Pastors & Program Staff
The Rev. James W. Crelin, 3rd
Pastor & Head of Staff

Find out more about Pastor Jim.

A message from Pastor Jim.

General Job Description

In general Pastor Jim’s primary functions are to provide preaching and teaching from and about God’s Word, and to offer administrative leadership to the Church. There is a myriad of responsibilities associated with this position which makes each day different from the previous day. But no matter which day it is, Pastor Jim is given direction by the Holy Spirit to fulfil the expectations associated with his position. Just a few of his pastoral responsibilities are praying with and for the congregation, administering the sacraments, working with the mission committee and spiritual life and growth, as well as, being involved in pastoral care for members of the church and the community. His administrative responsibilities include serving as moderator of the session and congregation; working with staff members, elders and deacons and their committees; and encouraging broad participation in church decision-making, effective planning, and communication. In addition to these local responsibilities, Pastor Jim is involved on the Grand Canyon Presbytery level serving on Commissions and dealing with financial aspects of the Presbytery on the Resources Committee.

Most Rewarding Part of Job

Pastor Jim especially appreciates seeing people's lives being transformed by Jesus Christ as new spiritual truths are discovered, and when solutions to problems are found. It is exciting to see so many people willing to serve Jesus Christ in a wide variety of ways and places, and use their talents and resources to transform lives. Another rewarding aspect of his job is the many opportunities he has to interact with people from all walks of life in all sorts of situations, whether it be while sharing a meal, having a casual encounter following a Sunday service, discussing a project with a subcommittee in his office, teaching a Bible class, or offering a prayer at the bedside of an ill person.

Most Challenging Part of Job

The most challenging is preparing sermons that connect worship experiences with real life, and that make a difference in lives. Pastor Jim's motto is, "Make it Practical" so the congregation understands what his message is and what it can mean in their lives, i.e., to make God and the Gospel relevant so they resonate with ways to meet life's challenges and changes. Pastor Jim recognizes the value of surrounding himself with persons in staff and leadership positions who may have different perspectives, rather than working only with persons who think the same as he does. This can lead to challenges, yet is a necessity for optimum functioning. Likewise, encouragement is needed for others to be open to considering optional choices in the decision-making process, and to work cooperatively to set and fulfill goals and objectives.

Relevant Work Experience/Training

Pastor Jim entered Grove City College in Pennsylvania following his high school years in Boardman, Ohio. Initially his intentions were to pursue a degree in accounting and to explore radio broadcasting. Instead, he graduated with a degree in religion. Having felt a call to ministry from God, he entered Gordon-Conwell Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, graduated four years later with a M.Div. degree, and was ordained in 1988. Prior to coming to Desert Palms in October, 2011, he answered three other calls, each in a varied setting. He served as a solo pastor in Milesburg, Pennsylvania (6 years); as an associate pastor in Seminole, Florida (6 years); and as a Senior Pastor/Head of Staff in Lincoln, Nebraska (11 years). His education, along with opportunities to work with older adults in two previous presbyteries, provided valuable experiences for assuming his position at Desert Palms.

Off-job Interests

When time permits, Pastor Jim enjoys hiking several of the trails in the White Tank Regional Park with his yellow lab. Recently he has enjoyed games of pickle ball and racquetball with church members and friends. Of course, he appreciates an opportunity just to relax on the back porch of his home in Surprise, savor the serene environment, ponder, read, and perhaps listen to the radio. Having trained and served as an umpire in his earlier years, it's not surprising he likes to attend Spring Training games and attend ballgames at Chase Field when his schedule allows it.

Personal Notes

Pastor Jim was born in Orange, New Jersey. His wife, Cathy, is originally from Pennsylvania. He and Cathy were married while he was in Seminary and have just celebrated  their 31st year of marriage. They have two charming sons: Michael, a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, who is presently working for Rosie (an app. company which makes it possible to order groceries online); and Benjamin who graduated from Jim and Cathy's alma mater, Grove City College.  Benjamin is presently a second year student at Gordon-Conwell Seminary and under care as an inquirer of Grand Canyon Presbytery.

Pastor Jim is appreciated for his meaningful and challenging sermons; his interpersonal skills; and his organized, energetic, enthusiastic and creative leadership style. We feel blessed that he and Cathy have become an integral part of the Desert Palms Church family.

