PASTORS & STAFF
Meet Our Pastors
Rev. Dr. Tony Griffin
Pastor Tony is thankful to be called to pastor in The United Methodist Church. It is his heart’s passion to help shape people into faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.
Tony was born in Jonesboro, Arkansas and has served in ministry in Arkansas, Georgia, the United Kingdom, and Oklahoma. He holds degrees from Southern Nazarene University, University of Arkansas, Little Rock - William H. Bowen School of Law, Emory University, and Duke University. He is an inactive lawyer and Certified Public Accountant.
Tony enjoys reading, hiking, snow skiing, and time on the lake – almost anything outside with his family and friends!
He has been married to Tracy for over 25 years and they have three children, Addison, Will, and Lainey. They also have two chihuahuas, Ethyl and Olive, and Labrador retriever mix, named John Wesley Griffin (he goes by Wesley!).
It is his joy to serve as your senior pastor!
Rev. Sarah Lowenberg
Pastor Sarah has been active in church ministry since her teens and been in pastoral ministry since 2002. She has served in various pastoral roles in California, Missouri, Minnesota, and Arkansas. Sarah and her family were also missionaries to the London, England area for several years.
Pastor Sarah is a native of the Kansas City area. She has studied at Randall University, MidAmerica Nazarene University, Northwest Nazarene University, and St. Paul’s Theological Seminary. She holds a Bachelors of Religion and a Masters in Spiritual Formation.
She and her husband, Michael - also a pastor, have been married since 2001. They are the proud parents of Melisa, Mayson and Gabriel. As a family they enjoy films, board games, and traveling around the world. So far she has been to 40 countries on 4 continents and 35 US states.
Rev. Cindy Bright
Pastor Cindy is blessed to be living out her calling as a United Methodist Deacon at Russellville First United Methodist Church. Her goal is to embody the servant ministry of a Deacon and to walk with youth and their families as they deepen their connections between God, church and their day to day lives.
Cindy was born in Little Rock, and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina until her family returned to Arkansas when she was a junior in high school. She graduated from Sheridan High School, the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Cindy has served churches in the Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Kentucky Annual Conferences.
Cindy enjoys reading, baking, biking, walking and enjoying nature. She can often be found humming or singing – sometimes without even realizing she’s doing it. She loves a good (or really bad!) pun, and Seinfeld trivia and dialogue takes up an inordinate amount of space in her brain!
Cindy has been married to Jeff for over 30 years, and they have two daughters, Sarah and Rachel. They are grateful God has called them back to live and serve in Jeff’s hometown and home church in Russellville.
Meet Our Staff
CHILDREN & FAMILY MINISTRY
Page grew up in Alma, Arkansas, and graduated from Arkansas Tech University with a degree in History Education. She met her husband Jeff while attending TECH and they have been married for over 30 years. They have three children: Jacob, Molly Grace, and Harper.
Page taught High School Social Studies at Lincoln and Dardanelle and 5th grade at St. John’s Catholic School. She then served as a substitute teacher for the last 9 years, mostly in elementary schools.
The Phillipses have been members of Russellville First for over 20 years. Page has helped in all areas of Children’s Ministry and was so excited to put her love of children and Jesus into practice by helping children and families grow in their faith. This July will mark her first year serving as the Director of Children’s and Family’s Ministries at Russellville First.
She truly Believes God’s call on her life is to help children know Jesus and she is so thankful to have the opportunity to do this every day.
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF
CHILDREN & FAMILY MINISTRY
Christi is thankful to be a part of the spiritual journey for the children in church. She loves teaching children about the love Jesus has for them.
Christi was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina. She’s a 2000 graduate of Dover High school. She has been a member of the Russellville First for the past 7 years and on staff for 3.
Christi enjoys spending time with family, traveling, reading, crocheting and watching her children do their various sports.
She has been married to Travis for 20 years and they have six children: Keagen, Payten, Alysen, Carson, Owen, and William.
Megan joined Russellville First United Methodist Church with her family in 1988 and has since been baptized and confirmed in the church. She began working in the nursery in 1999 and became Director of Childcare in 2017. She also began working at TLC in 2007 and became the Assistant Director in 2016. Her passion is, and always has been, with children.
Megan is married to her high school boyfriend, Ryan, and together they have two children; a son, Weston, and a daughter, Kasyn. She enjoys spending time with her extended family, camping, fishing, hunting, and being outdoors. Her favorite past time is watching her children compete in various sports.
Valerie joined the TLC Family in 1984, when she enrolled her children in The Little Church Program at Russellville First Methodist Church. In 2002, she began teaching in the infant room and 6 years later moved into the TLC Director position.
Valerie was born in Leavenworth, Kansas, and spent her childhood moving about as her father was in the Navy. Russellville became her home when she entered the eighth grade. She married her high school sweetheart, Mark Roys, and had 3 daughters, Melissa Burton, Amy Ford and Megan Grace. The family joined the church in 1988.
She’s into antiques and loves the “hunt” for the next little treasure. Her pets include 2 dogs, 2 cats and a brood of chickens. She enjoys cooking, especially preparing meals for frequent family gatherings. Her favorite pastime is spending time with her 7 grandchildren, Devin, Alyvia, Kaylee, Weston, Kasyn, Lila, and Bo.
