At the November 7, Congregational Meeting, members voted to accept the recommendation of the Associate Pastor Nominating Committee (APNC), so it is with much joy we announce the appointment of Michelle Vecchio-Lyzenga as Associate Pastor for Christian Formation at First Pres Berkeley!
Throughout our process we have been impressed with Michelle’s deep love for the work and practice of Christian Formation and her ability to hold both big-picture vision and details, with great care for individuals and the community along the way. Click here to read the full letter from the APNC.
An Ordination and Installation Service for Michelle will be held Sunday, December 5 at 2 pm in the First Pres Sanctuary. Join us at this special service to celebrate and welcome Michelle into her new role and to give thanks for God’s sustaining abundance towards us. You are invited to bring a note of appreciation for Michelle, which will be collected at the reception following the service.
Reflections from the Associate Pastor Nominating Committee
Michelle really impressed us with her passion and vision for the practice of Christian Formation in community. Her ability to set and hold big picture vision and strategy as well as the details and logistics of implementing a meaningful, robust program—all with geniune care for people along the way—is a rare combination of gifts and skills to find.
– Bridget Satchwell, Co-chair
Michelle really “gets” Christian Formation. From developing a prayer labyrinth for a youth retreat, to creating space for people to share their story, she empowers the church community to grow in their faith. She is innovative and willing to try new things, having the courage to say “let’s fail big and experiment.”
– Eric Mowat, Co-chair
In addition to being an amazing fit for the role on paper, we were all struck by Michelle’s sincere and mature heart for ministry. She started ministering in her church and community in middle school and has never stopped.
– Julia Bailey
Michelle impressed us with her ability to articulate a well thought out vision of Christian Formation pathways for all ages and stages of faith within the church community.
– Cathy Laymon
The committee was thrilled to have multiple strong candidates to consider, and when comparing these candidates, Michelle clearly stood out among the rest—from the initial screening through the final interview. We are excited to see what she brings to First Pres in the years to come!
– Paul Loscutoff
We have been thoroughly delighted to get to know Michelle much more in depth, up close and personal. She shared herself and her vision with integrity, passion and humor. She stood out throughout the whole process.
– Monica Munger
From the beginning of this process, Michelle exhibited a confidence in what she has already accomplished and what more she would like to do. We are looking forward to watching her vision take shape and blossom.
– Kathy Dwyer
I knew Michelle before this search process and even then she had a heart full of compassion not only for our First Pres congregation but also those who were living on the margins. First Pres should be honored that Michelle has chosen us, we will be the recipients of all the blessings that she will bring.
– Vent Traylor
A Note from the Senior Pastor
Michelle is a gift to the church-at-large and our church in particular. I continue to be inspired by her passion for Scripture and the myriad of ways she draws us into God’s all-consuming and transformational love. She is a teacher and a lifelong learner, a preacher and a pastor, a colleague, and a friend. In short, she is the real deal and it is our honor and great fortune to call her as our next associate pastor.
– The Rev. Dr. Charlene Han Powell
Born and raised in California’s Central Valley, Michelle has long-time roots in the Bay Area, where her father served as a fire captain for over three decades and her beloved, boisterous extended Italian-American family still resides.
In good Calvinist form, Michelle forsook California’s sunny skies and temperate weather to attend Calvin College, a Christian Reformed liberal arts college in western Michigan. There, she discovered three important things:
“Layers” do not mean the same thing outside California.
Love can find you even when you’re not looking for it.
Beware general education requirements. They just may change your life.
Graduating with degrees in English Literature and Religion and a minor in Congregational and Ministry studies, Michelle realized that what had begun as guilty pleasure courses in biblical studies, theology, and the sociology of the church had developed into a call to Christian community development and formation. She headed further east to Princeton Theological Seminary where she pursued a Master of Divinity with a focus on Christian education and public theology.
A life-long Presbyterian, Michelle has been facilitating missional spiritual formation in diverse congregational, community-based, and academic settings for over a decade. She is passionate about fostering Christian community that is radically welcoming, intellectually engaged, and socially active—a passion that drew Michelle to the First Pres Berkeley staff in 2015 and has infused her ministry since. Michelle believes that story has the power to transform us. She loves nothing more than hearing others’ stories over a cup of coffee and exploring the intersection of our stories and God’s through narrative teaching and preaching.
Michelle’s husband of nine years, John Lyzenga, keeps her laughing and reminds her daily what grace looks like embodied. Together, they have the joy of parenting their two-year-old son, Samuel, and their giant black labrador Hildie (affectionately named after the church mother Hildegard of Bingen). After triangulating the Bay the last six years—from Martinez to San Anselmo to San Francisco–they are now enthusiastic residents of San Leandro.
Here are a few of Michelle’s favorite things:
- Hobbies: traveling, gardening, reading fiction, and dancing. My people are always the ones to shut down the dance floor at a wedding.
- Book of the Bible: Luke. It continues to turn my world upside down.
- Bible Verse: Ephesians 3:16–19
- Book: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
- Movie: Anything by Taika Waititi. That man can make me laugh and cry like no other.
- Television Show: Gilmore Girls, The Office, Parks and Recreation
- Weekend Activity: Having family or friends over for a meal and board games
Michelle’s Statement of Faith
I place my life and trust in a triune God who has existed eternally as Parent, Son, and Holy Spirit. I trust that this tri-personal, inter-related God lovingly created the world and all that is in it to be in intimate relationship with Godself, looking upon it with delight and calling it “very good.” I trust that this good creation was distorted when humanity sinned, turning from God and God’s good intention for us by seeking self-sovereignty. I trust that as a result of this willful turning, humanity’s relationships—with God, one another, and the rest of creation—have been fragmented. Where God longed for intimacy, faithfulness, and stewardship for the sake of flourishing, there is instead estrangement, infidelity, and exploitation.
Nevertheless, I trust that in God’s extravagant love, God did not forsake humanity but instead set about a divine mission to bring us and all creation back into right relationship with God and one another. I trust that God set about this mission by forming a covenantal relationship with a particular people, not because of their own merit but because of God’s great grace. I trust that this divine mission and covenantal relationship culminated in a particular event—God’s incarnation in the person Jesus, the Christ. I trust that through his sinless life, Jesus—fully God and fully human—fulfilled God’s intention for us and, through his death and resurrection, bridged the divide between Godself and us caused by sin, reconciling the two. I trust that following Jesus’ ascension, the Holy Spirit was given to draw, equip, encourage, and exhort God’s people to witness to the good news that, through Christ, we are reconciled with God.
I trust that God’s reconciling mission in the world is not yet complete; that God is in the process of bringing all creation back into right relationship with Godself. I trust that Christ will return, fully establishing God’s reign and kin-dom on earth. In the meantime, I am convinced that the Christian life is not simply about “Jesus and me” and a future heavenly zip code but has radical implications for our social and ecological relationships here and now. I trust that through the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, God graciously invites, unites, and equips us to participate in God’s mission as beloved agents of reconciliation.
I trust that the beauty of the Christian calling is that God invites us to participate in the coming kingdom just as we are—fractured and flawed—and just as God has created us to be—uniquely gifted and poised for witness. I trust that the joy of the Christian calling is that we are not called alone. We are part of a global community of faith through whom God has worked and is working and with whom we are united at the font and table to be taken, blessed, broken, and given to the world, praying in word and deed, “Your kingdom come, Lord, your will be done.”