Lay Leadership

Lay Leadership is the heartbeat of The Riverside Church. As a congregational church the various commissions and committees lead the way as we aspire to embody the love and justice of God in our neighborhood, across the nation, and around the world.

Click here to download the candidate booklet and learn more about the 2020 Lay Leadership candidates.

2020 Election Information

Please note:  Due to COVID-19, the Church Council has approved a recommendation from the Nominating Committee to postpone the annual meeting and election of officers from May, 2020 to the annual meeting previously scheduled for Sunday, November 15, 2020. 

Conversation With the Candidates

Click here to learn more about the 2020 Lay Leader candidates

Join the Nominating Committee after worship in Virtual Coffee Hour for a conversation with the candidates running for various lay leadership positions in Riverside commissions and committees. You will get to know the various candidates and why they feel called to serve in the various areas of Riverside. These sessions will be recorded and available for people to watch if they are unable to attend.

Click here to join Virtual Coffee Hour.

– Sunday, October 11: Budget & Planning Committee, Education Commission, Membership Care & Parish Life Commission, Nominating Committee — click here to watch the recording

– Sunday, October 18: Church Council

– Sunday, November 8: Mission & Social Justice Commission, Worship Commission

– Sunday, November 15: Annual Meeting and Election of Officers

Online Voting for the 2020 Lay Leadership Election

This year Riverside members will be able to vote online using an electronic ballot. Temporary changes to relevant State statutes due to the pandemic and affirmative action by the Church Council make this option possible. Voting online is quick, easy, and available 24 hours a day from any location.

Online voting begins on Monday, October 26, 2020 and ends at 3 p.m. (ET) Sunday, November 15, 2020.

*Each member with an email address on file with the Stewardship Office will receive an email from Simply Voting ( on Monday, October 26, 2020. Simply Voting is the company we have engaged to conduct the online voting process

*If you don’t see the Simply Voting email in your inbox on Monday, be sure to check your spam and junk files. If you don’t receive an email, contact the Nominating Committee immediately at

*The email from Simply Voting will include the link to the ballot, your unique login ID and password, and instructions on how to cast your vote online.

*You can review and change your votes UNTIL you click on “confirm.” No change is possible after your ballot is submitted.

*All voting, whether on line or on paper will remain anonymous. The online vote count and a separate list of names casting online votes will be sent to the Nominating Committee on Sunday, November 15. There are no links between these two reports.

If you prefer, you may request a paper ballot from the committee at

Volunteers Needed

The Nominating Committee seeks members of The Riverside Church to volunteer, at the church, in October to assist with ballot mailing, and in November with ballot tabulation. If you are interested in volunteering, please email the Nominating Committee today.

2020 Lay Leadership Ballot Slate

Election will begin on October 26 and last through the end of the Annual Meeting on Sunday, November 15.

Budget and Planning Committee
Vote for no more than 2 | (1 is a 3-year term, 1 is a 2-year term)

Andre Nakashian
German Soto

Church Council
Vote for no more than 6 | (5 are 3-year terms, 1 is a 2-year term)

Clarence Anderson*
Howard Sanders*
Eugene Melino*
Naomi Jones
Philip Salmon*
Patrice Harrington
Richard O’Keefe*
David Orcutt*
Christen Walker-James*
Kwesi McDavid
Virl Andrick

Education Commission
Vote for no more than 4 | (All are 3-year terms)

Martha L. Wiggins
Hylda Clarke
John Slorance
David Jensen

Membership Care & Parish Life Commission
Vote for no more than 5 | (4 are 3-year terms, 1 is a 2-year term)

Hillary Puckett
Elizabeth Figueroa
Carolyn Bland
Millicent James
Rosalyn Witter

Mission & Social Justice Commission
Vote for no more than 6 | (4 are 3-year terms, 2 are 2-year terms)

Frances Connell
Karen Sawyer-Barro
Pam Davis
Derrick Biney-Amissah
Linda Fentiman
Michael Barnes

