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Rev. Dr. Paul Ashby

Senior Pastor


Our Staff

Paul grew up on a farm 50 miles south of Richmond, Virginia that his ancestors first 
farmed in 1691. His first job was as a shepherd of 200 sheep. He comes from a long 
line of teachers and educators. His mom was the first woman hired to teach art 
history at John Hopkins University and his dad was the principal of the only 
elementary school in the county. He discovered the UCC when writing a dissertation 
on Reinhold Niebuhr and at 23 was the youngest person ever to be awarded a 
doctoral degree from Colgate Rochester Divinity school. He was ordained in UCC a 
few days after his 24th birthday and has served UCC churches for 35 years in an urban 
downtown church setting, a suburban college town, a metropolitan area of 6 million, 
and an historic small-town parish founded in 1646.


Paul enjoys teaching and organizing for immigrants’ rights and finds joy and meaning in serving as a coordinator for Sanctuary Churches and Immigrant Rights on the Justice and Witness 
Board of his UCC conference. His church voted to become a Sanctuary Church in 
January 2017 and committed annual outreach funds to support legal representation 
for undocumented immigrants. 

Paul and his wife, Pam enjoy hiking, the symphony, theatre, the Santa Fe Opera, and 
working on projects for interfaith understanding. Paul fell in love with this area in 
1994 when hiking in Colorado and Southern Utah and looks forward to sharing the 
“post card” beauty of the region with Pam. 

Paul holds degrees from the following schools:

  • James Madison University, Bachelors in Political Science

  • The College of William and Mary, Masters in Political Science

  • Princeton Seminary, Masters in Interfaith Studies

  • Southeastern Baptist Seminary, Masters in Divinity

  • Colgate Rochester Divinity School, doctoral degree in Social Justice and Ethics

  • Howard University, post-doctoral fellowship in Asian religions

Contact Paul HERE.

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Beth Rakestraw

Church Administrator


Hello!  My name is Beth Rakestraw and I am the part time Church Administrator for First Congregational UCC Grand Junction.

I am a former pastor from two different denominations who is exploring a new and different calling/purpose, and I am very excited to share many of my church administrative skills with the ministry team and congregants in my church home, a very welcoming and inspiring community.

My wife Beverly and I moved to Grand Junction in July of 2017 to enjoy the health benefits of its drier, sunnier climate, to be closer to family, and, for the first time in our lives, to live in a state that offers us full civil rights protections as members of the LGBTQ+ community.

When I am not in the church office, Beverly and I enjoy soaking up all of the sunshine and beauty Colorado’s Western Slope and the Grand Valley has to offer.  


Contact Beth HERE.

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Martha Jones

Pianist/Music Coordinator

Volunteer Financial Clerk


Martha Jones is our pianist/organist and also volunteers to oversee our financial processes. Born into a minister family, Martha claims a spiritual heritage that gave her strong grounding in the Biblical roots of our faith and traditional hymnody, as well as being deeply schooled in African American spirituals, as sung by people she worked alongside in the cotton fields of South Carolina.

After hanging out with Episcopalians and Presbyterians during college, she found home in the UCC in 1968. In many concurrent lifetimes, she is mother to two adult sons who know all things geek about computer programming, was a teacher, an assistant to the president of a health plan, and a grant writer and project manager. She officially retired from the 8-hour workday in 2015.


In addition to being a member of our music team, she plays for a local Catholic Church. She serves the Rocky Mountain Conference as its scribe for its Board of Directors. Besides her church and the lovely friends in her life, she enjoys poetry, politics (sometimes), eating all things vegetable, and trying to figure out how to downsize her very complicated and full life.


Contact Martha HERE.

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I grew up in Telluride but most of my family lived in the Grand valley so I consider this home. My husband Alan and I were married in 1969 and moved to Wisconsin in 1970. We spent 7 years there where our two sons were born. In 1977 we moved to Minnesota and spent the next 35 years there. I earned a BA in music and taught piano and organ, and had numerous church music jobs over all those years. In 2012 we sold our home in Minnesota and for the next 6 years we lived in an RV, traveling the country and volunteering at national and state sites. At the end of those years we had completed 23 gigs. We settled in Albuquerque but after 5 years, decided it was finally time to return back home to Grand Junction. One son and 4 grandchildren live in the Minneapolis area and the other son in Portland, Oregon.


Shannon Jones



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Marie has served as the Coordinator of Children's Ministries or Children and Youth Ministries or Children's Education off and on many times over her years here at First Congregational United Church of Christ. She has been a church member since 1964 when she was confirmed as a member as a youth. As a member she has also served in many other volunteer leadership roles during her tenure here.

Marie Koontz

Children's Education Coordinator



Like many church custodians, Matu keeps a low profile but nevertheless works very hard to keep our buildings clean and our grounds kept up well. He can usually be seen operating some kind of machinery, whether it's a vacuum cleaner, a blower or driving the lawn tractor. Our congregation very much appreciates his efforts and hard work.

Matu Hedwall

Part Time Custodian


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