Pastoral Staff

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Rev. Jared Ayers

Senior Pastor


Jared grew up in a small town in New Jersey. His father was a pastor and Jared told us that he can remember, as a kid, running around and playing with friends on the church grounds. This is where Jared learned that God loves him and based on this and the teaching of his father, he accepted Jesus as his Savior.

As a college student at Lancaster Bible College, Jared gathered with friends and organically and naturally discussed issues of faith, meaning, and life. He was encouraged by a friend of the family and member of his church at the time to look into ministry as his vocation. It clicked for him shortly after realizing that his passion was to share the truth of Christ, for proclamation, and for mission. Jared graduated in 2003 with a degree in Bible & Pastoral Ministry and began one month later as the Student Ministries Director in North Carolina at Calvary Church, which had 2,000 members at the time. He served there for two years and then moved to Michigan to serve as the Director of the Next Generation Ministries Team at Central Wesleyan, a church of 3,000 members.

Three years later, Jared and his wife, Monica, founded Liberti Church in Philadelphia, a congregation within the Reformed Church of America. Over the next 11 years Liberti church grew into two campuses, with multiple staff and pastors, and a weekly average attendance between 400 and 500 (out of a pool of 800-900 regular attenders). In 2016, he earned his Master of Divinity degree from Western Theological Seminary located in Holland, Michigan.

Jared was originally ordained in the Reformed Church of America and after accepting the Senior Pastor position at First Pres, he applied to join the ECO denomination and was approved by the ECO Florida Presbytery to serve as an ECO pastor.  Jared began serving as Senior Pastor of First Pres in July 2020.

Jared and Monica have three children – Brennan, Kuyper and Rae Ann.


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Rev. Ron Hilliard

Executive Pastor

Office: 561-622-8818 Ext 102
Facebook: ron.hilliard.18

Ron was born and raised in West Palm Beach, Florida and received a B.S. in Psychology from Florida Atlantic University in 1983. He has two degrees from Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia—a Master of Divinity degree in 1987 and a Doctor of Ministry degree, with an emphasis in Christian Spirituality in 2003.

Ron has been on staff at First Presbyterian Church since 1978 and served as the Youth Director until 1984. After seminary, he returned in 1987 to serve as an Associate Pastor. His current areas of responsibility include Adult Education and Missions.

Ron is married to Catherine and together they have three grown children – John, Chris (married to Jackie), and Rebecca.

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Rev. Chris Southard

Assistant Pastor

Office: 561-622-8818

Chris Southard, better known as “Suds,” graduated from Guilford College and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He served as Youth Director at First Pres from 2004 to 2012. Suds transitioned to Director of College and Family Ministries in 2012. His areas of interest in ministry include adolescent spiritual formation, specifically through dialogue with 12th century monasticism and the area of adolescent psychological well-being. In 2017, Suds transitioned into working with men’s ministry and evangelism. He currently serves as an Assistant Pastor and Director of Evangelism, Men’s Ministry & Families of Adolescents Ministries In addition to his above responsibilities, he was ordained within ECO in 2014 and is now serving as an Assistant Pastor. He has been married to Brenda since 1995, and they are the parents of three sons, Joshua, Caleb, and Keegan, and a daughter, Jaden.

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Rev. Elizabeth Nielsen

Assistant Pastor

Facebook: elizabeth.nielsen.351

Elizabeth Nielsen has been worshipping at First Presbyterian Church in NPB since moving to the area in 1997 with her husband, Steve, and two sons, Eric and Tim. 

Elizabeth studied English Literature, earning a BA from Williams College in 1983 and a MA from Rutgers in 1986.  She then went on to earn a Master’s degree in Biblical and Theological Studies at Knox Theological Seminary in Ft. Lauderdale in 2013. Prior to joining the staff at First Pres, Elizabeth spent time teaching high school, teaching and writing Bible studies, volunteering with Youth for Christ’s Parent Life program, and mentoring young single mothers.  

Elizabeth was ordained in 2014 and serves First Pres as an assistant pastor. She assists regularly in worship, preaches occasionally and leads the monthly evening prayer services.  Elizabeth serves on the board of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, wrote and facilitates a new curriculum for First Pres' Communicants’ Class and is currently co-teaching the Theology course of the Commissioned Lay Pastor education track.  