The Rev. Linda J. Bailey
Associate Pastor

Find out more about Pastor Linda.

A message from Pastor Linda.

“Little children, I am with you only a little longer…’Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples.” (John 13:33-35)

Jesus is preparing his disciples for the despair that would come as the events would unfold as he knew they must. The disciples would endure the trauma of Jesus’ arrest, trial and crucifixion. The feeling of being lost is often a feeling of interpersonal devastation and an inability to find one’s way – a dark night of the soul experience. It can be a disconnection from loved ones. There is something fundamentally incompatible between the feeling of being lost and the infinite unconditional love of God for each of us.

Easter is all about the Lord helping us find each other. It is in our love for each other that we come to know the extent to which we have been found by God. The Lord comes to us when we feel lost and enables us to discover his nearness by the way we are found by each other. The concept of loving one another is so gentle to our ears. In our hearts, we know that those who have perfected living a life of love have mastered the art of living. But in practice, loving behavior is challenging. Oftentimes when we love, we have expectations. Jesus calls us to love without expectations; but we tend to look for results – forgetting that God is deeply involved in each person’s life. We are all God’s children. Even when love does not generate the response we seemingly require, love does not fail the one radiating such energy.

Jesus understood this truth from his own experience. He knew that Judas would betray him. He knew that Peter would deny knowing him. The disciples were often described as being short-sighted, selfish, complainers. They were competitive. But Jesus simply loved them as they were. Love is not motivated by the need to change people. Nothing is required from us before God loves us. But those who become aware of God’s presence become encouraged to change who they are. Think of how many times, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” has inspired us. Our insistence in being right is no longer an absolute when love is present. The spirit behind his behavior is clearly why Jesus is referred to as “the light of the world.” And the understanding that Jesus brought into the world is so simple, “Love one another, as I have loved you”. Be compassionate, be kind.

Love often comes to us in a package we may not recognize. No one recognized Bethlehem as an act of God’s love. It has taken centuries for us to begin to comprehend what occurred in Bethlehem. It all started with a little baby who was born in a manger. He grew up to say, “Love one another.” What would happen to the way we think if we began to understand that everything requiring a response from us is a face of God? We become true students of life when we recognize that every circumstance, relationship, environment has the face of God in it, pointing to our inner world as an infinite vault that contains our true wealth. The greatest privilege of being alive is to love one another as God has loved us, and loves us still. If we ever wonder where God’s love is, we need to remember that it is our joy to reveal it!

Blessings and peace,

Linda Bailey, Associate Pastor

Wendy Fentiman
Director of Music Ministry

Find out more about Wendy.

Wendy Fentiman’s résumé, which she sent to our search committee, said right at the top that her objective is “to help build and lead the music ministry to God’s glory at Desert Palms Presbyterian Church by directing choirs in praising God through vocal and instrumental music and in leading the congregation in song through a variety of musical styles and formats.”

Wendy is a talented musician with impressive credentials both as a musician and as a church music director.  Wendy’s skills are multiple. She is also an experienced handbell director; has been a singer on demonstration recordings produced by the Augsburg-Fortress Press Publishing Company; and directed church choirs of various sizes and age-groupings at Congregational and Lutheran churches in Minnesota (Bayport and Marine-on-St. Croix) for a number of years before moving here.

She is an alumna of St. Cloud (MN) State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in vocal/choral music and is a member of the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers (AGEHR). She also sings with the 80-voice West Valley Chorale and directs the Desert Divas, a women’s vocal ensemble here in the West Valley.

Judy Penick
Joyce Rader
CHANEY, Dan; AudioVideo Technician-web
Dan Chaney
Audio Visual Technician
Leoma Lightner, RN
Faith Community Nurse

Find out more about Leoma.

First, I am happy to be your new Faith Community Nurse. I do want to thank Mary for all her work and dedication. It is my belief that life is short and we must give and care for each other when we can.

Galatians 6:2  “Help each other with your troubles. When you do this, you are obeying the law of Christ.”

I am married to a great person and have two wonderful children: a son who lives in Phoenix with his beautiful wife and two grandchildren and a daughter who lives in California.

For 31 years, I’ve been in the medical field.

