Pastors & Staff

REV. Sarah Marie Bigwood

Head of Staff, Pastor

Pastor Bigwood is Head of Staff at First Presbyterian Church in Fargo. For the past 25 years, she has worked with various churches to build up their youth, young adult and family ministries. She's served as an associate pastor in Golden Valley, MN and a solo pastor in Southampton, New York.

As the leader of an historic downtown church in Fargo, Pastor Bigwood enjoys preaching, teaching, and working with our well-trained and talented staff to provide inspiring ministry. She also provides strategic leadership as her congregation thinks creatively about the future of God's ministry in the expanding Fargo-Moorhead area.

Pastor Bigwood lives in West Fargo with her husband, Tom. They have two children, Robby and Katie and two corgis, Otto and Bishop. The Bigwood family has extended family in Minnesota, North Dakota, and Montana.

REV. MARY JO E. (DAHLBERG) HOLTEY

Associate Pastor

Mary has been the Associate Pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Fargo, North Dakota since 1992.  She grew up in Southwestern Minnesota and graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College with a B.A. degree in biology.  She was a research technician at the Mayo Clinic before starting seminary at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, and graduating from Princeton Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity degree in 1989.  While at Princeton Mary received the Robert P. Goodlin Award for pastoral care and clinical ministry.  She went on to complete two residencies of Clinical Pastoral Education at the University of Minnesota Hospital and at Abbott Northwestern/Minneapolis Children’s Hospitals before beginning her call to the Fargo Church.

Her primary responsibilities include pastoral care to and nurture of the congregation, and outreach beyond the walls of the church building –  missions within the community and region, as well as with the Presbyterian Church of East Africa in Kenya.
Mary and her husband of 28 years, Tom, have two young adult children, David and Sarah.  She’s a “dyed in the wool” Minnesota Vikings fan and has never met a Sudoku or Cryptoquip she didn’t like!

Rusty Bender

Director of Church Life

Rusty Bender is the Director of Church Life at First Presbyterian Church in Fargo. Originally from Cooperstown, ND, he recently moved from Bismarck to take on this new and exciting role. He served as a Ruling Elder on the Session at FPC Bismarck and continues to be active in their Lay Pastor Committee. In the past two years, he has presided over forty-nine services within nine different faith communities across the state.

Rusty joins the staff with a varied background in healthcare, theatre, and restaurant/office management. He holds a degree from NDSU and plans to pursue a Master of Divinity through United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities this Fall. He loves living downtown, just a short walk from the church, with his two cats, Percy & Piper and is overjoyed to be joining this faith community in their efforts to preach, teach, heal, and serve the world around them.

jan lundgren

Business Manager

Jan Lundgren joined First Pres in 2014 as the Business Manager where she processes contributions, does the financial reporting and payroll.  Previously, she spent 8 years as the part-time bookkeeper for Messiah Lutheran Church, which is also her church home.  Before moving to Fargo, she was a staff accountant/payroll for a manufacturing firm in Minneapolis for over 10 years.  She enjoys meeting congregants, loves her coworkers and appreciates the flexibility her position offers to attend her children’s activities.

Jan has been married for 21 years to husband, Michael. They live in North Fargo with their three children, Sophie, Natalie, and Daniel.  An avid reader, you’ll usually find her with a book in hand when she’s not on a walk, attending one of her children’s events or folding countless loads of laundry.

penny andrist

Coordinator of Children's Ministries

Education: MA in Learning Disabilities
BA in Psychology/Secondary Education
Certification in Elementary Education
Minor in Coaching
 
Penny Andrist has been on the staff of FPC for 14 years as the Coordinator of Children’s Ministry. She reviews and selects curriculum for all levels of elementary Christian Education, oversees the nursery, recruits and trains teaching volunteers, plans special events and the annual Children’s Worship Service, and directs VBS.

