Rev. Christopher Solimene, Pastor

From an early age, Chris felt comfortable rallying all ages of people for meaning filled experiences. Baptized Catholic, raised Lutheran and having worked with youth in Episcopal and Baptist settings before serving in ordained ministry for the UCC, Chris embraces the value of his ecumenical background. Through his teens and ever since, he has produced and directed family-friendly musical theater, founding two theater companies along the way. With an undergraduate degree in Visual and Performing Arts and film studies, Chris never strayed too far from creative ventures. A kaleidoscope of career experiences include the educational publishing industry, drama director for Haddam Killingworth Middle School, Youth Minister at Bruton Parish Williamsburg, VA, a singer for Colonial Williamsburg and in recent years, ministry focused on youth while working as a Screen Actor’s Guild audiobook narrator.

Chris completed a Cooperative MDIV program from Hartford Seminary and a Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School. He has worked in various CT UCC churches in such roles as Director of Youth and Family and Associate Minister. Ordained in 2018, he started serving Avon  Congregational Church in 2018. He and Kent make their home at the parsonage in Avon and at their 18th century ‘farmette’ in Killingworth, where gardens, chickens and Gus the goose fill the hours. They also love visiting historical sites, to travel near and far and to spend any time possible with grown children, Kirsten and Scott. Life is full and journeying in faith with the people of Avon is a great joy for Chris.

The Reverend Jennifer McCleery – Associate Minister

Jennifer received her Master of Divinity degree from Yale Divinity School in May, 2017, with a concentration in Reformed Studies. While at Yale, Jennifer was the recipient of the Two Brothers Fellowship, a grant that enabled her to study in Israel and Palestine. In 2015, Jennifer won the Linda LeSourd Lader Prize, awarded to a student in the Reformed tradition who shows outstanding promise for leadership.

Jennifer received a M.Ed. from Harvard University, a B.A. from Trinity College in Religious Studies, and spent her junior year of college studying at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Jennifer lives with her husband Michael and her youngest son, Nate. Her two older sons, Will and Spencer attend college, William & Mary and Harvard respectively. In her free time, she enjoys reading, playing bridge, doing community theater, playing tennis and traveling.

Jolene Tefoe, Avon Nursery School Director

Jolene has degrees in both Child Development and Social Work from the University of St. Joseph, she has Head Teacher certification from the State of CT, and is certified in First Aid and CPR. Jolene has extensive experience as not only as a head teacher in preschool programs in both Bristol and Cheshire, she has also been a site coordinator at Bristol Head Start. In addition, she was a Family Advocate, and Parent Educator, for the Bristol Hospital Parent and Child Center. Jolene was the Assistant Director at Joni’s childcare center in Farmington and was promoted to Director at the Harwinton site. She has successfully led programs though the NAEYC Accreditation process and has worked collaboratively as part of a team. Jolene lives in Terryville with her husband and two teenage children.

Janelle Sanchez – Teacher

Janelle is a proud member of the Avon Nursery School family.  She is a seasoned childcare professional with a career that spans over 30 years in both Connecticut and California. Janelle is dedicated to fostering a creative and nurturing environment in the 4’s class and loves to witness the excitement and growth of every child under her care.

Beyond the classroom, she is a loving parent to three and a proud grandmother to a delightful 11yr old granddaughter. Janelle is a devoted family person who values spending quality time with her children and granddaughter.

Jennifer Oligino – Teacher

Jennifer works with the 3’s class at Avon Nursery School on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. She has a BS in Early Childhood Education and is also teacher certified in Elementary Education (K-6). Jennifer has worked at the UCONN Child Labs and additionally has a science background. Jen will be sharing her knowledge of science by conducting lessons with the 3’s, 4’s and Pre-K children as ANS’s “Special Scientist”. Jennifer lives in Avon with her husband and two daughters.

Charity Tang – Teaching Assistant

Charity works with the 4’s class at Avon Nursery School Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Charity has a BA in Geography with a minor in English and an MBA in Finance. Charity also teaches religious education classes.  Charity has been working on her teacher certification after making a career change from the corporate world of business. Charity resides in Avon with her husband and two children.

Karen Levan, Director of Music Ministries and Organist

Along with playing the organ during Sunday morning worship services, Karen directs both the Gallery Singers (the adult choir) and the Celebration Ringers Hand Bell Choir. Services include a wide variety of music, instruments, and participation of singers and performers of all ages.

Before coming to Avon Congregational Church, Karen served a variety of churches including Zion Christian Church in Flushing, NY as Choir Director, Lutheran Church of our Redeemer in Enfield, CT as Organist, and Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church as Director of Music, Organist and Choir Director. Karen has a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from the Hartt School of Music, West Hartford, CT. Karen’s love of music and singing began when, as a little girl, she went with her mother to choir rehearsals and saw how much her mother loved to sing.

Karen and her husband, Greg are proud parents of two sons who they adopted from China. Residents of Avon, Karen and Greg like to go river-rafting, hiking, and going on drives with their children. They also enjoy cooking foods from different countries together and going out to eat.

Kathy Smith, Office Manager

Kathy has been a member of our church staff since September 2017. Kathy’s role includes preparing the weekly Sunday Bulletin, Sermon Booklets and E-Tidings, directing phone calls, scheduling groups that use our facilities, keeping the member database current, managing the building and supporting Pastor Chris, Pastor Jennifer, fellow staff members, Avon Nursery School and our parishioners in all their endeavors.

Kathy and her husband Jeff have lived in Canton, CT since 2001, and have two sons and a daughter-in-law who currently reside in Cambridge and Somerville, Massachusetts. Kathy loves spending time with family, exploring Boston, cooking, building Lego sets, managing her husband’s running and cycling career and, ultimately, finding the next great place to hang out.

John Carlson, Administrator

John is a 35-year resident of Avon and has been a member of West Avon Congregational Church (WACC) for over 30 years.  He has recently retired from the health insurance industry where he held executive roles in sales, marketing and product management.

At WACC he has been a deacon, treasurer, Chair of their Finance Committee, Chair of their Long-Range Planning Committee and Moderator.  Additionally, he chaired their Sr. Pastor search committee which resulted in the hiring of Dr. Hardee.  He also chaired their capital campaign which raised over a million dollars.

John was a member of the Avon town government for 19 years serving on the Board of Education, Finance Committee and Avon Town Council which he chaired.

In addition to his duties at ACC he will continue as an Adjunct Instructor in Post University’s MBA program where he teaches corporate finance.  John has both BS and MBA, both with concentrations in finance.

John and Nancy are the proud parents of Megan and Lauren and proud grandparents of four grandchildren.

Gene Martin, Sexton

Born and raised in East Windsor, Connecticut, Gene has lived in several towns across the state and now resides in Barkhamsted. Gene joined the Navy out of high school during which time he met his lovely wife Michelle. Married 40 plus years, Gene happily extolls, “Yes it is a life sentence with no chance of parole!” Together, they have two children Joshua and Amber,  and their daughter has given four wonderful grandchildren (Korben, River, Chloe and Augie) but sadly their son is no longer with them.

Gene retired from FedEx air freight, retired from military service after leaving the Navy and serving in the Ct Air National Guard with 22 years of service . He states, “I went on to have a mid-life crisis and decided to open a restaurant – What a lame brain idea that was – but a successful one nonetheless! The Wooden Spoon Family Restaurant was probably one of my proudest accomplishments. (That, and my wife and children!!) She made me write that!!”

Gene thought he was happily retired until he met Pastor Chris and Kent at a Abigail’s Restaurant where Pastor Chris recruited Gene into being the new Sexton.