John Vertigan is the conference minister in the Florida Conference and a member of First United Church of Christ in Orlando. He began serving in this role on Jan. 1, 2015.
John has served as a member of the United Church of Christ Board and currently serves nationally on the Common Global Ministries Board of the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church Disciples of Christ. This helps John join together his passion for world-wide ministry partnerships with the mission of the Florida Conference: to engage, empower, and equip local congregations to be a vital gospel witness in the communities where they live and serve. It’s to those ends that John devotes his ministry.
Rev. Leslie Denney Etheredge is an associate conference minister for the Florida Conference.
She began her ministry with us in August of 2015. She is mom to three adult children and seven precious grandchildren, all of whom live in Alabama. She is an avid sports fan and a ridiculously dedicated Auburn fan.
Leslie is an Alabama native, a graduate of Auburn University (education), UAB (Masters in Counseling) and Memphis Theological Seminary (Master of Divinity). Her 20 years as an educator and counselor provide a rich history from which to draw in forming significant relationships and a concern for wholeness and wellbeing for persons and institutions alike. She describes herself as a “people person” and is passionate about helping churches, meaningful worship, nurturing clergy and open and affirming ministry to all.
Raised in the United Methodist Church, Leslie discovered the UCC while in seminary, knew that she had found a new denominational home and never looked back. Ordained in the Missouri Mid-South Conference, she spent two years as a hospital chaplain and six years in parish ministry with the Southeast Conference before coming to Florida.
Leslie has embraced ministry in the Florida Conference. She notes, “The staff, BOD and numerous dedicated servants work very hard for the good of our local churches and our pastors, to provide resources, perspective, guidance and support in a wide variety of ways. There’s nowhere I’d rather do ministry than in this Conference with these amazing people.”
Rev. LaTrell Harrison is an associate conference minister for the Florida Conference. She embraced her call into ministry on Nov. 22, 1992.
Prior to joining the Conference, LaTrell was the interim pastor at Fort Myers Congregational UCC. In addition, she served as an associate pastor at Windermere Union Church and served on the Committee on Ministry for the Western region. She participated in Sacred Conversations to End Racism Facilitator Training and is currently a member of the Justice and Advocacy Network.
LaTrell received a Bachelor of Arts (English) degree from Johnson C. Smith University, a Master of Divinity from Payne Theological Seminary, and a Master of Theology from Candler School of Theology (Emory University).
LaTrell describes herself as a faith facilitator and ecumenist. In addition to serving in the United Church of Christ, she has served in multiple denominations. She believes the blueprint for beloved community starts with ecumenical partnerships. "Collaboration models are the future of the church's sustainability and vitality. Organizing was the strength of the Acts Church."
LaTrell spends her free time creating monologues, specifically on unnamed and “notorious” women from biblical narratives. Her happy places are quaint bookstores and the beach.
Neal Watkins is the minister for congregational life for the Florida Conference of the United Church or Christ. He and his wife, Pam, live in Vero Beach, Fla., with their children, Casey (9) and Caleb (6). Neal grew up as an active member of Coral Gables Congregational UCC in Miami and would later move to the Tampa Bay area, where he attended the University of South Florida and majored in religious studies while working as a member of Chapel on the Hill UCC and as the Faith Events Coordinator for the Florida Conference.
Before returning to the Conference in the Spring of 2018, Neal worked for the Community Church of Vero Beach as youth minister, and later, the ministry associate for youth and families, where he helped design and lead “C2”, an attempt at emerging and engaging worship styles that embrace dynamic energy, informal structure and progressive theology. While working at CCOVB, Neal attended Chicago Theological Seminary, where he successfully defended his thesis, "Millennial Ecclesiology: Merging and Reconciling the Church's Latest Great Divide.”
Neal believes that transformation in individuals and the world takes place through the local churches, and he embraces the opportunity to be a supportive partner in ministries that follow the discernment of local church leadership and the vision of its pastor(s).Often times this has occurred through workshops and retreats that center upon strategic discernment, capacity building, millennial cause engagement, small group bible studies, or local church fellowship retreats. However, these processes often begin with the question, “I wonder what we are capable of doing together?”
Additionally, for the Florida Conference, Neal serves as liaison to the Youth Ministry Task Force, the EcoJustice Ministry Team, the Anti-Racism Ministry Team, the WISE Ministry Team, and the Justice Advocacy & Action Network. He is also participating in the Sacred Conversations to End Racism Facilitator Training under the direction of the Rev. Dr. Velda Love.
In his free time, Neal enjoys playing fetch with his dog (Tillich), doing logic puzzles, and eating French fries with his exercise buddies.
God is still speaking