Penny Andrist began her teaching career in 1984, first working in public schools in Williston, ND and then as a self-employed consultant and educator for businesses, associations and the UND Continuing Education Staff. She started her own Children’s Music company, Penny & Pals, in 1990 and continues to write, record and perform in a wide variety of family-friendly venues. She conducts music and movement workshops with youth every summer, has recorded seven award-winning albums and numerous commissioned works, including curriculum, theme songs and jingles.

In her free time, Penny loves almost any outdoor activity – hiking, biking, running and gardening – and anything musical, especially her ukulele! She is married, has one old cat and lots of other family that she hangs out with, usually at the kids’ table.

sally harmon

Organist

Sally Gunkelman Harmon was born and raised in Fargo. Following 12 years of private piano lessons before college, she graduated from NDSU in 1976 with a BS in Music Education/emphasis on Piano Performance. Sally became a church musician, accompanying children’s choirs and playing for church services while a young teenager, and continued on to become Assistant Organist and then Organist and Director of Music at First United Methodist Church in Fargo. She joined the staff of First Presbyterian in 2010. Sally and her husband, David, have three grown sons, three daughters-in-law, and three grandchildren.

Pamela Burns

Coordinator of Music Ministries

Pamela Burns is a long-time member of First Presbyterian, joining the staff as Coordinator of Music Ministries in 2023. Pam grew up in North Dakota, and she holds undergraduate degrees in Music Education and Elementary Education from Minot State University, as well as a Masters of Music degree in Choral Conducting from NDSU. Pam is a mostly-retired free-lance music educator who specializes in developmentally-appropriate vocal coaching for young singers. As a volunteer, Pam directs the choir for children in grades 3-6 and sings with the Sanctuary Choir here at First Pres. She is also moderator of the EduCon Committee, participant in the Pilgrimage program, and an elected member of the Nominating Committee.

Pam has four grown children and seven grandchildren, and is delighted that many of them live in the FM area! Pam sings with the Fargo-Moorhead Choral Artists, and recently completed a term as President of its Board of Directors. Pam is a fine-arts advocate and patron who also enjoys books, gardens, and travel. But her very favorite things are music and children.

Bryan poyzer 

Adult Choir Director

Bryan Poyzer is the Adult Choir Director at First Presbyterian Church of Fargo. He grew up in Amenia, North Dakota, and attended Westminster Presbyterian Church in Casselton.

Bryan will be starting his 33rd year in music education. He is currently the Program Coordinator of the Performing Arts/Communications Dept. at North Dakota State College of Science. His duties include teaching music theory, aural skills, applied lessons, and music appreciation. He also directs the NDSCS Concert Choir and Wildcat Singers.

Before coming to First Presbyterian, Bryan was the choral director at United Lutheran Church in Elbow Lake MN where he and Jessica raised their four children. He holds a bachelor’s degree in vocal/instrumental music education from Valley City State University, a master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas, and a master’s degree in music education from North Dakota State University. Bryan and Jessica live in Dilworth MN.

Rick Fiebiger

Facility Manager

Rick Fiebiger is the Facilities Manager at First Presbyterian Church. He has been with First Presbyterian for 20 years.
Rick works closely with the Building and Grounds Committee to ensure the church and grounds are well maintained. The historical aspects of the church are very interesting to him.
He is an avid reader and enjoys gardening on his homestead.

Drew Brovold

Janitor

Drew was born in Fargo, ND, where he attended West Fargo High School and graduated in 2009.
His hobbies include going to concerts and Frisbee golfing. His favorite bands are Modest Mouse and Pink Floyd.
Drew previously worked in fast food management. He is excited to learn as much as he can about the facilities and upkeep of the church.

Casey LeMier

Communications & Administrative Assistant

Casey LeMier (they/them) was born in Fargo, North Dakota. They studied at the University of Jamestown for a degree in Computer Science with a minor in Information Technology. They enjoy playing with their cat, reading, and all kinds of games (board games, puzzles, video games, etc).
They started at First Presbyterian in 2022. They are pleased with the job they have been doing and look forward to continuing their work here.