CHANCEL CHOIR DIRECTOR
Layton found his home in The United Methodist Church by way of the Russellville FUMC Chancel Choir as a freshman vocal music major in 2012. Since those first days as a volunteer member of the Chancel Choir, his love for choral music has only grown deeper.
Before serving as Chancel Choir Director at Russellville FUMC, Layton served for three years as Choir Director and Church Pianist at Wesley UMC in Russellville, and also served as Assistant Choir Director here at Russellville FUMC for a year and a half under the leadership of his long-time mentor and friend, Gary Morris.
Outside of his time at church, Layton owns and operates his music store which provides choral sheet music to hundreds of schools, churches, and universities in Arkansas.
For fun, he enjoys landscaping, gospel music, training his two pups, and visiting his adorable niece and nephew.
The opportunity to serve as your Chancel Choir Director is truly an honor and his dream come true.
Mary Lou Douglas
Mary Lou Douglas enjoys serving Russellville First United Methodist Church as organist and accompanist. Giving praise to God through His gift of music has been her desire since her teenage years.
Mary Lou was born in Fort Smith, Arkansas and lived in Danville, Arkansas through high school graduation. She graduated from Arkansas Tech University with degrees in Applied Piano and Music Education. She is a retired Applied Piano teacher and accompanist from University of the Ozarks in Clarksville. Mary Lou enjoys family trips, crossword puzzles, reading about women of the Bible and attending Bible Study Fellowship.
Mary Lou and Jim have been married over 50 years and have two adult children and four grandchildren. Jim retired after 40 years with Entergy which included living in several locations in Arkansas.
Music has always been Mary Lou’s vocation and avocation. She enjoys playing both organ and piano for choirs, soloists and church events.
Paula was born and raised in Pope County. She grew up in Moreland and went to school in Dover. She graduated from Arkansas Tech University. She has a son, Robert. She has raised him as a single mom after his dad passed away from cancer when he was 10 years old. It hasn’t been easy, but with the Grace of God she and Robert have persevered. Robert attends Rhodes College in Memphis. He has a double major of Biology and Music. After graduation in May of 2021, he will pursue a medical degree. He wants to become a General Practice Physician.
Paula has been a member of Bells Chapel UMC outside of Atkins for almost 30 years. She serves as the church secretary/treasurer.
Paula enjoys traveling. Her favorite place to visit is the four corner states in the great wild west.
Paula has always said her ideal job is to put her in a room and let her crunch numbers. She is blessed to have that job at Russellville First UMC. The staff is great to work with, and the members that she has met have all been extremely nice.
DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS
Chris Becnel has been working with youth ministry since he was a teen. He grew up in Magnolia, Arkansas, and served as a junior high youth minister in Conway, Arkansas, while working on his bachelor’s at the University of Central Arkansas. He received his master’s in educational leadership from Arkansas State University.
When Chris graduated from college, he worked as a drug prevention specialist in Union County, Arkansas, where he traveled internationally working with governments and schools to expand their prevention programs. He taught junior high and high school in south Arkansas for 10 years before moving to Russellville. He is a certified French & business teacher and licensed real estate agent.
Chris enjoys traveling, camping, making music, and spending time with his family and friends. He’s visited 31 states and 23 countries. He and his husband Brad have two children, Harrison and Sophie.
Terri Kulbeth has been blessed in being part of the staff at Russellville First for over 25 years. It is her desire to represent Jesus Christ to all she comes in contact with. Terri was born and raised in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. In the places she has called home over the years, throughout Texas and Arkansas, she has always been an active member of the Church. While her son was in the Pottsville school system, Terri held several positions in the Pottsville PTO she also enjoyed volunteering at the school. Terri enjoys biking, hiking, cooking, walks along the beach, and meeting new people. She is grateful for time spent with friends and the memories made along this shared journey of life.
Terri has a son Kurtis, daughter-in-law Hanna, and granddog Murph. She enjoys spending time with them and cherishes the memories they make together.
Diana Hendricks was born in Russellville and calls West Helena her childhood home. She returned to West Helena to start her career in education, raised her family in Marshall, and retired to the River Valley where she and her husband, James, live on the family farm at Pottsville. Married 38 years, Diana and James have two sons, Bret and Blake, two wonderful daughters in law, Jill and Callie, and three amazing grand girls!
Diana is a graduate of UCA with a degree in Health Education and taught in public schools in Marianna, West Helena, and Marshall, retiring after 37 years. Having been raised in the Presbyterian church but having roots in the Methodist Church, she has been a devout Methodist for over 40 years. She has been an active member of United Methodist Women since 1993 and has held leadership positions at the local, district, and conference levels as well as serving on the Mission u Leadership Team for several years. She and James moved their membership to the Russellville First UMC in 2017, and they have served as junior high Sunday School teachers for most of their time in the church.
In her retirement years, Diana has enjoyed renovating their “forever” home, working in her flower beds, and playing with the grand girls! She served as a substitute teacher for seven years before being lead to serve this church, and is blessed to have found perhaps the “most fun job” she’s ever had as the church receptionist!