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Rev. Eddie Nabhan

Assistant Pastor

Facebook: enabhan

Eddie grew up in West Palm Beach and graduated from Stetson University with a Business Management degree. He then attended Princeton Theological Seminary graduating with a Masters of Divinity in 2004. He has been operating a small business since 2004. In 2013, Eddie was ordained and brought on staff as a volunteer assistant pastor. Eddie serves on Sunday morning by teaching Sunday school, occasionally preaching at The Way and assisting during church services. He and his wife, Becca, lead and host a small group of young couples and singles in their home. Eddie and Becca have three daughters.  

Administrative & Support Staff

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Gayle Coughanour


Office: 561-622-8818

Gayle joined the staff in October, 2002, shortly after moving to Florida from Wisconsin. She was the bookkeeper at a large church in Milwaukee that utilized the same financial system that First Pres uses (Shelby Systems). She has a Bachelor of Business Administration degree, majoring in finance at the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh. She was a credit manager in commercial financing for many years until she had her third child. At that time, she decided to devote her time to her children and later home-schooled them for many years. Once they started high school, she re-entered the workforce.  Gayle has two daughters, Kayla and Brenna, a son, Aaron, and six grandchildren who, along with her relationship with Jesus Christ, are the joys of her life. Gayle sings in both adult choirs and volunteers as the church librarian.

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Laura Putman

Financial & Data Administrative Assistant

Office: 561-622-8818

Laura joined the staff in 2010. She brings ten years of work experience in management, ten years experience running a small business and ten years work in an investment firm. Laura is here at First Pres under God's leading.

Laura has a husband, Ken, a grown son, Charlie and two grandchildren. Music is Laura's passion and she sings and plays in the rock band at her church. She also organized a flute choir called The Tropical Flutes, which has played for our services at First Pres.

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Eddie Cajade

Communications Assistant

Office: 561-622-8818 Ext. 115

Eddie began attending First Pres in 2007 and was a part of the Sanctuary Choir until he joined our Audio/Visual team in 2010. Eddie was born and raised in Montevideo, Uruguay and lived there until 1983 when he moved to America. Eddie is a very popular singer and his highest musical honor was to represent the US in the 1986 International Music Festival in Chile where he won the top prize. As songwriter Eddie was winner of Amazonian Festival held in Iquitos, Perú in 1991 and OTI Festival in NYC and was distinguished by Billboard in 1992. He did presentations at Carnegie Hall in NYC, Manhattan Center, James L. Knight Center in Miami, Teatro Nacional in Chile, Teatro Solis in Uruguay, etc. In his spare time, Eddie enjoys spending time with his wife, Beatriz, and their family, as well as composing, playing and recording music in his home studio. Eddie began serving as the Communications Assistant in July of 2016 and has become a valuable part of the administrative team here at First Pres.

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Taylor Shore

Administrative Assistant to the Pastors


Taylor Shore has been a part of the First Pres family since 2012.  She has been involved in the children’s ministry all the way up to our college programs! Taylor started as an intern in 2018 for our college ministry, working to build the program and keep ties with First Pres graduates. The following Fall, she added serving in student ministries to her internship resume. Just this past year, Taylor has joined the student ministry staff to lead and serve middle school and high school students. While not at First Pres, Taylor is a student at Palm Beach Atlantic University, studying Psychology and Ministry, expected to graduate Fall 2020. She is excited to continue to show the love, examples and teachings of Christ to our growing students. On August 20, 2021 Taylor started to serve in a new capacity as the Administrative Assistant for the Pastors.


Adult (60+) Ministry

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JoAnn Hayes

Coordinator of Adult (60+) Ministries


JoAnn grew up in Michigan and was baptized, confirmed and married by the same minister at First Presbyterian Church in Saginaw. She met her husband, Woody, the summer before she started college at Central Michigan University, and they were married before JoAnn’s senior year. After she graduated with an English/Math degree in secondary education, JoAnn began teaching, which she had always wanted to do. Woody began veterinary school in Lansing, and after graduation, they moved to Florida to open a veterinary practice. They have been blessed with two amazing daughters, their God-given spouses and a wonderful granddaughter named Anna. JoAnn retired three years ago from her role as the Administrator at Holy Spirit Lutheran Church. She and Woody found First Pres and have been members for two years. When Woody was recovering from surgery, JoAnn began looking for more ways to serve God. She started volunteering in the First Pres Church office, and was soon offered the position of Coordinator of Adult (60+) Ministry.