Nominating Committee
Vote for no more than 2 | (All are 3-year terms)

Glenessa Gordon
Elizabeth Wynne-St.Louis

Worship Commission
Vote for no more than 7 | (4 are 3-year terms, 2 are 2-year terms, and 1 is a 1-year term)

Desiree Baxter
Robbie Patterson
Arelis Figueroa
Alexa Donaphin
David Vaughn
Michael Winger
Meghann Vaughn

Appointments to the Church Council
Our By-laws require that these Commission appointments to the Church Council be affirmed by the congregation. Please indicate your agreement to affirm these appointments. (All are 3-year terms)

Hillary Puckett (MCPL)
Victoria Anderson (MSJ)
Jesse Wilkins (Worship)

*What the Asterisks Mean

Guided by the charge in the By-Laws to identify congregants with the “talent and experience needed by (the) various Commissions, Committees, etc.,” and to select nominees having considered each “member’s service to the Church, leadership ability, professional/work skills and experience,” the Nominating Committee this year undertook to make the fullest possible effort to get to know the applicants and to discern as best we could their records of service, abilities, skills, and experience.

The committee thanks all the Riversiders who presented themselves as applicants for nomination. We were impressed by the wide range of talents represented and the deep love for Riverside and commitment to its future as a continuing representation of God’s love as this particular community of faith. All the nominees we present for this election are worthy of your consideration and support. We encourage you to read the candidate’s statements and to ‘meet’ them at our Virtual Coffee Hours on October 11 and 18, and November 8.

The discernment process that the Nominating Committee initiated this year included establishing basic eligibility under the By-Laws, studying Interest Surveys, interviewing applicants, and reviewing references from Riverside members and staff – leading us to endorse nominees as particularly qualified for election. These nominees have an asterisk (*) next to their names.

Because the Church Council holds paramount authority for the actions, activities, policies and programs of the Church, we devoted particular attention to endorsing nominees for the Council.

We believe that everyone at Riverside wants the best lay leadership possible and we believe our discernment process furthers that goal. We hope that succeeding Nominating Committees will continue and refine what we have begun.

Rest assured you should vote for any and all nominees whom you feel are best suited for their respective positions. We believe we have done our part; the choice is yours.

– The Nominating Committee
Patricia Ali, Carolyn Bland, Samuel Coleman (chair), Carol Fouke-Mpoyo, Abosede George (secretary), Imelda isles, Allen Kratz, Charmae Lewis, Una Tapper, Elizabeth Wynne-St.Louis

2020 Lay Leader Election Calendar

October 11 through November 15: Candidate Forums, meet the candidates activities, etc.

Week of October 19: Ballots mailed to Congregation (ballots must be received at the Church by close of Annual Meeting).

Sunday, November 15: Annual Meeting. Deadline for all ballots to “be received by the close of business of the Annual Meeting” (By-laws, Article V.4.d).  Ballot tabulation begins after the conclusion of the Annual Meeting.

Sunday, November 22: Election results announced.



2019-20 Elected Lay Leadership Positions

Marilyn Mitchell (Chair)
Philip Salmon (Vice-Chair)
Frank Nelson (Treasurer)
Mary Biggs (Secretary)
Alan Bentz-Letts
Geraldine Howard
Allen Kratz
Len Leach
Karen McVoy
Rick O’Keefe
Challon Perry
Christian Rojas
Howard Sanders 
Rueben Martinez (Rep: Education)
Jerome Hairston (Rep: MCPL)
Desi Ruiz (Rep: MSJ)
Irene King (Rep: Worship)

Staff Liaison
Rev. Michael Livingston

Email the Church Council

Updates from the Church Council

Rueben Martinez (Chair)
John Slorance (Secretary)
Charlene Wingate 
Raydale Blaylock-Shand
Chiara Fuller
Bryant Harris
Jennifer James Soto
David Jensen

