Overview

There are two major leadership components in any Presbyterian Church: the staff, led by the senior pastor, and the governing body of elders known as the Session.

The Session is composed of women and men elected by the congregation to serve three-year terms in active service as ruling elders. The responsibilities of the Session are broad and significant, ranging from oversight of the finances and property of the church to ongoing ministries of worship, Christian education, and service to the community.

The following elders currently serve on the Session of First Church:  Mark Armesto, John Darby, John Gardner, Jean Hess, Janet Hill, Don Houck, Liz Kamke, Gifty Koramoah, Lucas Lloyd, Tina Osei, Henry Porter, and Sue Snyder.

In addition to the Session, First Church has a corporate board that advises the Session and staff on matters related to property and grounds and investments and endowments. 

The First Church Session is organized around the following committees:

 
 

The above staff are just some of the members integral to the First Church team. See below for the rest of our dedicated team.

ORGANIZATIONAL CHART OF

SESSION OF FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH

 

ADMINISTRATION

Personnel
Contracts
Property/Grounds
Technology

CHAIR: Don Houck

CHURCH LIFE

Social/Recreational Events
Coffee Hours
Receptions

CHAIR: Jean Hess

CHRISTIAN EDUCATION

Nursery
Children’s Programs
Young Adults
Adult

CHAIR: Lucas Lloyd

 

MISSION

Local Mission
Global Mission
Lyon Food Pantry

CHAIR: Sue Snyder

MEMBERSHIP

Evangelism
Hospitality
‘Discover First Church’
Time & Talents

CHAIR: Liz Kamke

NOMINATING

Elder/Deacon Recruiting
Corporation Officers
PNC
Higher Councils

CHAIR: Tina Osei

 

FINANCE & INVESTMENTS

Budget Formation Endowments
Stewardship
Long-Term Planning

CHAIR: John Darby

WORSHIP
& MUSIC

Liturgists
Choirs/Special Music
Communion & Baptism
Sanctuary & Chapel

CHAIR: Maria Oakley

OPEN

 
 

BOARD OF DEACONS

Co-Moderators:

MARY FIELD
LOU ANN RIEGLE

 

Moderator

REV. DR. KEN HUGHES

Clerk of Session

ELDER JANET HILL

Corporation President

elder mike henry

Corporation Officers:

Rebecca Whipple, Vice-President; Mark Armesto, Treasurer; Janet Hill, Secretary

 

Staff

 
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Rev. Dr. Kenneth E. Hughes

Pastor

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Born on the West Side, Ken is a son of Buffalo, who spent his teen years in North Buffalo before leaving the area for a four-year stint in the U.S. Navy. Returning to the Buffalo suburb of Amherst, Ken graduated from Buffalo State College and attended graduate school at Niagara University. Ken departed the area a second time to take a position with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). A 25-year career as an intelligence officer followed, including more than a dozen years in various foreign locations.  At his retirement, Ken was a member of the Senior Intelligence Service, the CIA’s executive management cadre.

After retiring from the CIA, Ken entered seminary at Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut, from which he graduated with a Master of Divinity degree. At graduation, Ken was called to a pastorate at Forest Hills Presbyterian Church in Martinsville, Virginia, where he served until 2010. In 2010, Ken accepted another call as associate pastor of a large urban church near Atlanta: Decatur Presbyterian. During his time in Decatur, Ken earned a Doctor of Ministry degree from Columbia Theological Seminary. Finally, in 2014, Ken returned home to Western New York (again) to take up a pastorate at First Presbyterian Church in Springville, New York. Ken is co-chair of the Committee on Ministry of the Presbytery of Western New York and vice-moderator of the Presbytery.

Ken is married to Pam, another native of the area (Getzville). Together they have a son, Dylan, who lives and works in Washington, DC. Ken and Pam presently reside in Lancaster.

 
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Rev. John R. Long

Parish Associate for Social Outreach

John has been on First Church staff in a volunteer capacity since he retired as the director of VIVE, a refugee program and shelter created to assist refugees seeking asylum in Canada. He did that for ten years, starting in 1989. Prior to that work, he was in Nicaragua for two years with Witness for Peace, trying to halt the "contra" war against the Sandinista government.