Student Ministry

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Kimberly Sanders

Director of Student Ministries

Office: 561-622-8818

Kimberly grew up in Connecticut and graduated from Flagler College where she studied Spanish, education, religion and youth ministry. She and her husband Wayne married in 1982 and have three adult children: Colin, Chase and Ashley. Kimberly has been a member of our church since 1988 when she was on the Youth Staff here at First Pres. In August 2013, Kimberly joined our Children’s Ministry Team as part-time assistant before moving to the role of Youth Associate to work with the middle school ministry. In June 2015, Kimberly was promoted into her current role as Director of Student Ministries, and works with enthusiasm and dedication as she serves the youth of First Pres.

Children's Ministry

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Cary Koepke

Director of Children's Ministry

Office: 561-622-8818
Facebook: carykoepke
Twitter: @CaryKoepke

Cary came to South Florida in 1993 from the Daytona Beach area. Her first glimpse of First Presbyterian Church was at Vacation Bible School when the helicopter landed in the back field. Her son, Kevin, was then only four years old. First Pres quickly became her church family and in 1998 she began teaching in the church's Preschool program. After teaching for ten years, Cary began serving as an assistant to the Director of Children's Ministry and in 2008 took over as Director. Cary is married to "Mr. Rick" and her son now attends Florida Atlantic University studying Commercial Music.

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Diana Wise

Director of Preschool and Childcare

Office: 561-622-8818 Ext 120

Diana graduated from Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada with a Bachelor of Physical Education with minors in Health Education, Biology, and Elementary Education, and a Nova Scotia Teaching Certificate.

She began working for First Pres in 1995 as Childcare Coordinator. In 1997, she was called to start the First Pres Preschool and has been the Preschool Director ever since. Diana has her Florida Childhood Development Associate (CDA) and her National CDA.

She is married to Blaine Wise and they have four grown children and three grandchildren. Diana enjoys the family's large get-togethers and reading, but most of all, spending time with her children and grandchildren.

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Kath Doerr

Children's Ministry Assistant

Office: 561-622-8818

Kath Doerr has been a member of the Children's Ministry Team since 2009. She is originally from Pennsylvania, where she taught Special Education for 28 years. She has been married to her husband Ron since 1977. They currently reside in Jupiter. Kath is also a member of the choir and bell choir.

Congregational Care Ministry

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Sara McDonnell

Membership Coordinator

Office: 561-622-8818

Sara has been a member of First Pres since 1986 and has served the church through the years as a Stephen Ministry leader, a deacon, an elder and an adult Sunday school leader.

Sara retired in 2006 after teaching in the public schools in West Virginia and Florida for 26 years. Sara's educational training includes a Bachelor's in History and Master's degrees in Sociology and Education.

Sara looks back to see God's training and equipping for her present position welcoming new members and visitors through the Bible teaching at First Pres, Stephen Ministry training and in Bible Study Fellowship. Sara enjoys traveling, gardening, photography and her extended family in West Virginia.

Sara has three grown daughters, Reagan, Ellen and Claire, and two grandsons.


Music Ministry

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Jay Arnn

Director of Music Ministries

Office: 561-622-8818 Ext. 131

Jay was born and raised in Danville, Virginia. Prior to coming to West Palm Beach, he was the Director of Music Ministries at Watkins United Methodist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, for five years. His musical resume includes numerous engagements with the Choral Arts Society of Saint Francis in the Fields, the University of Louisville Collegiate Chorale, the Louisville Chamber Choir, the Louisville Orchestra, and the Kentucky Opera.

Jay holds a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from Western Kentucky University and a Master of Music in Vocal Performance from the University of Louisville, where he was a graduate assistant for Dr. Kent Hatteberg in the choral department. During this time, he appeared in numerous tenor roles including Rodolfo in La Boheme and Alfredo in La Traviata for university and community opera theaters. He is a past member of the Presbyterian Association of Musicians, the Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts, and the American Choral Directors Association.

While continuing to work as a musician, Jay has also maintained a presence in the business community. Presently Jay is the Assistant General Manager for MV Transportation in West Palm Beach.

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David Block



David was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Mr. Block performed extensively in his native country in solo recitals, chamber music concerts as well as with leading orchestras.

