Our Staff

Pastor/Head of Staff

Rev. Chris Houtz


Chris is coming from Woodbridge, NJ, where he and his wife, Tanya, have lived for the last 5 years with their four dogs, Minnie, Bellmore, Carl, and Meadow.  They met at move-in day at Hofstra University and have been together for 18 years, married for 9!  After graduating from seminary, Chris was called to a church in Iselin, NJ, where he developed his skills in worship leadership, preaching, and teaching.  He helped lead a successful merging of two congregations, that resulted in a new church being formed.

Now, Chris brings his passion for ministry, along with an excitement for an energetic, active church.  He grew up in a large church in Hershey, PA, where something was always happening.  He was able to experience the positive impact that a church can have on someone’s life and cannot wait to help others experience the same today.  Chris is looking forward to bringing his energy and optimism for worship to FPC Caldwell and cannot wait to see what the future years hold in ministry together.

Worship Leader

Scott Westenberger


Scott and his wife Michele have been involved in developing and leading worship services for the past 15 years, first at Jacksonville Chapel and then at Emergence Church. He grew up in Northern New Jersey surrounded by music which became an integral part of his life. During the week, he works at a consumer health company managing supply chain projects. He resides in Northern New Jersey with his wife and two sons.

Director of Music

Valerie Shondel


Valerie Shondel has had a long and distinguished career as an organist, pianist and conductor in the New York City Area. She has brought her unique skills to her positions to build premier and highly successful organizations.

Ms. Shondel was Director of Music at the St Paul the Apostle in New York City and at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Morristown.   She continues to work as a freelance conductor, organist and pianist New York City and New Jersey.  Most recently, she appeared in concert at Carnegie Hall.

Valerie Shondel earned degrees in Piano Performance and Musicology with a minor in harpsichord from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. She continued with doctoral studies at New York University and organ studies with Harriet Dearden and Vincent Carr. Valerie has held faculty positions at Wake Forest University, Greensboro College and Eastern Music Festival. She was also involved in arts management with The International Society of Bassists, The Greensboro Symphony, Kindermusik and The Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra.

A highlight of her career was to perform as Organ Soloist at the Cathedral de Notre Dame in Paris, France. Valerie Shondel is a member of the New York City and Northern New Jersey Chapters of the American Guild of Organists.

Valerie leads a life filled with her passions both at work and at home.  She is blessed with three married sons and 4 grandchildren.  Her hobbies include cooking, gardening, time with family and yoga.

Office Manager

Christine Brunner


Christine was born in New Jersey and is a resident of Denville, NJ. After completing business school, she gained extensive experience working within companies that range from a large publicly traded corporation to a privately owned corporation, and most recently a family owned franchise enterprise. An active participant in community service projects, she helped facilitate the construction of a new children’s park in the role of treasurer and committee member and is continually involved in various school and local service projects. A former Girl Scout leader, she enjoys hiking, camping, travel, and gardening. Christine and her husband Eric have two daughters, Abigail and Rachel.

Building Manager / Head Sexton

Chris White


Chris grew up in Caldwell and has a background in building management as well as a number of construction skills. Chris is a husband to Anabela and father to daughters Alyssa and Eliana.

Administrative Assistant

Celesta Silvera


Celesta is a long time New Jersey resident. She is married with three children, and five grandchildren. She enjoys reading, cooking, and spending time with her family. She brings twenty-five years of Church Administration experience to First Presbyterian, and is happy to be a part of the family.

Interim Director of Youth Ministries/Sunday Sexton

Kaitlyn Heun

Kaitlyn was born and raised in Caldwell and has been an active full time member of the congregation since her confirmation in 2008. She recently graduated Montclair State University in the Spring of 2016 with a BS, with Teaching Certification, in Physical Education and Health. Kaitlyn has been involved with the church on many levels including being the Youth Intern, Pittsburgh Project Advisor, Sunday School Teacher, and being involved in the choir for 15 years.

Youth Education Coordinator

Amanda Lecuona


Amanda has been an active member of the FPC congregation since her confirmation in 2014. She has been involved in many church programs including vbs, Sunday school, the Pittsburgh Project, and choir camp. In addition, Amanda was a member of the children and adult choirs for 15 years. In May 2022 Amanda graduated from Loyola University Maryland with a degree in Education and teaching certification.

Communications Coordinator

Lauren Restaino


Lauren has been working at FPC since 2014 in several different capacities and currently enjoys her time working on church communications. She has been involved with FPC as a Sunday School teacher and Pittsburgh Project Advisor. Lauren is a School Psychologist and has a passion for helping children to succeed. In her free time, Lauren enjoys singing, seeing musicals and spending time with family.

Adjunct Staff

Director, Weekday Nursery School

Kathleen Carlson


Before stepping into her current role at the weekday nursery school, Kathleen was the teacher of the school’s Kindergarten Enrichment Program. She earned a masters from New York University in Early Childhood and Elementary Education, and is a certified teacher of preschool through twelfth grade. Kathleen lives in Verona with her husband, Bruce and their two children, Evan and Kate.

Superintendent, Prospect Hill Cemetery

David Hicock