General News

Celebrating Stephanie

The Fifth Avenue team says goodbye to Stephanie Kelley as she makes a permanent move to Sweden to join her husband, Kalle.

“I think that you’re going to really like Stephanie.” When I first started full-time at the church, I kept hearing about this person from Wisconsin (Minnesota? Nebraska? I can never remember…) and how I would get along well with her. After all, we were both new-hires, around the same age, and transplants to New York City and the Presbyterian world.

I don’t think I was fully convinced until one day Stephanie called me on my office line, asking if I would please come upstairs to help her with something. Two flights of stairs later, a stressed-looking Stephanie beckoned me into her office. “I made a mistake,” she said very seriously. Thinking that her friend was calling her back, she had mistakenly answered “hey buddy” to the call of none other than the Rev. Dr. Scott Black Johnston, her boss and, as you all know, the senior pastor of this esteemed church. While I’m not sure if the pastor noticed or remembered, I’d be willing to bet it was a first!

Stephanie is someone you can count on: for hard work, good counsel, and even fun. Somehow, a project with Stephanie is not only of the highest quality (and I think anyone on staff or in our church community would agree), it’s an adventure. She is one of those gifted individuals who brings equal parts professionalism and joy to her work. We are surely better off because of her, and I know I speak for all of us when I say we will miss her and wish her only the best!”

—Morgan Valencia King, Director of Engagement

“Stephanie has brought a keen mind, an incredible work ethic, a pastoral heart and straight-up joy to the office of the Senior Pastor every day of her time here. I will sorely miss her presence. I wish her and her husband, Kalle, every good blessing as they begin a new life together in Huskvarna, Sweden.”

—Rev. Dr. Scott Black Johnston


“Both Stephanie and I are transplants from the Upper Midwest. That was one of our early topics when I’d pass her office door on my art business visits. The topic list grew with rare speed. So did an utterly natural and expansive friendship. During the Covid shutdown we moved easily into regular Zoom calls. We’ve continued that tradition, and the topic list keeps on adding items. Now we’ve got’Sweden 101’ to relish, as I learn her new country through her. Vicarious relocation! We will laugh together, as always. I always knew this nascent bond was a surprise gift from God. I just didn’t know how beautiful it would become.”

—Laura Fissinger, Fifth Avenue Church Member

“Stephanie has been a wonderful colleague and I will surely miss her. Her kind and professional manner made planning big events such as The Gotto Lecture so much fun, and her humor and outgoing personality made visits to the 6th floor a must.”

—Jaime Staehle, Director of Christian Education

“Stephanie is not only the life of the party, but she deeply cares. She cares about the environment and about people. Right before moving to NY, I knew I wanted to live in Astoria, and she got up bright and early on a Saturday morning to help us apartment hunt. She is a ball of joy and energy that we will truly miss on staff.”

—The Rev. Werner Ramirez