Pastor and Staff

Our Pastor

The Rev. Dr. Debra Pallatto-Fontaine – Interim Minister 

“Pastor Debbie” recently served as interim/transitional minister at the First Congregational Church of Woodstock, CT and is familiar with UConn’s campus as she holds an M.A. in Education, a 6th Year in Counseling Psychology, and a Ph.D. in Curriculum, Instruction, and Supervision.

Her M.Div. from Hartford Seminary focused on spirituality and faith formation, and she is a certified spiritual director and retreat leader.

Pastor Debbie’s career has led her through adventures that many in our congregation can relate to including being an elementary school teacher in Columbia and Putnam and then as Professor of Education at Becker College in Worcester. She also assumed the role of chaplain during much of her time at Becker. Highlights of her tenure at Becker include development of two new majors: a B.S. in Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship and a B.S. in Global Citizenship. Debbie’s last several years at Becker focused on creating, directing, and teaching in the Center for Global Citizenship, The Muhammad Yunus Social Business Centre, and the Women’s Emergent Leadership Institute.

Pastor Debbie was ordained in 2010, and has served in a variety of ministry roles including pastor, spiritual director, retreat presenter, global mission volunteer, teacher, and congregational consultant.

You may recall that Lisa Haupt, our new Director of Faith Formation, is also associated with the First Congregational Church of Woodstock, and collaborated with Pastor Debbie in areas of spiritual/faith formation and finding creative ways to connect with children and families in the community.

Pastor Debbie is committed to outreach and is familiar with and supportive of many of the outreach ministries that are important to our church.

While in her role as university professor, Pastor Debbie spent her summers volunteering through Global Ministries (UCC) including teaching English to secondary teachers in remote provinces of China, teaching in a three-year summer program for pastors through the Chinese Christian Council representing all provinces, and teaching at seminaries in Beijing and Nanjing.

Debbie also spent sabbatical time in South Korea at Dong Suwon Church teaching Bible Study and English (she actually lived in a small apartment in the church!). She then went on to participate in a United Methodist Church mission project in Ghana as the result of a friendship with a fellow student/pastor at Hartford Seminary.

For the past 10 years, however, Pastor Debbie serves as a staff volunteer for the Be Like Brit Foundation, founded in Worcester. She is a member of the Be Like Brit Board of Directors and has volunteered as a team member at Brit’s Home in Grand Goave, Haiti in a variety of capacities: accompanying college groups to volunteer in Haiti, offering a certificate program in child development for Brit’s Home staff through Becker College, developing entrepreneurial projects such as a gift shop and a chicken coop at Brit’s Home where children learned business and marketing skills, and now providing systematic training for teachers and caregivers.

Although Debbie misses her time in China she is now devoted to the people of Haiti and to the 66 children at Brit’s Home. She is most proud of a recent project: the creation of Brit’s Academy in September of 2019 at Brit’s Home where all of our 66 children now receive their education. Debbie looks forward to sharing her experiences in Haiti with SCC.

On a more personal note, Pastor Debbie lives on a lake in Woodstock with her husband Richard. They have two adult children: Joshua, who lives in and owns several restaurants in Paris; and Jaimee, who lives in New Hampshire with her husband, Jason, and two daughters Ava and Nyah. Debbie holds dual citizenship in Italy and it is her favorite place to travel. She is an avid reader and loves meditative walking, hiking, kayaking, sailing, and Tai Chi. Debbie is devoted to spending time at Mercy by the Sea, a retreat and educational center in Madison where she studied and taught for many years and now goes for solitude, retreat, and prayer.

In addition to providing spiritual and pastoral leadership, key focus areas for Pastor Debbie’s time with us include:

1) Continuing to lead worship via Zoom and working to continue some of the virtual service elements even after we resume in-person worship for most parishioners (as COVID-19 safety permits)

2) Providing leadership and support to ministry teams and the governing board to reflect on our church identity today and prepare for new pastoral leadership.

3) Working with our congregation and church leadership to begin to identify, prioritize, and fulfill tasks and projects that move the church forward in some of the goal area identified by the CAT survey in early 2020, including increasing opportunities for spiritual growth, and engaging with meaningful relationships both within the congregation and with the community.

Connect with Pastor Debbie:


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Our Staff


Dr. Patricia (“Trisha”) Snyder – Director of Music Ministry

Trisha began serving Storrs Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, as Director of Music Ministry in 2006.  She received her Bachelor of Music in organ performance from the University of Western Ontario, and her Master and Doctor of Musical Arts in organ performance from Yale University. In addition to directing our music ministries, Trisha has also served as Professor of Organ (adjunct) at The Hartt School, the University of Harford.

