I’m a farm boy from North Dakota and value my roots, but I love living in cities – Minneapolis, Washington, DC, Cleveland for 17 years, Denver for 14 years, and San Diego since October 2021.
I love being a pastor – starting from my first pastorate during college in South Dakota at age 20. I’ve been preaching almost every Sunday ever since. I received my degrees at Dakota Wesleyan University, United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, and earned my Doctor of Ministry at Wesley Theological Seminary. My research resulted in a study entitled Open Gay and Lesbian Pastors Called by Predominantly Straight UCC Congregations. I also studied in a program focused on the intersections of theology and public policy. I worked on a range of social justice issues with the Office for Church in Society in DC and Hunger Action in Cleveland. Hunger ministry has a been vital part of my life, including annual stints in the church steeple in Cleveland. I was a 24-hour “hostage” for 14 years to collect food and raise money for our hunger center. That’s how I met my husband Art in 2001. He was a reporter for a local TV station, interviewing me following 24 hours in a cold wet open-air steeple. We married in 2007.
When we moved to Colorado, we discovered a passion for hiking and snowshoeing. I tried cross-country skiing but couldn’t stay upright long enough to enjoy it! I’ve climbed two 14,000 foot mountains and am now discovering new trails in California.
Travel is another passion. If I couldn’t be a pastor, I’d love to be a travel writer/blogger/photographer. I’ve been in 25 countries and 49 states (fingers crossed: Hawaii one day). Travelling is spiritual to me. I got my first taste of international travel when I was 17 as part of a US/Canadian choral group touring Europe (where I had my appendix out in Paris!). Then a mission trip to Haiti, college exchange to Japan… I couldn’t stop! I have a special affinity for Southeast Asia where I have spent time in nearly every country.
If you would like to get together for coffee, I’d love to hear your story too.
Director of Ministry with Children and Families
Artcel Ruiz was born and raised in Manila, Philippines, and came to San Diego when she was 15. She has been married to her husband, Frank, for 26 years. They have two children, Justin, 25, and Jianna, 17. Artcel recently graduated from Claremont School of Theology with a master’s degree in Divinity. The next goal is to pursue a Doctor of Ministry.
Artcel has been leading life groups, chairing various ministries, working with children, and occasionally preaching at her church for years. She is passionate about empowering and being an advocate for children. Her desire is for the kids and their families to experience and personally know God.
Wearing so many hats–mother, wife, employee, friend–can be a lot, so having “me-time” is a non-negotiable for Artcel. Getting lost in a book, taking walks, having hot cocoa, or unwinding with favorite tv shows or a play is vital.
Elizabeth began working at Mission Hills UCC in 2015. Before that, she worked as program manager for The Tomorrow Project, a job-readiness program for homeless women within Catholic Charities.
Elizabeth has a wide range of skills, isn’t afraid of new technology, and is enjoying getting to know our congregation. Her goal is to make every person feel welcome!
Kris was raised in central Illinois, and after living in Chicago for several years moved to San Diego. He studied organ under Dr. Lorraine Brugh, Dr. Sally Cherrington-Beggs, Dr. David Christiansen, and Dr. Alison Luedecke. He held organist positions at St. Paul’s Lutheran in Addison, Illinois; Bethel Lutheran in Palatine, Illinois; and Our Saviour’s Lutheran in Arlington Heights, Illinois, and worked for several years as a freelance/substitute organist.
When not playing the organ, he works full time as a computer network engineer.
Fiona’s background as an educator includes teaching general chemistry at the University of Vermont, 10+ years directing and teaching professional education courses on nanotechnology, and extensive volunteer work in the classrooms of Grant TK-8 here in Mission Hills and as a coach for the First Lego League. She has been leading the MHUCC Youth Group since October 2021.
Fiona is dedicated to serving our youth, nurturing their impulses for service and outreach, and enabling a program of activities that will allow them to grow spiritually, take on leadership roles, and become the source of positive change in our world. And also to have a lot of fun!
When she is not being a youth leader, Fiona is a science writer and journalist. Some of her open-access work is on the Case Scientific blog, and her press clips are on Muck Rack. Her professional bio is on LinkedIn.
Director of Vocal Music
Worship Technologies Coordinator
Social Media Coordinator