Professional Staff

The Rev. David Denoon, Pastor
Since his ordination in 1993 Pastor Dave Denoon has served churches in the Chicago Metropolitan and Southeast Wisconsin Associations of the United Church of Christ. He joined us as our Pastor and Teacher in August of 2010. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in General Studies (Pre-Ministry) from the University of Evansville, Indiana, and a Master of Divinity degree from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.

His passions are for making the life of faith approachable for all people and for establishing God’s reign of justice and peace. His sermons and classes resonate with those messages. Click here to hear his Sound Cloud files. He is available for pastoral care and counseling either by phone or in person. To arrange an appointment, please contact him by email by clicking on his name, above, or by phone at (314) 962-0475, ext. 11.

Please enjoy Pastor Dave’s sermon blog, Post Pastoral. In another blog entitled, From the Tower Room, he reflects on the life and history of First Church.

Pastor Dave contributes occasionally two other weblog series on this website. One is Musings and Meditations and offers his spiritual perspective on a number of matters. The other, A Journey for Renewal, presents Pastor Dave’s thoughts and reflections about his sabbatical in West Africa and other locations significant to African American history and culture, June – August 2017.

You can also meet him on Twitter (@DaveD1200) or Facebook.



Dr. Leon Burke, III
Director of Music and Organist
Dr. Leon Burke, III, is the director of our Music program and principal accompanist.

Dr. Burke, who prefers to be called Leon, is a St. Louis native who received his Bachelor’s degree from Oberlin Conservatory. He has Master’s and Doctoral degrees in Orchestral and Choral Conducting from the University of Kansas. As a Fulbright Fellow he studied in Paraguay.

Leon is also the Music Director and Conductor of the University City Symphony Orchestra, Assistant Director of the St. Louis Symphony Chorus, and Music Director of the Belleville, Illinois, Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. He has been a frequent guest conductor and vocal soloist both nationally and internationally.

Read more about Dr. Leon Burke, III, at his Wikipedia page

Linda SmithRev. Linda E. Smith is the Director of our Center for Counseling & Healing. She is a certified Healing Touch practitioner and instructor with over 30 years of experience in nursing. She is also a board-certified psychiatric/mental health nurse, a board-certified professional counselor/DA, and holds a license in Clinical Social Work.

Her diversified background includes teaching in hospital and university settings. This has prepared her to advocate for the mind/body/spirit connection in therapeutic work. Linda therefore provides wellness counseling from a holistic perspective, including hypnotherapy and Healing Touch.

She brings a sensitive and nurturing approach to her clients and students. Anyone interested in her services can email Linda at or give her a call at (314) 440-2096. Linda is a graduate of Sancta Sophia Seminary near Tulsa, Oklahoma, with a Master of Divinity degree and was ordained for ministry by the International Council of Community Churches. Rev. Smith and the Center’s Healing Team lead us occasionally on Sunday mornings in services for healing and wholeness.

To learn more about Linda’s work, the Healing Touch modality of care, and the services offered by the Center for Counseling and Healing, please click here, or visit her Facebook page.

Cliff AerieRev. Cliff Aerie is the director of MICA (Ministry of Imagination, Creativity and the Arts). Cliff has spent a lifetime exploring the adventurous terrain of creativity and the Spirit. At the heart of his ministry he is a storyteller inviting others to embark on the spiritual journey of discovering the imaginative landscape of the soul.

As a jazz musician Cliff has performed at international jazz festivals and hosted “Jazz Alive” on National Public Radio for four years. In 2004 he founded the Oîkos Ensemble and has led jazz worship services and sacred jazz concerts at more than 300 faith gatherings around the country. Grammy award winner, Paul Winter says: I salute Cliff Aerie and the Oîkos Ensemble for their inspired music and mission. They are serving the world with their song.”

Cliff is a graduate of New Brunswick Theological Seminary, has pastored five congregations (two in the Presbyterian Church and three in the United Church of Christ), founded an experimental arts ministry and served the United Church of Christ denomination as Special Events Producer where he helped develop the “God is Still Speaking” identity initiative from which MICA originated.

His latest projects include Inner Jazz, an interfaith arts meditation series, and Worship Jazz, a web resource for liturgical resources and creative jazz arrangements of familiar hymns.

Click here to learn more about MICA.


Support Staff

Debbie Tolstoi, Office Administrator, came to First Congregational Church at the end of January, 2017.  She has worked in the past as the administrative assistant at Christ Church, United Church of Christ, in Maplewood. For over 20 years she has run her own web design and marketing business, Tolstoi Designs. Not inclined to work only in an environment by herself, even though her terrier Buddy has been by her side, Debbie decided to apply for our Office Administrator position when she saw it posted in the Webster-Kirkwood Times.

Debbie is a graduate of Parkway Central High School, studied Studio Art at Maryville College (which the University was, then), and graduated from Webster University with a degree in Management and an emphasis in Marketing, receiving departmental honors.

She lives in Richmond Heights with Buddy “the bad thing” (at least to rabbits, who rarely survive an excursion in her back yard). She is a passionate gardener and is past president of the Richmond Heights Garden Club.

Debbie will be in the  office Mondays through Thursdays, from 9AM to 3PM. So, if you want to stop in and say Hello during those times, please do.

Chip Isringhaus

Chip Isringhaus, Facility Manager, has been with the First Congregational Church since 2002. If you need to learn the ins and outs of the inner workings of our physical plant, Chip is your man. His education and experience include an HVAC Certification from Ranken Tech, which he received as part of his service to the church when our new heating and cooling system was installed.

He has one son, Calvin, and enjoys restoring classic Chevrolet Chevelles.


Darrell LakiesDarrell Lakies, Custodian, is very often the first person you meet when you arrive at the First Congregational Church. He extends our extravagant welcome to any and all who enter.

With the church since 2010, Darrell once worked in a similar capacity with Chrysler at their Valley Park plant prior to its closing. He also served with the U.S. Navy during the 1970s.

Darrell keeps our buildings spotless and well-maintained with great competency and exudes an infectious joy and positive attitude.

Darrell is the husband of Kelly. In his spare time he enjoys his pool or camping.