Charmae Lewis
Eugene Melino
Kate Sullivan
Robin Veenstra-VanderWeele
Martha Wiggins

Staff Liaison
Rev. Bruce Lamb

Hillary Puckett (Chair)
Danielle Aviles-Griffin
Carolyn Bland
Stefany Blyn Jacobs
Jerome Hairston
Danielle Hartley

Patricia Pell 
LaSonya Thompson
Hsien-yu Wang 

Staff Liaisons
Rev. Debra Northern and Rev. Bruce Lamb

Carol Fouke-Mpoyo (Chair)
Victoria Anderson
Frances Connell

Sumati Devadutt
Karen Diggs
Jeremiah Drake
George Fillie-Faboe
Kwesi McDavid-Arno
Doug Miller
Desi Ruiz
Susan Wersan
Henry Williams

Staff Liaison
Rev. Kevin VanHook

Irene King (Chair)
Patricia Ali
Nancy Clark
Derrick Jordan
Mari Satterlee
Jesse Wilkins
Michael Winger

Staff Liaisons
Rev. Michael Livingston, Christopher Johnson

Challon Perry (Chair & Church Council)
Frank Nelson (Church Council)
Len Leach (Church Council)
Caroline Bland (Rep: MCPL)
Sumati Devadutt
(Rep: MSJ)
Michael Ellis
Lisa Hinds
Ed Lowe
Lakeisha McCoy
Charlene Wingate (Rep: Education)

Staff Liaison
Rich Glassey (Director of Operations), Matthew Kerner (Director of Finance)

Samuel Coleman (Chair)
Abosede George
Imelda Isles
Beth St. Louis
Evelyn Tamarin
Una Tapper
Allen Kratz (Rep: Church Council)
LaSonya Thompson (Rep: MCPL)
Charmae Lewis (Rep: Education)
Patricia Ali (Rep: Worship)

Staff Liaison
Rev. Michael Livingston

2019-20 Appointed Lay Leadership Positions

Mary Biggs (Chair)
Karen McVoy (Rep: Church Council)
Rick O’Keefe (Rep: Church Council)
Don Bickford (non-voting member)
Patrick Mouton (non-voting member)

Staff Liaison
Matthew Kerner (Director of Finance)

Christian Rojas (Chair)
Ken Eisner
Jerome Hairston
Linda LeShanna
Karen McVoy
Barbara Mellor
Douglas Miller

John Slorance
Jeremy Veenstra-VanderWeele

Staff Liaison
Rich Glassey

Marilyn Mitchell (Chair, Church Council)
Phil Salmon (Vice-Chair, Church Council)
Frank Nelson (Treasurer, Church Council)
Mary Biggs (Secretary, Church Council)
Jerome Hairston (Rep: Commissions)

Staff Liaison
Rev. Michael Livingston

Howard Sanders (Chair)
Marilyn Mitchell (Rep: Church Council)
Phil Salmon (Rep: Church Council)

Staff Liaison
Matthew Kerner (Director of Finance)

Sandy Thomas (Chair)
Irene King (Rep: Worship)
Geraldine Howard
Eugene Melino
Martha Wiggins
Geoff Martin
Jo Cameron
David Vaughn

Staff Liaison
Rev. Michael Livingston

Rick O’Keefe (Chair)
Forrest Taylor
Joanne Toran
Sandy Thomas

Staff Liaison
Sarah Brown (Director of HR)

Marilyn Mitchell (Chair, Church Council)
Challon Perry (Chair, Budget and Planning)
Rick O’Keefe (Chair, Personnel and Salary)
Irene King (Chair, Worship)
Brad Jones 
Robbie Patterson
Geoff Martin

Staff Liaison
Rev. Michael Livingston

Alan Bentz-Letts (Chair)
Jacqueline Hopkins
Stefany Blyn Jacobs
Janette Kemp
Lee Sartain

Robin Veenstra-VanderWeele
Henry Williams

Staff Liaison
Meighan Corbett (Director of Stewardship and Development)

Areas of Elected Service at Riverside

Church Council

Description: The Church Council has oversight responsibility for all affairs of the Church – temporal and spiritual. The Council has fiduciary responsibility and sets policies. Each Council member is also appointed to at least one of the following standing committees: Audit, Budget and Planning, Building, Finance, Communications, Institutional Relations, Ministerial Relations, Ordination, Personnel and Salary, and Stewardship.

