Mike Bannier, Praise Team Leader

mike I have been a member of Calvary Memorial UCC for 24 years. My wife, Bonnie and I have been married for 38 years, and have a daughter and son and three lovely granddaughters. During my years at Calvary, I have served on many committees and groups, including Church Council, Christian Education, Stewardship, Membership, and Pastoral Relations. I am currently the President of the Church Council.

I have been involved with the Music program here at Calvary for about 15 years and recently took over the direction of the Praise Team, a group of singers that leads the congregation in worship music during the Sunday service. As long as I can remember, music has been a big part of my life, and this chance to lead the Praise Team program has been an example to me of how the Lord opens doors for people to use their talents to serve Him. Over the years, I have found that the opportunity to help with the singing of praise to the Lord through the choir and now the Praise Team has enriched my life with a deeper love and passion than I could ever imagine. Every time I have had the chance to sing either with the choir and/or with solos and duets, I find a feeling of peace and comfort that is hard to describe.

I am so thankful to be able to serve God and my church in music mission and as the Council President.

Maureen Waldvogel-Gaudynski and Abbey Harkins, Choir Directors

maureen abbey

Alex Popoutsis, Web and Multimedia Coordinator

I am so blessed to have the opportunity to serve Calvary Memorial as Web and Multimedia Coordinator. I am extremely excited about this opportunity to use my God-given abilities to glorify Him and advance the ministries of this church.

alex In May, I earned my Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems from Bradley University. For as long as I can remember, technology has intrigued me, and I strongly believe that there are tremendous opportunities for technology to intersect with the Christian Church.

In 2010, I completed a complete redesign of the Calvary Memorial website, increasing access to information and helping to make Calvary’s online presence a greater tool for outreach. I am continuing to maintain the site so that it is up-to-date, and new features such as sermon video and other multimedia are coming soon. Furthermore, I have had the opportunity to help research and purchase a new video-projection system, which provides new avenues for the congregation to connect with God in worship and in learning.

I am very excited to see what the future holds at Calvary Memorial as we look for new ways to seek God and reach others.

though I was born and raised in Racine, I have lived all of my adult life in Milwaukee. My husband and I have four adult daughters.

As a young child, I was drawn to church and some of my happiest Sundays were the ones when my father and mother went to separate services because I could accompany both of them and attend two services. In college, my major was in the medical field, but I volunteered in the senior high religion program at a church near the university. I had an easy and joyful rapport with the teenagers. The priest and the youth director encouraged me to rethink my career choice. With their guidance, I changed my undergraduate major to religious studies and secondary education. I taught at Divine Savior-Holy Angels from 1981-1984, I was a certified secondary school teacher in the state of Wisconsin until 2003.

In 1986, I began teaching undergraduate scripture classes at Cardinal Stritch University. On a rotating basis, I taught the following undergraduate classes: Old Testament, New Testament, Faith Development, the Prophets, the Letters of Paul, and the Synoptic Tradition. On the graduate level, I taught Women in Scripture, the Gospel of John and the Gospel of Matthew. In addition, I was the advisor to the religious studies students.

In 1987, I received a Master’s Degree in Theological Studies from St. Francis Seminary and in 2000, I received a Doctor of Ministry degree from St. Mary’s Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois. My course of studies at both seminaries was in biblical studies, counseling, psychology, preaching, hospice ministry, Chaplin ministry, church history, Christian spirituality, ecumenism, world religions and youth ministry.

In 2004, I decided to leave the Roman Catholic Church and pursue ordained ministry, God chose for me the denomination of the United Church of Christ. During my last semester of teaching, I had a student from Faith United Church of Christ in Slinger. His pastor became disabled and the congregation was searching for an interim. He asked if I would lead the confirmation program and some of the worship services. After six weeks of helping, the congregation unanimously voted for me to take the position. The job and the members were a blessing. During the services, I experienced a sense of peaceful resolve, I felt as if it was God’s amen on my ministry.

After the interim position ended, I searched for a church closer to my home. In May of 2007, I was called to be pastor at Calvary Memorial United Church of Christ. I was ordained at Calvary Memorial on September 16, 2007.

278 people filled our beautiful church for the ordination service; about half of the people were visitors. Rev. Russ Knoth, head of the Association Ministry team, along with 25 of my clergy colleagues officiated the celebration. My family came from as far away as Florida, Arizona, and Virginia to celebrate the end of a very long journey and the beginning of a new one. My friends, one of them from my first grade class, all came together to joyfully participate. It was a wonderful, holy occasion filled with the gifts of the Spirit.

Visitors and guests spoke warmly about the incredible hospitality of the congregation. People were brought to tears by the songs of our choir and our soloists, both of whom worked tirelessly to bring to life songs and that were sacred to me. The insightful and inspirational messages of the visiting pastors and the priests made us cry and laugh as they shared their messages of the God who dreams for each one of us. The “laying on of hands” was overwhelming powerful. I believe that on that Sunday, we, along with our visitors were given a glimpse of God’s Church at its very, very best. All who came to the service left knowing without a doubt that God’s Spirit is present here at Calvary Memorial.

Together, we hope to be the light of Jesus Christ on this Northwest side of Milwaukee. Join us on the mission as we follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.