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First Congregational UCC, Battle Creek, Michigan

Pastoral Staff Bios

Rev. Tom Ott

Tom_OttI love the church!  All of the most significant relationships that have shaped my life have been people of faith who lives are deeply connected to the church.  All of the most significant experiences in my life have been celebrated in and with the church.  Even with all of its shortcomings and failings, church brings out the best in me.  It reminds me of my deepest values, it connects me with my spiritual ancestors, it surrounds me with loving community, it keeps my life rooted in God.Relationships in my life tend to be long and deep.  My wife Patrice and were married in 1977 and she remains the greatest love of my life.  The churches I have served have all been long pastorates.  As a strong introvert, it takes me a while to get to know people, but I am always inspired by the life stories of the people I am blessed to know and serve.  My first pastorate at 1st Congregational Church in Manistee began in 1981 and taught me a lot about the power of community.  It was our first experience of living in a small town, and we quickly learned to love the network of caring relationships that joined people together.  My second church, 1st Congregational Church of Webster, was located in a rapidly growing suburb of Rochester New York.  It was experiencing growing pains as it transitioned from its roots as an intimate new church start up in 1956 and grew into a large multi staff church that attracted lots of young families with children.  I learned a lot about organizational leadership and institutional change in my second pastorate.  1st Congregational Church of Battle Creek is my third pastorate and is challenging me to think in new and creative ways about the evolving forms of church in our post-modern culture.  Even as the forms and structure of church evolve, I continue to be inspired by the transforming power of the gospel drawing people into relationships of deeper love of God and neighbor. My five highest strengths on the Gallop StrengthsFinder survey are: learner, achiever, responsibility, strategic and adoptability.  I am blessed with a natural curiosity and find challenges engaging.  I have a lot of perseverance and like to see things through to completion.  I am also a physically active person.  Moving my body helps keep me in good frame of mind.  I enjoy cross fit training, biking and cross country skiing.  I love being outdoors and am blessed to live in home that has the Minges Brook running twelve feet from my front door.  Every time I come home it feels like I’ve arrived at the peaceful solace of my own retreat center.  I love being in Battle Creek and feel blessed by the network of supportive relationships with friends and parishioners that sustain me in my life and ministry here.
Rev. Tom Ryberg

trRev. Tom Ryberg is glad to serve God and people through leading innovative worship, preaching, and extending his heart in pastoral care, and public witness. He is passionate about music, racial justice, LGBTQ equality and seeing Battle Creek become a more loving, welcoming community for refugees and immigrants. His wife Andria is the founding, executive director of Garden of Dreams Community Preschool and Child Care of Battle Creek. Tom and Andria are delighted to parent two awesome children, Ellie and Luke.


  1. No matter where we are in life, God calls us into greater justice and mercy.
  2. Tolerance and acceptance of difference must be the norm within and beyond the church walls, in worship and outreach alike.
  3. Handled in healthy ways, conflict and disagreement create opportunities for new growth.
  4. BOTH/AND is very often better than EITHER/OR.
  5. Good boundaries – personal, professional, spiritual – are paramount in our individual lives, and in church.
  6. The vibrancy of worship – including arts, liturgy, preaching and prayer – is critical to the life and growth of a church.
  7. Church is not about affirming the status quo, displaying our greatness, nor preserving a building. It is about gathering in the glory and presence of the One who created us, and joining in the spirited work of the One who taught us to pray.
  8. To be Christian is not like donning nice clothing on Sunday morning. It is a daily endeavor, an ongoing journey, a life-changing lifestyle.
  9. God is good all the time. And all the time, God is good!


Check out Tom’s music here: