Our Church Staff

Rev. Derek Hickman, Senior Pastor

dhickman@tcia.cc
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Derek is a native Ohioan, growing up in Newcomerstown.  He received his undergraduate degree from Kent State University in 2009 and his graduate degree in Theology from Ashland Theological Seminary in 2013. He was ordained in 2018 as an Elder in the East Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church.D

Derek’s pastoral duties began as a Youth and Associate Minister in Newcomerstown, Ohio. He then served as a Senior Pastor in Ashland, Ohio and most recently as the Senior Pastor at the First United Methodist Church in Ravenna, Ohio, before being installed as Senior Pastor here at The Church in Aurora on December 1, 2019.

Along with leading worship services, Derek 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.  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.” 

Derek and his wife Jenna, who is a teacher at Miller Elementary School in Aurora, have two children, a son Wesley, and a daughter, Hallie. 


Kevin_0111_1Rev. Kevin M. Horak, Associate Pastor

khorak@tcia.cc
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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 a call to Kevin 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 Outreach and Education

lsutter@tcia.cc
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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

lvene@tcia.cc
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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 The Church in Aurora 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 church’s youth grow, and  how they can help him grow more in his faith in return.

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


Kay Oxford, Church Secretary

koxford@tcia.cc 
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Kay was born and raised in East Tennessee, where she resided until she met her husband Richard.

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.

Kay served as a Confirmation Class teacher from 2010-2018 and has volunteered for Youth Workcamp, multiple Nutcracker Sweets (a past church fundraiser), Vacation Bible Schools and served on the Nominating, Fellowship and Receptions committees.  She joined The Church in Aurora staff in 2017 and holds a Business Management degree from Pellissippi State Technical College in East Tennessee.

She and her husband Richard have 2 children. 

Given any opportunity, Kay enjoys exploring God’s miraculous and precious world through freelance photography and reflective walks among trees, along a shore, on a mountain trail, and even in her own backyard.


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, an organization devoted to growing the fellowship and faith of women within the church.

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.


Jodie Fritinger, Director of Communications

jfritinger@tcia.cc
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Jodie is a native of the Buckeye state and has lived here her whole life, with the exception of 5 years in Chicago, when she and her husband Jeff were first married.

She holds a Bachelors degree in Public Relations from Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, and had a productive career in that field before staying home to raise her two children.

Jodie couldn’t be happier to continue her work, God’s work, in a place she holds most dear, The Church in Aurora. Jodie has been a member of The Church in Aurora since 2006, serving in a variety of roles, such as VBS Director and Membership Committee Chair.  Great things happen here – from connections with fellow seekers and Christ followers to a closer walk with Christ, himself.

Jodie resides in Aurora with her husband, Jeff, and their two sons, Ryan and Sean.  Jodie’s extra-curricular activities include spending time with friends, reading, and listening to music of many genres.