About the AVC

Connecting a
Spiritually Diverse Community
to God and to the World

Welcome to Annisquam Village Church

I’m delighted to serve as the pastor of AVC and invite you to experience the warm and accepting community that makes its home in our charming, historic building.

How do we make good on our pledge to connect people to God, one another, and the world? Here is what we aspire to:

Gathering for Worship that is Biblical, Relevant, and Joyful
  • Our music is upbeat spanning many genres.
  • We always find room for a child who wants to play the chimes.
  • We sing heartily, laugh often, and pray with conviction.
Providing a Welcoming Atmosphere for Spiritual Seekers
  • Our congregation is a mix of long-time church members and people who identify as spiritual-but-not-religious.
  • People come from many denominations and none at all.
  • The deeply committed sit next to folks who aren’t sure they believe any of it.
  • We are held together by our respect for each other and our curiosity about multiple faith traditions.
  • We have a special relationship with a Hindu community.
Honoring Creation
  • We regard care for the earth as a spiritual discipline.
Serving God by Serving Others
  • This is the core of our faith expression.
  • We are called to love our neighbor and we take that call seriously.
  • Caring is perhaps the most effective way of connecting.

Whether you are young or old, single or coupled, gay or straight, rich or poor, conservative or liberal, you can find a home at Annisquam Village Church.

~ Rev. Sue Koehler-Arsenault, Pastor

Our History and Background

  • Annisquam Village Church is not just a community of faith, but also a community landmark – an iconic beacon of light at the head of Lobster Cove and a vital part of the Village of Annisquam.
  • Incorporated as the Third Parish of Gloucester on June 11, 1728, we are older than these United States. We have occupied our spot as the entrance marker for the Village and as its “spiritual lighthouse” for nearly 300 years!
  • Over those years, we have continuously served the Annisquam community in times of joy and grief. Our records comprise the spiritual biography of Annisquam.
  • Our current building, constructed in 1830, is one of the oldest non-residential structures in the Village.
  • Modern-day Hindu Pilgrims visit AVC annually to pay homage and walk in the steps of Swami Vivekananda, the first Hindu monk in America, who spoke from the Church’s pulpit in 1893. Learn more about our special relationship with the Hindu community.

We Are a Community Asset

  • We are a community gathering place for weddings, baptisms and memorial services. Wonderful concerts performed in our sanctuary are enhanced by its superb acoustics.
  • We host other events that are open to the public, such as the Arts & Crafts Show, and our annual partnership in the Sea Fair, a historic and popular Village-wide event, open to all, which began on the church lawn.
  • We support those in need in our larger Cape Ann community and beyond through the funds and volunteers we provide, year after year, to Action, Inc., Family Promise North Shore Boston, Pathways for Children, The Open Door, Wellspring, Haiti Projects, and Heifer International.
  • We are a community asset…not only as the gateway to our Village, but also as a symbol of hope, support and caring for our neighbors when they experience sadness, loneliness and stress.

About Our Faith

  • No longer defined geographically as a “Parish,” our faith community includes people from all over Cape Ann and beyond.
  • AVC is an interdenominational community that has remained independent and is unaffiliated with any particular denomination. Our worship and faith is ecumenical in nature, and shaped by our Protestant heritage.
  • We are part of the “Community Church Movement” through our affiliation with the International Council of Community Churches (ICCC), an interracial, international fellowship composed of congregations, ministry centers and church bodies with a global vision expressed through local ministries. The Community Church Movement “calls Christians to unity without demands for uniformity, to dialogue without dictation, and to diversity without division.

Pastor & Staff

Rev. Sue Koehler-Arsenault, Pastor

photo of Rev. Sue Koehler-Arsenault

Rev. Sue Koehler-Arsenault is celebrating 25 years of varied ministry experiences. A native of Schenectady, New York, she is a 1985 graduate of the University of Vermont with a B.A. in Religion and Minor in Psychology. While at UVM she held numerous student leadership positions and was named to T.O.W.E.R.R., an honor society recognizing twelve women for their academic and leadership excellence.

