Pastor and Teacher
The Rev. J. Gary Brinn
The Rev. J. Gary Brinn is a Virginia native from a family of veterans, firefighters, and police officers. After serving in the Army near the end of the Cold War, he spent years studying, traveling, and working odd jobs, before settling into a career in technology and design. He was serving as the Director of Learning for a multimedia firm in lower Manhattan on 9/11. Like so many others, he responded to those events by committing himself to a life of service.
Gary returned to school, completing his Bachelor of Arts at Hunter College with a double major in Studio Art and Literature. In 2008, he received a Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School. A committed lifelong learner, he completed several internships, served as the Tanenbaum Fellow for Inter-Religious Practice at Vassar College, and has recently completed a program in Human Rights and a second unit of Clinical Pastoral Education. He has served four parishes as Pastor and Teacher, including five years with Sayville Congregational United Church of Christ here in the New York Conference. He most recently served as the Transitional Minister for Hope United Church of Christ in Sturgeon Bay, a small Wisconsin city northeast of Green Bay.
Gary is a committed anti-racist and feminist, and as a gay man, has actively promoted LGBTQ+ equality. His ordination project was a Harvard-sponsored conference on LGBTQ+ Middle School students. Early in the pandemic, he organized a county-wide masking and Covid prevention group that quickly grew to 1500 members.
He is delighted to be back on the East Coast, closer to family and friends. He brings with him his eight-year old Golden Retriever, Oscar Romero, named after the Salvadoran saint. Gary enjoys cooking and gardening, pop culture and video games, history and theology. Most of all, he enjoys the amazing and mysterious beauty found in Creation.
Organist and Music Director
Charlotte Cook began her musical training on the piano at the age of five. In 1984 she received Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Organ Performance from Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois. She also holds a Master’s degree in Microbiology from the University of Iowa – her “first time around” in college. While in the Midwest she served as organist and music director at Baptist, Lutheran, and Presbyterian churches. Upon moving East, she has served churches in Sayre, Elmira, and Corning and most recently, has been appointed Director of Music at the Park Church in Elmira. Charlotte is currently overseeing the operation of the Hansen Family Foundation that sponsors a recital series in Sayre, Pennsylvania and offers grants to fund music-related expenses for students in Chemung County.
Jennifer Russell joins us as our new Office Manager. A Washington, DC native, she spent nearly 20 years as a full time mother of 3, and comes to us with a great deal of compassion, patience, and organization! In her off time, Jennifer enjoys spending time with her family, crocheting, reading, and cooking. She is thrilled to join the staff of The Park Church, and looks forward to serving The Park Church Community.
Digital Marketing Coordinator
Sexton - Bob Bartley
Rev. Dr. Robert F. Lester
Rev. Dr. Robert F. Lester served as Pastor and Teacher for 21 years at The Park Church from 1965-1985. He worked with the congregation to develop a strong program of worship and education especially adult and family education.
Throughout his ministry he was active in community affairs including being the President of Family Services, Hospice, the United Way, and Planned Parenthood. After leaving Park Church, Rev. Lester served several interim positions in Auburndale, MA, and Corning, NY.
He observed his 60th year of ordination in 2006. His wife of over 60 wonderful years, Aimee, lives in Elmira. Their family includes two sons, David and James and four grandchildren.
Rev. Lester passed away on October 2, 2018 and is remembered and missed by his loving family, The Park Church community, the wider community of Elmira and New York state, and many others on whom he had a profound impact.
In 2022 the first Bob Lester Park Church Scholarship, administered by the Community Foundation, was awarded to a graduating high school senior as established by Aimee Lester.