He was awarded top prizes at national piano competitions in Argentina, such as the "City of Parana National Piano Competition" (First Prize, 1988), Finalist at the "Radio Clésica/MasterCard Piano Competition, "Franz Liszt Memorial National Piano Competition" (Second Prize, 1986), and Musical Promotions Piano Competition" (First Prize, 1985) among others.

In Buenos Aires, he studied with Ms. Lia Cimaglia-Espinosa and received advice from renowned artists such as Nikita Magaloff, Alexis Golovinne, Abbey Simon, Gerard Oppitz and Buno Gelber among others. He obtained his Bachelor of Arts Degree with specialization in Piano Performance from the National Conservatory of Music of Buenos Aires in 1987 under the direction of Haydee Loustaunau. Shortly after his graduation, the Polish government awarded Mr. Block a full scholarship to continue advanced piano studies in Poland, where he moved to in 1988. After completing further piano studies under Swigniev Sliwinsky at the Gdansk Academy of Music, he traveled to the US to continue studies with Ms. Rosalyn Tureck at the Tureck-Bach institute in New York City. Mr. Block continued to perform throughout New England as a soloist and in chamber music concerts.

In 1990 he was engaged to play for the Hartford Ballet Company's production of "Ballades", a ballet by Kirk Peterson set to the music of Chopin's Ballades for piano, as well as soloist for their performance of "Allegro Brillante", a ballet set to Tchaikovsky Third Piano Concerto choreographed by George Balanchine, at the Bushnell Theater and Performing Arts Center in Hartford, CT. In 2006, Mr. Block completed his Masters of Arts Degree in Music with specialization in Piano Performance at Florida Atlantic University under the direction of lrena Kofman.

Locally, Mr. Block has given piano recitals in venues such as the Bonnet House in Fort Lauderdale, the Baldwin House at FAU and the Dorothy Schmidt University Theater, as well as numerous local churches as part of their concert cycles. He is a founding member of the Vivace Chamber Music Society, performing many chamber music recitals through the area.

He was Director of Music at First United Methodist Church in Boynton Beach while also conducting and rehearsing the Chancel Choir as well as the 5 octave Chimers Bell Choir. In addition to his tenure at First United Methodist Church in Boynton Beach, Mr. Block was also the accompanist for Temple Israel in West Palm Beach. He performed weekly at their Friday Night Shabbat services, as well as Bar Mitzvahs and High Holiday services, and offered piano and keyboard accompaniment for the Temple special concerts and choir rehearsals throughout the year.

Mr. Block also has an interest in recording and composing/arranging music in his home recording studio. He is well versed in music recording and editing software such as Logic, Sound Forge and the Sibelius notation software, and is able to produce professional recordings for vocalists, soloists and ensembles with his portable set-up. Mr. Block also teaches piano in his studios in Boynton Beach and Lake Clarke Shores.  As of May 2014, he joined the staff here at First Pres as our full-time organist.  

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Eric Blythe

Director of Worship and Community Development


Eric joined the staff of First Pres as Worship Leader for the Way service in January 2021.  Eric is a native South Floridian, having graduated from Jupiter Christian School and Palm Beach State College.  His first full time job after school was as a paramedic for Tenet Healthcare at Palm Beach Gardens Emergency Room.  During that time that he realized his true calling was to utilize his musical talents and his leadership abilities in ministry.  While he was still working in the ER, he was presented with an opportunity to become the Director of Music and Community Development at a growing church plant in downtown West Palm Beach, called Truth Point Church.  He served there for 7 years, where he grew a music team from 5 people to 35 skilled and diverse volunteers and assembled a gospel choir averaging 20-30 members that performed around 4 times a year.  As the Director of Community Development, he created a partnership between Truth Point Church and Bridges Learning Academy, a local ESL school, resulting in a total of 70 regular volunteers and the assistance of many refuge families.  He also created an organization called Serve Our City which provided electronic platform to church members for volunteer opportunities.  This resulted in partnerships with 5 different local non-profits, as well as a substantial increase in monthly volunteer hours through Truth Point Church.

Eric can play several musical instruments, but guitar is his favorite.  He has a collection of 10 guitars, several which adorn his office at the church. He also loves to write, arrange and re-tune hymns and contemporary songs.  One of his favorite hobbies as spear fishing.  He and his wife, Stacie, have two sons, Bear and Finley and a daughter Indy.  Prior to having children, Stacie and Eric spent a lot of time traveling.  They have climbed and hiked their way through many places, most notably Patagonia (Argentina and Chile) and New Zealand.