I achieved my Bachelor’s degree from GCU and my Associate Degree from Maricopa College.

I recently retired from Banner Del Webb last August. After retiring, I did find I was missing a big connection with helping people. I have an enthusiastic gift of caring for the mind, body, and spirit.

I look forward to meeting every one of you.

I am totally impressed with the friendships and caring members of the church. I am grateful to have such a great caring staff.

Office & Property Staff
Amy Wall
Church Administrator

Find out more about Amy.

Amy started as Administrative Assistant at Desert Palms in July 2021 and moved into her current role last November. Originally from Michigan, Amy and her family moved to Arizona 15 years ago. Amy has an art degree and homeschooled her five kids for 22 years before reentering the work force in 2018 as secretary for a dialysis clinic.

Amy and her husband, Matt, have been married for 32 years. She enjoys hiking, camping, traveling, reading, acrylic painting, and going for walks with her dog. Amy trusted Jesus as her Savior as a young child and loves being in church. She is excited to be part of the team here, seeing how God is working through Desert Palms in the community and around the world.

Tiegan Johnson
Administrative Assistant

Find out more about Tiegan.

Tiegan started as the Administrative Assistant in March. She helps organize volunteers, create content for church materials, design graphics and banners, and take care of routine tasks like data entry.

She recently moved to Wittmann from eastern Washington where she was heavily involved in rodeo and various kinds of farming, including hay production and cherry harvests. Horses are a part of her lifestyle, and she enjoys liberty horsemanship, barrel racing, and breakaway roping. She also loves to study, and has specifically taken an interest in World War I history and the German language. Drawing and writing are two of her favorite hobbies, and her subject material usually revolves around science fiction and fantasy. She earned her Bachelor's degree in English literature at Washington State University Tri-Cities in June of 2021.

Desiree Lenning

Find out more about Desiree.

Desiree has been the new Bookkeeper here at Desert Palms since late February 2022. Some of her duties include writing and disbursing checks for vendors, organization donations, staff payroll and reimbursements, along with running and assembling reports for committees and reconciling the monthly bank statements.

Desiree and her husband, Nick, have been happily married for 5 years and are very excited to be expecting their first child in September. She loves to spend her free time with friends sitting around bonfires and playing board or card games. Desiree also enjoys singing to music while she bakes sweets to share.

Jennifer Baldisseri
Administrative Staff Assistant

Find out more about Jennifer.

Jennifer joined Desert Palms at the end of January. She grew up here in Arizona and earned her Bachelor’s degree in behavioral health from Arizona Christian University in 2014. Last summer she graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary with her Master’s in Theology.

Jennifer started her own evangelism ministry, Jennifer Jane Ministries, where she posts her sermons and blogs. She is passionate about sharing the Gospel and leading people to a deeper relationship with Christ. She also leads Bible studies in her free time.

She has a chiweenie dog, Penny, and a black cat, Loki. Jennifer loves vintage clothing, specifically the 50’s and 60’s, reading, baking, and spending time with friends and family.

Bill Mathiesen

Find out more about Bill.

Bill moved to Surprise with his wife in June of 2021 after growing up in Waukegan, Illinois. Bill worked for the Vernon Hills School district for 27 years where he held multiple positions as custodial, light maintenance, and shipping/receiving. He is a big Chicago White Sox and Bears fan along with a passion for automobiles, mainly muscle cars. He is excited to be a part of the Desert Palms staff and looks forward to meeting everyone.

Tony Gonzalez

Find out more about Tony.

Tony joined Desert Palms staff in December 2021. He was born and raised in Ohio and has been married to his wife, Grace since 1985. Currently his wife works in Ohio and commutes between there and their home here in Sun City West. They have two sons who live in Los Angeles. Tony is retired from the Department of Aging in Ohio.

Susan McGrath

Find out more about Susan.

Susan joined the Desert Palms staff in October 2021. She was born and raised in Nebraska and moved to Arizona two and a half years ago to be near family. She has been married to her husband, Gary, for 40 years and they have two children and four beautiful grandchildren.

Susan loves to sing and has played music with her husband for over 35 years. She is a huge pet lover and has two dogs, a wiener dog, McDougald, and a terrier mix, Maris. She also enjoys decorating projects and reading.

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