List of Desired Skills/Backgrounds: List of Desired Skills/Backgrounds: accounting, finance/investment, legal, human resources/organizational behavior, educational background, conflict resolution / governance / leadership, non-profit experience, managerial/secretarial, and audit.

Nominating Committee

Description: Administers the overall process for the election of lay leaders, and is responsible for the integrity of Riverside annual election process. The Committee works to ensure that each member included on the slate of candidates:
– Meets stated requirements of elected office.
– Meets qualifications as specified by and for each Commission or Committee.
– Reflects the diversity of Riverside’s membership.
– As necessary, the committee also recommends changes to the Riverside By-Laws.

List of Desired Skills/Duties:
– Openness to speaking with Riversiders about the elected offices available to members.
– Have a welcoming and friendly manner with congregation members, particularly those new to the Riverside community.
– Discerning through listening and open discussions those who would be assets as Lay Leaders.
– Working with Commission leaders as well as Riversiders at large to encourage qualified folk to run for elected office.
– Hold positive attitude towards Riverside Church leadership and speak of the integrity of Nominating Committee and elections.
– Agree to faithfully attend all meetings and volunteer with Sunday morning tabling.
– Willingness to help during the election process including Meet the Candidates and voting counting at the conclusion of the Annual Meeting.
– Organizational and/or secretarial skills.

Membership Care and Parish Life Commission

Description: The Commission accompanies church members on every step of their spiritual journeys. Programs include: Pastoral Care, New Members Class, Barber Training Program, Clothing Service, Faith Development and Spiritual Growth, Food Pantry, Laity Empowerment Series, Shower Project, Spiritual Life Retreat, and Wellness Programs.

List of Desired Skills/Duties: Should have a history of volunteering at Riverside or other organizations, or demonstrate willingness and devotion to carry out the task required for the success of the commission. MCPL Lay Leaders should be able to engage with the purview of ministries our commission supports (Membership, Parish Care, and Parish Life). We welcome members in the profession of trades, law, social services, and the arts.

Education Commission

Description: Oversees the development and implementation of the comprehensive Christian Education Ministry at the Church. Programs include: Sunday Morning Bible Study, Youth and Young Adult programs, English Language Training, Infant and Toddler Nursery programs, and the Scholarship Fund.

List of Desired Skills/Duties:
– Attended or led Adult Bible study at TRC, whether small group or Open Bible study.
– Sat for 1 year on Riverside Committee such as ACEC, Budget & Planning, Ordination, Global Justice & Peace, etc.
– Ability to cast vision as it relates to the direction of the overall congregation’s faith formation and learning experiences.
– A desire to invest in the lives of people of all ages with special attention to children, youth and young adults.
– A willingness to lead the congregation in exploring practices related to spiritual formation and Christian education.
– An appreciation of the various ways in which people who are differently abled might learn or receive information.
– Sensitivity to cultural and racial diversity as it pertains to Christian education and formation.
– A desire to practice servant leadership and humility; a willingness to learn from others even as you lead them.
– Organizational and/or secretarial skills.

Mission and Social Justice Commission

Description: As agents of God’s justice, healing and love, the Mission and Social Justice (MSJ) Commission seeks to transform individuals, communities and systems of racial, social, economic and environmental oppression. MSJ ministries include: African Fellowship, Beloved Earth Community, Black Lives Matter, Coming Home, Ecclesia Ministry, Knitters and Crocheters at Riverside, Latinos/as at Riverside, Maranatha – Riverside’s LGBTQ Ministry, Men’s Class, Movies@Riverside, Prison Ministry, Sojourners, Sharing & Densford Funds, South Africa Support Group, and Theatre of the Oppressed.

