Our Ministry Team
Rev. Dr. Damaris D. Whittaker
Rev. Dr. Damaris D. Whittaker is a United Church of Christ (UCC) minister. Although raised in the Pentecostal tradition, her personal faith journey has been diverse. She has a spirit-led style of preaching and leads worship services that are reflective of the cultural diversity of her congregations. She preaches in English and Spanish.
Rev. Whittaker is a public theologian deeply passionate about social justice advocating for racial justice, LGBTQ equality, immigration reform, women’s leadership, universal healthcare, and affordable housing. She is experienced in managing ministry finances, increasing stewardship, and providing mentorship and guidance to her staff. Rev. Whittaker believes she has been called to break down silos and sees intersectionality of faith as a place she can affect change. When not in church, she loves reading, dancing, gardening, kayaking and walking/jogging.
Rev. Whittaker is originally from Humacao, Puerto Rico and is married to Sabas Whittaker. She is excited about the ministry possibilities and potential of FWCC.
Rev. Michael T.S. Vanacore
Associate Minister for Congregational Life
Rev. Michael T.S. Vanacore is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ (UCC). Prior to becoming a pastor, he served as an Organizer with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). He graduated from Union Theological Seminary with the Auburn Seminary Maxwell Fellowship for Promise of Excellence in Parish Ministry. He joins Fort Washington after serving as the Associate Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Brooklyn.
Rev. Vanacore has participated for many years in movements for immigrant, worker, and racial justice. A descendent of diverse immigrant communities, he has developed expertise in multilingual and multiethnic ministry. He preaches and leads worship fluently in English and Spanish, and believes that the community of the church must reflect the diversity of God's creation.
Rev. Vanacore enjoys traveling, learning languages, and cultivating his life-long passions of music and martial arts. He lives in Manhattan with his lovely wife Rosa, who is an Immigration lawyer and activist.
Director of Music
Currently in his sixth year on staff, Chris Whittaker was appointed Music Director after having served in interim and assistant roles. A composer, conductor, and pianist from York, PA, Chris’s musical language of jazz, classical, and gospel melds genres and brings people together. As a composer, Chris’s music has been performed and broadcast throughout the United States.
Chris is the co-founder and Music Director of the Washington Heights Chamber Orchestra, a non-profit organization committed to engaging the community through free concerts and educational programming. He also serves as the founding Music Director of Marble Collegiate Church’s “Jazz Revelation” worship service.
Previously, Chris studied orchestral conducting with Kenneth Kiesler and Stuart Malina. His composition teachers include Philip Lasser, Christopher Theofanidis, and Nicholas Maw. Chris has served a diverse range of denominations and worship styles and brings over 10 years of music ministry experience to his new post at Fort Washington Collegiate Church.
Interim Director of
Children & Youth
Originally from El Cerro, New Mexico, Zachary came to New York as a student at The New School where he studied Visual Art and Non-Fiction Writing. When he wasn't studying, Zachary worked as a studio multi-instrumentalist, moonlighting as a session musician and producer for smaller independent labels, and has recorded and performed with such musical groups as Alaska Alaska, Parker/Bird, Mainland, Oh! My Blackbird, Columbus, and Waldo.
After receiving his call to ministry, Zachary continued his education at Union Seminary where he studied preaching and worship. He was co-chair of the arts caucus and was the recipient of the Robert E. Seever award for excellence in worship. Zachary has presented at Kanuga’s Christian Formation Conference, preached at the Academy of Young Preachers, is an active presenter for Music that Makes Community, and active member of the Institute for a New New Testament. In every organization that Zachary works, he brings a commitment to revitalizing oral teaching models of intergenerational singing and learning, grounded in faith and healing. In all of his endeavors, Zachary works to bridge social barriers through oral teaching and learning, along with ancient models for deepening and strengthening fellowship.
David Ford has two decades of experience managing financial, program, and technology operations at Columbia University and The New School. During the last several years, he has worked with organizations and clients in the non-profit and social service sector, adding writing and marketing skills to his toolbox.
Committed to social justice and environmental sustainability, David has served as a lay leader with The Riverside Church's Social Justice Commission and has volunteered with Harlem's WEACT for Environmental Justice.
David has lived in New York City since the gritty 1970's. Inspired by education, fitness activities, and travel, he is a fan of the city's parks and bridges. He and his wife, Maegen, are 16-year residents of Harlem, and they have a daughter, Cammy, and a son, Julian, who are a recent college graduate and a first-year college-student, respectively.
Ministry and Communications Coordinator
Dinean has over two decades of experience in communications, graphic design and event planning. She has worked for several years in the non-profit sector at Abyssinian Baptist Church, Riverside Church and Lehman College. She has also been an active servant in ministry at First Corinthian Baptist Church where she shares her artistic abilities and event planning talents for various fellowship and social service initiatives such as feeding the homeless and facilitating an annual clothing mall, as well as leading the dance ministry. Dinean has taught in the Department of Education and also worked with various youth mentoring programs in NYC. She also has her own business, In Her Image, where she provides various services such as graphics, book design and wedding planning. In addition, she has a clothing line and does custom designs.
Dinean was born and raised in Harlem, NY. She holds a Bachelors in Fine Arts from Purchase College and Masters in Business Management from Kaplan University. She is an all around artist and loves being involved in anything creative. She has a passion to follow the mandate by God to serve others in need. She loves to travel the world and experience other cultures. She has one son, Jaylen who is in high school.
Evening Reception & Security
Our Seminary Intern
James is a Master of Divinity candidate at Union Theological Seminary. After working as a Sunday school teacher last year, James began his internship with us in January and currently coordinates our social media channels.
Prior to answering his call to ministry, James completed a master’s program in Anthropology at Boston University, and later became a consultant specializing in social media for small congregations. James has worked with churches from various denominations, including United Church of Christ, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Pentecostal, and interdenominational churches. He gave a professional presentation at a UCC conference entitled “Engaging in Social Media Ministry” and trained religious leaders in using social media as an effective tool for revitalization and outreach.
James is involved in a number of student groups at Union, including the Queer and Arts Caucuses and the UCC students group. James is also a writer for Union’s recently revived student newspaper The Heretic, where he writes about LGBTQ+ justice and inclusion in the contemporary Christian church. Lastly, James is an acrylic painter and house plant hobbyist.