Pastors & Staff
Lead Pastor - Mark Sturgess
Rev. Mark F. Sturgess is the son of Presbyterian preacher, raised in the small church tradition of rural Missouri. Mark graduated from Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, where he received Bachelor degrees in Computer Studies (B.A.) and Pipe Organ Performance (B.M.). At Northwestern, Mark specialized in 19th and early 20th century French organ repertoire and period keyboard technique of the Baroque era. Mark has appeared in recital at the RLDS Auditorium, Independence Missouri, Rockefeller Chapel, University of Chicago, Christ Church Cathedral of St. Louis, and for the mid-Missouri chapter of the American Guild of Organists. Mark is a singer -- bass baritone -- and has been a devoted member of the Camerata Singers of Long Beach for over a decade. After graduating Northwestern in 1991, Mark was hired by a Chicago based consulting firm and was promptly transferred to Southern California. Mark’s first career was in database design and systems analysis for major manufacturing companies. In 2002, Mark was ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and in June 2014 was admitted as a full Elder in California-Pacific Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. Rev. Sturgess served as associate pastor of First United Methodist Church of Torrance, CA for six years, and as Sr. Pastor of Riviera United Methodist Church of Redondo Beach, CA since July 2008. Mark's gifts and passions for ministry include preaching, teaching and worship; coaching congregations to spiritual vitality and wholeness; advocacy for the full inclusion of all in the life of the church; post-modern biblical interpretation; and advocacy for full inclusion of LGBT Christians in the life of the church.
Pastor of Family Ministries - Melinda Teter Dodge
With a passion for Christian ministry with today’s young people and families, the Rev. Melinda Dodge has served the Los Altos United Methodist Church under appointment since July 2011. She has a heart for welcoming all of God’s people into relevant ministries that empower gifts and nurture spirituality. Previously, Melinda was the founding Executive Director for The Work of Angels Group, a 501(c)3 serving transitional-aged foster youth; the Community Youth Pastor for the First United Methodist Church of Canoga Park and the Director of Youth Ministries for both the Atascadero and Westwood United Methodist Churches. Additionally, Melinda has worked in international theatre and opera production on all sides: administrative, creative/productive and technical. She has experience onstage with the Los Angeles Opera, San Francisco Opera and Houston Grand Opera, among others, producing well over 350 performances of some 70+ operas. Melinda holds a Master of Divinity from the Claremont School of Theology and a Master of Arts in Theatre from the University of Michigan. She resides in Los Alamitos with her husband, the Rev. Johan Dodge, and two children. She is fond of a good cup of coffee, yoga, baking, and is always up for an adventure!
Church Administrator - Jennifer Garcia-Von Ranzow
Los Altos United Methodist Church Administrator, Jennifer Garcia-Von Ranzow, was born and raised in Long Beach. As Church Administrator, she oversees production of the weekly worship guide, the monthly calendar, seasonal publicity within the church family, room rentals, office volunteers, maintains personnel files/records for staff and volunteers, makes sure the correct information is available to our church family and the community, and ensures all runs as smoothly as possible on campus. While not managing the day to day at Los Altos UMC, she is with her husband, Paul and son, Spencer. Jennifer is very involved with her sons school PTA and scout troop and can be found shuttling Spencer around from place to place while organizing his school events, scouting, Lego Team and sporting events. When she is not running around for work or play, she is enjoying a cup of coffee and a good book.
director of Family Ministries - sabrina moreau
Sabrina has been a member at Los Altos UMC since 2001. In 2003 she and her husband, Don, were married by Rev. Jerry Larsen. Their daughter, Hannah, was baptized at Los Altos in 2009 as was Don in 2013. They currently live in Cypress along with their two cats, Abby and Celery, and their beloved Cockapoo, Daisy. Sabrina took on an active role in the church as a member of the preschool council while Hannah was in attendance at Los Altos United Methodist Preschool. Shortly after, she became part of the Everyone’s Inn team and took on the role of Welcome Team leader. Most recently she has shared the role of small group leader with her husband Don for the older high school students. Being a small group leader has been one of the most rewarding ministries God has called her to at Los Altos. Sabrina holds an AA in Liberal Arts from Long Beach City College. After 13 years in the transportation industry, Sabrina felt called to return to school. She has completed transfer courses and will be attending Cal State Long Beach with a major in Religious Studies, Comparative World Religions. In her down time Sabrina enjoys reading, baking, and spending time with family and friends. Sabrina looks forward to where the Spirit leads her in ministry at Los Altos UMC. Her goal is to honor and continue the work of her predecessor Liz Lindley and Pastor Melinda in creating a safe, welcoming and loving environment for all who come to Los Altos.
director of caring ministries - florence ferguson
Florence was raised in the small town of Paw Paw, Michigan. While in high school she became an active member of the local Methodist youth group. She participated in many activities and helped fund raise for the summer youth trip at the Redbird Mission in Kentucky. Florence graduated from Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio, with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. She has thirty years of experience with diverse populations such as: The Greystone Foundation (group homes for adult severely autistic men ages 35-60), The Beacon Hill Friends House (summer Manager for an Intentional Quaker Community), Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center (formerly known as the New Hampshire School for the Deaf), The Menninger Foundation (Psychiatric Hospital and School), Willoughby Group Home (for severely autistic teenagers), Kennedy Memorial Children’s Hospital (as a Inpatient Mileau Counselor for 2-9 year old emotionally and physically abused children ), and Department of Aging/ Senior Care (working with at-home seniors placing services in the home and later as a Supervisor for the Case Managers). At night she also pursued a Masters degree in Organizational Communication. During the weekends she square danced at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she met her husband, Douglas E. Ferguson. Now they live in Cypress, California and have two daughters . Schylar, 20, is junior at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas and Landry, 17, is a senior at Connections Academy High School. Over the years Florence has taught Sunday school, been the Director of Vacation Bible School and been a Girl Scout Leader for Daisies, Brownies, Junior, Cadets, and Senior Girl Scouts. In her free time she likes to read, do crafts, swim and knit/crochet. As Director of Caring Ministries she oversees the five small group caring ministries of our Los Altos UMC family. Florence visits our home bound and hospitalized members. She also delivers donated chancel flowers when they are available.