Following graduation, Sue joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Seattle, WA. She served as Volunteer and Food Coordinator at the St. Martin de Porres Shelter, a shelter for 200 homeless men over the age of 50. It was here at St. Martin’s that Rev. Sue was first introduced to the ministry of presence, contemplative prayer and the importance of community, which have anchored her vocation ever since.

In 1987, Sue was recruited by Seattle University to become Volunteer Center Coordinator, where she launched an innovative approach to service-learning. In 1989, she was honored to receive a national award for the best new service-learning program in the nation and was named Staff Member of the Year.

Sue earned her Master of Divinity degree with distinction from the Weston Jesuit School of Theology (Boston College) in 1994. She served as a Roman Catholic Campus Minister at Wellesley College (1994-2000) and Siena College (2000-2002). At Wellesley College, Sue was part of a pioneering interfaith religious and spiritual life program, working with Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Protestant, Unitarian, Muslim, and LGBT colleagues and students. At Wellesley, Rev. Sue began collaborating to create interfaith campus-wide rituals and learning opportunities. She also developed a love of preaching. Her presence in the pulpit at Catholic Mass often came as a surprise to the students who had never heard a woman preach!

For eleven years, beginning in 2002, Rev. Sue served people from various religious and cultural backgrounds as Coordinator of Volunteers and Chaplain with Community Hospice of Schenectady, NY. In her capacity as a Hospice chaplain, Rev. Sue developed her pastoral counseling skills and became a frequent speaker in the community on end-of-life issues. Through Hospice, she learned to meet people wherever they are on the spiritual journey. She has conducted over 300 personalized funerals and memorial services.  Since moving to Cape Ann in 2014, she is regularly called on by Greely and Campbell funeral homes.

When Sue began receiving requests to officiate weddings in upstate New York, she decided to enroll at One Spirit Interfaith Seminary.  Sue was delighted to discover how One Spirit’s heart-centered curriculum enabled her to deepen her ministerial skills, contemplative practice and knowledge of world religions.  In June 2011, Rev. Sue was ordained and began working with couples and officiating weddings in New York and Massachusetts.

In 2014, through a series of serendipitous events, Rev. Sue and her husband, the artist David Arsenault, followed his dream of having a studio and gallery of his original oil paintings in Rockport, MA.  Out of her experience as a Hospice chaplain, Rev. Sue recognized that many people are no longer connected to the religious tradition of their birth. She became a “Minister without Walls” and began offering funerals, premarital counseling, weddings, and baby blessings on the North Shore.  She also joined the faculty at One Spirit Interfaith Seminary, where she teaches numerous classes and workshops, including: The Spiritual Care of the Dying, Healing from Religious Injury, Spiritual Approaches to Addressing Conflict, and Working with Couples on the Path to Marriage.

When Rev. Sue was invited by Rev. Derek Van Gulden of First Congregational Church of Rockport to be Sabbatical Pastor for three months in 2018, her call to congregational ministry was born.  At First Congregational, she also completed a six month study on the future of faith formation for children and adults. She taught a popular and well received seven week class, “Creating Your Final Chapter: Facing Death, Finding Peace.” She has Privilege of Call within the United Church of Christ and is an active member of the Associated Clergy of Cape Ann. She is passionate about the Kairos Earth movement, “to bring people together in sacred relationship with the natural world.”

Rev. Sue has three adult children: a son, Pete, who works for a start-up business out of his new home in Charlottesville, VA; a stepdaughter, Brittany, who is an elementary school teacher in  South Colonie, New York and a stepson, Alex, who works as an application developer for Massachusetts General Hospital. Sue and David share their home with their pampered kitty, Chloe.

For fun, Rev. Sue enjoys exploring the beaches and parks of Cape Ann.  She has taken a recent interest in kayaking and would love to connect with others who also enjoy paddling. She is an enthusiastic dancer, art lover, reader, and pescatarian cook.  She and David love attending concerts at the Shalin Liu Performance Center and Old Sloop Coffeehouse. One of her favorite avocations is writing comments in response to articles in the New York Times online.

