Our Church Staff

Rev. Derek Hickman, Senior Pastor

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Rev. Hickman was installed as the Senior Pastor at The Church in Aurora on December 1, 2019. He received his undergraduate degree from Kent State University in 2009 and his graduate degree in Theology from Ashland Theological Seminary in 2013.  His pastoral duties began as a Youth and Associate Minister in Newcomerstown, Ohio. He also served as a Senior Pastor in Ashland, Ohio and most recently as the Senior Pastor at the First United Methodist Church in Ravenna, Ohio. Rev. Hickman was ordained in 2018 as an Elder in the East Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Rev. Hickman is married to Jenna who is a teacher at Miller Elementary School in Aurora.  They have two young children, a son Wesley, and a daughter Hallie. The family has also recently moved to the Aurora community.

Along with leading worship services, Rev. Hickman brings knowledge and experience in the areas of youth education as well as discipleship and outreach.  He has a desire to help others grow deeply in their love for God and one another and believes he is a passionate advocate for local church ministry. 

 “My family and I are thrilled to be serving God and The Church in Aurora. The church’s long history of practicing grace is a witness to God’s character and God’s desire for the local church,” Rev. Hickman said. “I am delighted to be an active part of the Aurora community and exploring ways that The Church in Aurora can continue its legacy of bearing witness to the love of God.” 

The church is thrilled to welcome Derek and his family to the community.

Kevin_0111_1Rev. Kevin M. Horak, Associate Pastor

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Kevin is a native of northeast Ohio where he attended the University of Akron and earned a degree in Elementary Education. After teaching for several years, he entered Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts where he received a Master of Religious Education degree in 1981. That summer, Kevin was called to The Church in Aurora, to serve as the Director of Christian Education—a non-ordained position responsible for church programming outside of the Sunday morning worship services for all ages.

As this role continued to expand, he enrolled part-time at Ashland Theological Seminary where he completed his Master of Divinity degree in the spring of 1988. Ordained by the Presbyterian Church, USA in 1989, The Church in Aurora extended to Kevin a call to serve as the Associate Pastor. He continues to serve in this capacity with an emphasis on pastoral care, education and details. His personal job description is to, “Love God, love people and bring the two together.”

Kevin and his wife Kathleen are proud parents and grandparents. When his free time affords, Kevin “plays” in the local Aurora Community Theater, located across the street from the church.

Liz_0182_1Liz Sutter, Director of Christian Education and Youth Ministries

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Liz was born and raised in Aurora, having attended The Church in Aurora since childhood. She is overjoyed to be serving our church, which has served her well for many years. She received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology from Ohio University in 1995.

After having taught at The Church in Aurora for many years, Liz began working in the Christian Education department in 2013, becoming the Director of Christian Education and Youth in 2014. To work with the people of this church is such a blessing for Liz…a lifelong passion.  Her personal goal is to spread the word that God’s love is huge and available to everyone.

Liz currently lives in Aurora with her husband, Josh, and three children – Ben, Sam, and Chloe. She keeps herself busy with her family and adores every minute of it. When she is able, Liz enjoys reading, traveling, and skiing.

Lance Vene, Youth Director

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Lance was born in Cleveland, Ohio where he spent most of his life until attending college. He comes to us from his previous church in Willoughby, Ohio where he spent 5 years working and rebuilding their youth ministry program. He is excited to be joining us here in Aurora as this church holds a special place in his heart.  The Church in Aurora has been central to his foundation in growing his relationship with Christ through the Chrysalis ministry.

Lance works full time in the Marketing world where he helps manage day to day operations for his company out of Brooklyn Heights, OH. He has come to TCIA to help grow and lead the Youth Ministry program. Lance lives his life by a quote: “My life is devoted to saving your life”.  He can’t wait to see how he can help the youth of Aurora grow, and also how they can help him grow more in his faith.

In his free time, Lance likes to spend time with his nieces and nephews, catch a movie, or hit up the golf course.

Rebekah Madden-Wright, Assistant to Christian Education and Youth


Born and raised in Willoughby, Ohio, Rebekah is excited to start her new adventure here at The Church in Aurora. Rebekah is a graduate of Cleveland State University where she received her Bachelor of Science in Middle Childhood Education in 2015. She has been involved with youth ministries for over 8 years and has found her passion for helping children and youth not only grow physically and mentally, but spiritually as well.

Rebekah currently works full time as a middle and high school science teacher in Lorain, OH. She is excited to not only assist with the child and youth ministries here at TCIA, but also to live out her passion of building children and youth up in the church, mentoring them to reach their full potential.

In her free time, Rebekah enjoys spending time with her husband Brandon and her family, singing and playing her guitar, and working out.

Kay Oxford, Church Secretary

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Kay joined The Church in Aurora staff in 2017.  She is married to Richard, and together they have 2 children. She received her Business Management degree from Pellissippi State Technical College in East Tennessee where she was born and lived until she and Richard married and ultimately made their home in Northeast Ohio. They became members of The Church in Aurora in 1999 and to this day feel so very grateful for the countless blessings this church has provided them. She served as a Confirmation Class teacher from 2010-2018 and has volunteered for Youth Workcamp, multiple Nutcracker Sweets, Vacation Bible Schools and served on Nominating, Fellowship and Receptions committees.

Sally_0135_1Sally McGill, Minister of Music

Sally is a life-long Ohio resident.  She graduated from the Baldwin – Wallace University Conservatory of Music where she obtained a Bachelor of Music Education.

She became a public school music educator and worked in that capacity for a number of years.  Sally moved to Aurora in 1959 and joined The Church in Aurora the following year.  It was in 1964 that she assumed the duties of Minister of Music and this began her long tenure in that position.

Under her guidance and direction, the music program has prospered and grown to include six choirs – four choral and two hand-bell.  These choirs offer a musical opportunity for all age groups within the church, who wish to participate.  Sally works with a staff of four who assist with the children’s choirs.

In addition, she is a welcome volunteer on a number of church committees and serves as past-president of the Women’s Guild.

Although she retired from directing at The Aurora Community Theater, this local Aurora institution remains near and dear to her heart.

Sally and her husband, Lynn have six children, thirteen grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Ann_0148_1Anne Ramsay, Organist

Anne has served as organist and pianist at The Church in Aurora since August 1999.  Her organ instruction started in the 8th grade when a need arose for an organist at St. James Episcopal Church in Titusville, PA, where she was a member.  She played at St. James in high school and again for two years after college, with the added responsibility of choir director.  For her four years in college, and again while raising a family, Anne continued to share her talent and love of music as a substitute organist for churches near where she and her family lived.

She attended Grove City College where she received her degree in Elementary Education.  Though not a music major, Anne was the accompanist and a member of the Touring Choir while in college.  Anne did her Master’s work at Edinboro State University in Edinboro, PA, in Special Education.  Currently Anne is a music and substitute teacher at Hope Christian Nursery School in Aurora.

Anne has two grown children, Sara, who is married with one child living in Cortland, Ohio and Kyle, who works for Price-Waterhouse in NYC.  She lives in Aurora with her husband, Kent, a video-conferencing consultant.