Before coming to Storrs, she was the Director of Music at the Pakachoag Church (UCC) in Auburn, MA, where she also taught organ and piano at the Pakachoag Community Music School.  Trisha has taught at Andover Newton Theological School, Mt. Holyoke College, Smith College, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and the College of the Holy Cross, and was the Director of Music at First Congregational Church in Guilford.

Trisha has received many awards and grants, including Artist-in-Residence, Cité des Arts (Paris, France), a Gian Silbiger grant, and a Laurence Korwin International Competitions Grant. She studied in Europe with Marie-Claire Alain, earning a Premier Prix and Prix d’Excellence from the Ecole National de Musique de Rueil-Malmaison. Trisha is a prizewinner of many competitions, including the Royal Canadian College of Organists National Competition, and has given recitals in the United States, Canada, England, France, Spain, Switzerland and Japan. A former Dean of the Worcester Chapter of the American Guild of Organists (AGO), she has served the guild in many capacities.  Her solo performances have been broadcast on CBC, BBC, La Radio de la Suisse Romande and WICN Worcester. As a past director and accompanist of the choral ensemble Con Vivium, she can be heard on the compact disc “Love Came Down at Christmas,” featuring the choral music of Leo Sowerby, including ten world première recordings, released on the Albany/Troy label.

Trisha lives in Thompson, Connecticut, with her husband Christopher Dustin and their daughter, Abigail.

Connect with Dr. Snyder:

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Deborah Gacek – Office Administrator

Deborah has been part of our staff at Storrs Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, since mid-2010.  As office administrator, she oversees and carries out a wide diversity of important activities that keep the day-to-day operations of our congregation running–whether it’s greeting weekday visitors to the office with warmth and welcome, handling routine office tasks, facilitating the production of worship bulletins and newsletters, overseeing certain volunteer tasks and the work of our cadre of student helpers with us on work-study, or assisting with our financial operations, all is handled with care and competance with Deborah on the job.

Deborah, a native of Glastonbury, lives in north Coventry with her husband David and daughter Chloe.

Connect with Deborah Gacek:

Deborah Gacek, office administrator

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Antonio Aguilera changing lightbulb

Antonio Aguilera – Sexton

The longest-tenured member of our staff team here at Storrs Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, is our sexton Antonio Aguilera.  A native of Puerto Rico, Antonio lives in Willimantic with his wife Lucia, and enjoys close contact with his kids and grandkids.

As sexton, Antonio ably takes care of the day-to-day cleaning and maintenance of our facilities and grounds, assists with event setup and clean-up, and even gives many an evening and weekend to being on-hand for outside event users and more.  The great condition and sparkling cleanliness of our buildings is a testament to the tremendous care and dedication Antonio puts into his work.

Connect with Antonio Aguilera:

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Antonio Aguilera changing lightbulb

Lisa Haupt – Director of Faith Formation

Lisa Haupt is our new Director of Faith Formation, having started in October 2020. In her own words, Lisa is “passionate about building relationships, equipping lay leadership, and coordinating intergenerational ministry opportunities for all to experience God’s loving presence in action through Bible study, mission, fellowship and service with and for children, youth and adults.”

With a background as a Family and Consumer Sciences teacher in middle and high schools and as a cooking instructor for young children and tweens at Flour Power Cooking Studio for Kids, Lisa has enjoyed teaching in fun and engaging ways.

Lisa felt a calling to bring her teaching from the school classroom to God’s classroom, and completed a M.A. in Practical Theology from Pfeiffer University in 2016. (She also has a B.S. in Education, Food Service Management, and Home Economics from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania.) Lisa is continuing her spiritual development by remotely participating as part of the 2021 Cohort at The Living School Center for Action and Contemplation (in Albuquerque, NM).

Since moving to Connecticut in 2019, Lisa has worked part time as Director of Family Ministries at the First Congregational Church UCC of Woodstock. Lisa plans to continue her ministry at the Woodstock church, and is excited about opportunities for combined faith formation endeavors between our congregations.

Connect with Lisa Haupt:

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Ben Scudder – Communications Specialist

Ben Scudder is a senior at the University of Connecticut pursuing a double major in English and Economics.

Before enrolling at UConn, Ben grew up in Farmington, CT where he attended The First Church of Christ, Congregational as a child. Ben used to live on the campus of Miss Porter’s, next door to the Congregational church, and would walk to service and Sunday School every week. He also occasionally attend St Patrick-St Anthony Church in Hartford.

Last summer Ben interned at Northwest Catholic High School in West Hartford, CT, where he gained his first exposure to the cross-section of faith, community, and communications. Ben hopes to continue to improve upon the skills he gained during this internship as he begins his work with the Storrs Congregational Church community.

Connect with Ben Scudder:


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