serves as one of the co-lead pastors of Riverfront Family Church in Hartford and is also one of the clergy leaders of the Greater Hartford Interfaith Action Alliance. She is passionate about interfaith work, racial justice, helping people connect to God and applying the life and teachings of Jesus to the issues of our day. Liza lives in the Frog Hollow neighborhood of Hartford with her husband Arunan and together they are busy with one crazy dog and four young children who came to them all within two years through birth and adoption.
ORGANIST & Director of Music
Peter Niedmann has served as our Organist and Director of Music for 28 years. He leads our multi-generational choral ministry, known for its excellence and adventurous programming. Peter is also Artistic Director of our Concert Series, which presents performers of national stature. He was a prize winner at the 1992 AGO National Competition in Organ Improvisation in Atlanta. Peter is also an acclaimed composer, recently winning the international Fyfe Competition. His music has been heard at The White House and a Papal Mass for Pope John Paul II. In the Ending of the Year was singled out by American Record Guide magazine as best new piece on Harvard University Choir’s Carols from the Yard CD. The American Organist magazine has praised his music as “thoughtful, well-wrought, and appealing.”
Peter Niedmann was twice awarded conducting fellowships with Sir David Willcocks (King’s College, Cambridge). He was a member of the faculty of the Hartt School, University of Hartford. Peter was Dean of the American Guild of Organists – Hartford Chapter, and holds the AGO Associate and Choir Master certificates. He studied organ with Bach specialist Christa Rakich at the University of Connecticut, and piano with Anne Koscielny at Hartt School of Music. His choral and organ music is published by several major companies, including Augsburg-Fortress, Theodore Presser, and MorningStar. Peter has been commissioned to write music for many ensembles and artists. The United Church of Christ commissioned Peter to compose a hymn and a set of psalm antiphons for The New Century Hymnal.
Assistant to the Pastor for Youth and Outreach
Kara Russell serves as Assistant to the Pastor for Youth and Outreach. In addition to coordinating youth events and assisting the Christian Education board with all aspects of the Church School program, Kara “team teaches” the confirmation class alongside Melanie. Kara’s passion for social justice led her to help establish a Family Promise chapter in Central Connecticut, a volunteer-based program that helps homeless families with children remain intact and regain their self-sufficiency. She is so grateful to have the support of Church of Christ, Congregational as a host church for the program.
Kara holds a PhD in Renaissance Literature from the University of Rochester, New York, and has taught as an adjunct in the English Department at Central Connecticut State University since 1996. She lives in Newington with her husband Mark and their two boys, Kevin and Brian.