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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.

Karen Caton

Director, Choir and Handbells

Christian Education Director

My name is Karen Caton, I have the pleasure of serving First Congregational Church in several capacities which include being the Chancel Choir Director, the Cantabile Ringers Choir Director (handbells) and the Christian Education Director.

I was born and raised in the Denver area. I moved to the Grand Junction area back in 2003 (with my menagerie of animals) and connected with FCUCC right away. My educational background includes a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from the University of Colorado, Boulder. My primary instrument is percussion, but I enjoy playing many instruments and pushing myself to learn new modalities.  My experience includes teaching in public schools, non-profit groups, private lessons and spending many, many years playing in bands and musical settings of all types.

I recently retired, so am thoroughly enjoying my new life which includes getting up when I feel like it! Rehearsals and meetings here at church, but also spending much more time at home with my cats, dogs and horses. I would have to admit that moving to Grand Junction was a wonderful decision for me and I am so happy to be a part of this faith family.

Contact Karen 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


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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Anna began working with us in the late spring of this year, and keeps our building and grounds sparkling clean and functional. When she is not working here or at her other employer's or doing her classwork as a University of Arizona student, for fun she kayaks, cares for her puppy Maggie and Maggie's older siblings Greta and Bubba. Occasionally she escapes to a mountain cabin.

Contact Anna HERE.

Anna Driggs


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