Director of Music - Laura Harrison
Dr. Laura Harrison hails from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada where she completed a Bachelor of Music at Capilano University and a Bachelor of Education degree at UBC (the University of British Columbia) to become a high school teacher. Laura finished her Master of Music at USC in 2002 and her Doctorate of Music in Jazz Studies in 2007. She has been pursuing a dual career in classical music as a mezzo-soprano and has made quite a reputation for herself in that field. She has been a member of the Pacific Chorale and John Alexander Singers since 2001. Laura is in demand as a vocalist, private voice instructor, and educator throughout the Los Angeles and Orange County areas. She is on faculty at Cypress College in the Music Department where she teaches choir, private voice, group voice, jazz improvisation, and music theory. Laura published her 300 page music theory book, "Enjoying Music Theory" with an accompanying website in January of 2015. It is being used as a course textbook in some of the classes at Cypress College and the kids are loving it.
Organist/Principal Pianist - Derek Gordon
Derek Gordon, Organist/Harpsichordist/Pianist, holds degrees from the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago and Oberlin College. He won several performance competitions including: the American Guild of Organists (Chicago), the Society of American Musicicians (Chicago), and the King’s Choirliers in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has accompanied services at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, and in the Chapel at St. Francis of Assisi. Other international performance venues include recitals on Holland’s F.C. Schnitger organ in Alkmaar, the renowned Müller organ at St. Bavo in Haarlem, the Willis organ in Winchester Cathedral, the Arp Schnitger organ at St. Jacobi in Hamburg, and the Hill organ at the Sydney Town Hall in Australia. Derek is curator/organist of the historic Wm. B.D. Simmons organ in Long Beach. Built in Boston in 1852, and sent by ship around Cape Horn to San Francisco, it was California’s first pipe-organ. In 1977, the instrument was renovated and moved to Los Altos United Methodist Church. The Simmons instrument is featured on Derek’s CD with Arkay Records, Sunday Masterworks, available at Amazon. The program features the organ in a variety of liturgical settings, including anthems with the church’s Sanctuary Choir, and an assortment of literature spanning 400 years. Derek is also a vocal/choral accompanist at Cerritos College, and at Rio Hondo College in Whittier.
Director of Handbells – Debbie Shaw
As Director of Handbell Ensembles, Debbie oversees four handbell groups at LAUMC. These groups include the Carillon Ringers, an adult & youth handbell choir, Exultation! an advanced level small ensemble, Jubilation! a beginning children’s handbell choir, and new this year Agape Bells, a small group of ringers who bring handbell music to the homebound of the church. Debbie has been involved in handbells since 1977, has been a member of several community based handbell groups including; Pacific Bells, South Coast Handbell Ensemble, and worked to found L.A. Bronze Handbell Ensemble. These experiences have provided the opportunity to ring bells with the William Hall Master Chorale, Pacific Chorale, the Pasadena Symphony, at Knott’s Berry Farm, and at the San Diego Zoo. She had the privilege of ringing under the baton of Maestro David Davidson, Dr. William Payn, Fred Gramann, and Tim Waugh. Debbie served on the Board of Directors of Area 12 in the Handbell Musicians of America as the LA Metro Regional Coordinator, and Events Director where she coordinated the educational conferences and training workshops in California, Nevada, Hawaii, and Guam. Debbie has earned two associates degrees from Long Beach City College, and is currently working on completing her B.S. in Environmental Science from the University of Phoenix. She owns a small handcrafting business Three Hounds Crafts. Debbie is married to John, and they have an adult daughter, Shannon who also rings bells. As time permits Debbie enjoys her three dogs, a good book, sewing, crochet, and most things Disney.
worship band leader - emilio tello
Emilio was born and raised in Southern California. His faith journey has included 11 years at a Lutheran school, 4 years at a Catholic school, international Nondenominational Christian missionary work, and involvement with the United Methodist church for the past 5 years. He completed his Bachelor of Arts in Music from CSULB with a primary emphasis on voice and a secondary emphasis on cultural anthropology. Emilio has been playing in and leading bands for the past 12 years as a guitarist and vocalist in styles ranging from jazz to classical, and pop to blues. Outside of Los Altos UMC, his work includes recording, performing, and teaching locally. When not working, he most enjoys outdoor activities like camping and hiking.
preschool director - wendy allen
Wendy has served as the preschool director at Los Altos UMC since 2008. She has 36 ECE units, a Certificate in ECE and nine Adult Administration units. She spent six years teaching ages 1-4, two years as a private nanny, one year as a Kindergarten teacher, and one and a half years as an Assistant Director. Wendy has an amazing mom and dad; and three brothers that she enjoys spending time with! She was born and raised in this great city of Long Beach. She enjoys watching movies, traveling the world, creating new ideas, organizing things and taking pictures!