Rev. Sue recognizes that our society is in the midst of a tectonic shift in religious and spiritual life.  She is excited to be part of a community that aspires to walk together in the ways of Jesus, while being open to the treasures that are found in the great religious traditions of the world and every human heart.

Kathleen Adams, Music Director

Kathleen-Adams-Music-Director

Organist and Choirmaster, Kathleen Adams studied vocal literature and performance at the American Conservatory of Music. Her post-graduate work included studies in organ and conducting at Harvard University while she continued her vocal work at the University of Massachusetts and with master teachers. Specializing in early music at the beginning of her career, she performed renaissance repertoire with lutenist, David Rhodes, touring universities in the Midwest and on the East Coast.

Her performances of song literature range from early liturgical works and chant to baroque, romantic, and modern repertoire. Working with Gloucester composer Stephen Scotti, she performed cabaret repertoire and Scotti’s settings of Cape Ann poets. In Japan and in Italy, she performed recitals of classical song repertoire accompanied on organ and harpsichord by her husband, Jeremy Adams. As “Caterina la Canterina,” she has appeared at Italian Fiestas throughout the region, singing Neapolitan repertoire and operatic arias with the Italo American Band and the Italian Colonial and St. Alfio Bands under Maestro Nunzio Cicarelli.

She has appeared as soloist with the Cape Ann Symphony, the Cape Ann Community Band, North Shore Concert Band, Musica Sacra, and Gloucester Pro Musica. She has recorded for National Public Radio’s “Living on Earth” and for a number of independent film projects.

Kathleen served as both cantor and organist at St. Leonard’s of Port Maurice in Boston’s North End for ten years. After moving to the North Shore, she was Music Director at First Church in Ipswich until her appointment at the Annisquam Village Church in 1984. In addition her post as Music Director (Organist and Choirmaster) she is Artistic Director of the concert series, drawing world-class musicians to play in the exceptional acoustics and on the exceptional instruments at the Village Church.

She maintains a musical arts studio, teaching voice, piano, harpsichord, and organ. She is an active member of the American Guild of Organists and is a member of Sigma Alpha Iota, the International Music Fraternity.​

Rev. ElizaBeth Emery, Associate for Pastoral Care

Kathleen-Adams-Music-Director

 Rev. ElizaBeth Emery began serving as our Associate for Pastoral Care in August 2019.  From a young age, she wanted to be a teacher.  Having deaf parents led her to earning a Masters Degree at Smith College to become a teacher of the deaf. ElizaBeth’s next step took her to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary where she earned a Masters Degree in Theological Studies and Pastoral Counseling. During that time she began a Ministry with the Deaf at Grace Chapel in Lexington where she was ordained.

ElizaBeth’s call led her to Endicott College as Chaplain and Director of the Counseling Center for several years.  After that she joined the  Lexington Christian Academy as a faculty member and chaplain. Family commitments kept ElizaBeth close to home so that she, like the apostle Paul began to support herself as a “tent maker” working as a professional organizer (which became a ministry in and of itself)!

ElizaBeth’s spiritual journey includes 4 decades of spiritual direction and silent retreats at the Eastern Point Retreat House here in Gloucester. She attributes her desire to serve others from the example given by her grandmother and mother…but even 

moreso from the example of a God who loves her with an everlasting love! She is grateful to be able to use her gifts at AVC as a member of the Board and Search Committee now in her role as Associate for Pastoral Care. On each step of ElizaBeth’s journey she has passionately and gracefully followed the call to minister. We are blessed that Rev. ElizaBeth serves our community.

Deborah Aiello, Administrator

photo of Deborah Aiello

Deborah Aiello, administrator to Rev. Judy Brain and the church community.

She came to the Annisquam Village Church in April of 2015 after being at the Eastern Point Retreat House for 20 years as part of their administrative staff.

She is married and has three children and nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Kierstin Hazzard, Children's Education Coordinator

Kierstin brings much training and experience to her role as Children’s Education Coordinator.

A graduate of Lesley University, she taught at Gloucester’s Pathways for Children and, with the rest of her family, has been deeply involved in the theater arts.

Ben Steele, Sexton

Photo and bio coming soon.