List of Desired Skills/Duties:
– Demonstrated passion for justice, evidenced by their life work – either paid or volunteer.
– Ability to communicate how faith in God moves us to act for justice.
– Experience in team building and effective communication in Riverside and/or Harlem and NYC.
– Practiced in creative thinking to achieve positive change.

Worship Commission

Description: Responsible for the worship programs of the Church. It advises on the overall planning of the Sunday services, other worship services, and special services. It consults with the Director of Music on the music program of the Church for Sunday services and for special occasions. Primary among the duties of Worship Commission members is to remember that the Church is a living body, kept alive by responsive and meaningful worship in many forms.

List of Desired Skills/Duties:
– Regularly attend worship services and see it as the core of your involvement at Riverside.
– Be open to all forms of worship – traditional as well as innovative.
– Have imagination in envisioning the depth and richness of worship.
– Be willing to participate in the service as communion servers/preparers, greeters, and liturgical participants on a regular basis.
– Have organizational/secretarial skills.
– Have a positive and supportive attitude toward the leadership of Riverside Church.
– Respect the liturgies and rituals of the church as a primary means of meeting the spiritual needs of all the people.
– Appreciate the power of Word and Sacrament as understood by our affiliated denominations, i.e. ABC and UCC.
– Strive to envision new worship services (grounded in traditional forms of worship) that are responsive to the needs of changing times and diverse worshipers.

Budget & Planning Committee

Description: Reviews and revises the proposed annual operating and capital budgets prepared by Church staff for presentation to the Church Council and the Congregation for approval. The Committee is also responsible for monitoring spending through the year.

List of Desired Skills/Duties:
– Financial background.
– Ability to read and comprehend budget spreadsheets.
– Experience using excel or similar financial programs.
– Managerial/secretarial skills.
– Open to innovative ideas relating to budget planning.
– Committed to the financial health of The Riverside Church.

Senior Minister Search Committee

September 20, 2020:

The Senior Minister Committee, pursuant to our By-Laws, is responsible for proposing “a search committee for approval by the congregation, the members of which shall be full members of the Congregation, to identify candidates for Senior Minister.”  The committee will consist of eight voting members and two alternate non-voting members.

Therefore, the members of the Senior Minister Committee wish to invite you, members of our congregation, to participate in the selection of the members of the Search Committee for our new Senior Minister.

Selection Criteria

Each individual under consideration for the Search Committee must:

– Be a full member of the Church

– Support the Church, as demonstrated by worship attendance, participation in church meetings and activities, and financial support

– Be willing and able to make a time commitment of 1 to 2 years, and can make this commitment a priority

– Have a faith based spiritual commitment to the search process

– Be a person with a positive attitude, and willing to approach the task ahead with an open mind rather than a pre-conceived agenda

– Be recognized as a person of integrity, who treats people with respect and dignity

– Be trusted and respected by the Congregation

– Be willing to listen and respect the opinions of others, and has the capacity to work in a group to achieve consensus

– Be committed to maintaining complete confidentiality throughout the search process

This is your opportunity to recommend up to two people – including yourself – for the Search Committee. Please describe, in essay form, the talent, experience, skills and attributes of the nominee/s and how you believe they meet the criteria for serving on the Senior Minister Search Committee. Feel free to use specific examples to support your recommendation for nomination. You might want to speak to your nominee first to ensure he/she/they are interested in pursuing the nomination process.

It is critical to the success of the Search Committee that the members reflect the broad diversity of our Congregation; for example, with respect to race, gender, age, sexual orientation, differently abled, ethnicity, socio-economic status, educational level, and length of membership. Members of the Search Committee should also represent a variety of experience in aspects of Church life.