John had been a pastor of two churches on Long Island and a church in Wilmington, Delaware, and headed a social service program in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, based in the city's housing projects. In the 60s, he served as community minister in an inner-city neighborhood in Pittsburgh, helping to keep away the "wrecking ball"—work that still continues. John's wife, Teresa, co-directs a Women's Respite program based at Stella Niagara. He has a son and grandkids in Alabama, and a son who is a teacher in Pennsylvania.

 
 
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Dr. David Bond

Organist, Choirmaster, Bookkeeper, Facilities Coordinator

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David is a native of Montana. He received a Bachelor of Music degree (cum laude) from St. Olaf College in 1974 and went on to attend the University of Michigan, earning a Master of Music in 1976 and a Doctor of Musical Arts in 1981.

David has been honored in several regional and international competitions. As an active recitalist, his performances have been characterized as "mesmerizing … an astonishing talent" and he "an organist to be reckoned with.” As an experienced church musician, David has held positions in Montana, Minnesota, Michigan, and Ohio. He is a past dean of the Buffalo Chapter of the American Guild of Organists and was the district convener for the WNY area of Region II of the AGO for four years. He has been organist/choirmaster at First Presbyterian Church Buffalo since November 1985.

 
 

CHRISTINA BANAS

COMMUNICATIONS AND OFFICE MANAGER

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Christina joined the First Church staff in 2002 as a then-recent transplant to Buffalo from her native Cleveland, Ohio. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration, with a minor in economics, from Case Western Reserve University. Her experience during her tenure at First Church includes publications, social media, and office management, in addition to larger projects such as church mergers, budget planning, and fundraising.

A founding board member of the Buffalo AIDS Plus Fund of WNY since 2004, she volunteers monthly at the organization’s “Gay Bingo” fundraiser. She is also active in animal rescue efforts via cat and dog fostering with Pets Alive WNY. Christina, her husband Chuck, and their beloved pets reside in the Allentown district of Buffalo just blocks from the church.

 
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MARYKATE WARINGA

DIRECTOR OF ENGAGEMENT AND OUTREACH

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Marykate recently joined the First Church staff. Previously, she worked as the community events and outreach coordinator for WNY Independent Living, where she planned major outreach events and increased overall awareness for the organization and its cause.

Marykate will pursue similar goals for First Church, with an emphasis on building internal and external relationships, leading the effort to increase First Church’s impact in the community, and increasing volunteerism and participation in First Church ministries and programs for children, youth, and adults.

 
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CORY CONNELL

MAINTENANCE COORDINATOR

Cory may be a familiar face, as he’s been sprucing up the building since 2013, when 716 Ministries (formerly Westside Ministries) managed First Church’s facilities. He has since been hired by First Church to be our maintenance coordinator.

Cory has lived in Buffalo since 2001. He is originally from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He married his wife, Katie, in September 2019. In his free time, Cory enjoys doing anything outdoors and is very into music. His favorite part about the church building is its history.

 
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RAMA SALIM

CUSTODIAL AND SECURITY ASSISTANT

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Rama was born in Somalia. In 1996, his family moved to a refugee camp in Kenya to escape the Somali Civil War. After living a hard life in the refugee camp for several years, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees arranged for his family’s relocation to the United States. Rama, along with his widowed mother and two siblings, became Buffalo residents in July 2004. 

At the age of 14, Rama started attending KC’S Fitness, then located in the basement of First Church. The gym had a martial arts program for young adults and immigrants to help them improve their English and stand up for themselves when they were picked on at school. The program helped Rama and other immigrant children learn how to have a good attitude; be mentally, physically, and spiritually strong; and to not have fighters’ mindsets. It also exposed Rama to First Church. A few years later, he graduated from high school and, in 2014, started attending Erie Community College, majoring in criminal justice.

In September 2017, Rama was officially hired at First Church, where he has security, custodial, and office responsibilities. As the head of security, his main job is to provide and continuously improve on the safety at First Church.

Rama is happily married to Mboni Musa. In his free time, he practices martial arts as well as soccer.