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.
ORGANIST & Director of Music
Peter Niedmann has served as our Organist and Director of Music for 29 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.
Danuta Kozak has proudly joined the staff of Church of Christ, Congregational in September of 2020. She provides administrative support to the Minister and supervises office staff. She also assists various boards and committees, maintains website, oversees weekly e-newsletter publication, produces brochures, cards and flyers, works with Financial Secretary on pledges and accounts payables, maintains membership database and handles building use and rentals.
Born and raised in Warsaw, Poland, where she had earned her Associate degree, and worked for the United States Embassy, she permanently moved to Connecticut in the year 2000. She has since held positions in small business management, accounting, leasing and administration, both in the private and public sectors. While raising family she opened and operated an online travel agency, specializing in cruises, to stay abreast technology and fulfill her passion for travel.
In her spare time, she enjoys spending quality time with family and friends, practicing yoga and zumba, reading non-fiction, nature walks with her miniature poodle, landscape photography and creative cooking.
Mary Jane DiPaola
Mary-Jane has been a part of the church staff since 2012. She handles all member and non-member contributions, pledges, benevolence disbursements and accounts payables. She supports the financial needs of committees and board members maintaining budgeted fiscal accountability. She is also involved in the stewardship of the church, supporting the yearly campaign efforts that help keep the church financially sound. She works closely with the Pastor, Office Manager, Treasurer, and staff in all interoffice financial matters, data, policies, and procedures.
Mary-Jane enjoys biblical studies, discovering the significance of the revelation of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and the healing power of his word.
Mary-Jane has 3 children, and 2 grandchildren, as of this writing, with a 3rd grandchild on the way.
Lorraine joined the church staff in April of 2019. She provides administrative assistance support to the Senior Pastor, Associate Pastor, Assistant to Pastor for Youth & Outreach, Choir Director and provides backup coverage in the Office Manager’s absence. She handles all phone inquiries, Church Bulletins, Church Email Newsletter and any other administrative tasks that need to be done.
Lorraine enjoys reading, sports and her pool in the summer. She is married and has 1 daughter who is currently a Junior at the University of Hartford.