Syracuse Site Staff

John Elmer, Lead Pastor

John grew up in Camillus and graduated from Bishop Ludden High School. He has lived in all kinds of places including; NYC, Pittsburgh, Bangkok and LA but Syracuse is his favorite. He is a Syracuse Orange and Yankees fan and really enjoys coaching people.

Email John’s assistant, Nancy:

Gary Dawkins – Discipleship Pastor

Gary Dawkins is a native of Baltimore, MD and has lived in Syracuse since 2009. He works with ministries that help people grow in their faith. Gary loves spending time with his beautiful wife and daughter. In his spare time, he dedicates himself to his community and cheers loudly for his hometown Ravens! Follow Gary on Twitter @PastorDawkins, Instagram @garydawkins

Gary’s assistant is Betty Jo:

Shelly Johnson, Executive Pastor

Shelly began attending the Vineyard in 1998 and was a pastoral counselor for 16 years.  She came on staff as HR manager and bookkeeper in 2006 and in 2016, became the Executive Pastor.  Her passion is to encourage people to become all that God intends for them to be; spiritually, emotionally, relationally, and professionally.  Shelly loves spending time with her children, her twin grandsons and her dog, Romano.  She hails from the great, little state of Rhode Island!


Ted Kim

Ted Kim-Worship Pastor

Ted oversees all the music at our services, as well the technology of our weekend experience. He’s from Chicago and is a diehard Chicago Cubs fan. When he’s not streaming a Cubs game, you can find him spending time with his wife and his young children. Find him on Twitter @_tedkim_.

Ted’s assistant is Shalane:

Melvin Hayes, Director of Missions and Northside Community Center Director

Mel is the Director of both Missions and Northside Community Center. Mel will also be our site pastor for the Northside Site. He has a Doctor of Strategic Leadership degree from Regent University in Virginia Beach. Mel and his wife, Karen love spoiling their grandson Destine, and when able, cruising other countries. Mel has two passions; studying the word of God and helping believers discover their spiritual gifts.


Jess McCray, Family and Children’s Pastor

Jess was born and raised in Southeastern Pennsylvania where you can always find the best cheesesteaks! Jess, her husband Rod and their 4 kids moved to the Syracuse area in 2014. She likes to say “When we found the Vineyard we found home!” Her greatest passion is seeing kids and their families learn how deeply God values them. Jess enjoys reading, writing, laughing so hard that you cry, and especially spending time with her family and their pup. Jess and Rod’s favorite dates are finding coffee (LOTS of coffee!) and the most delicious locally owned restaurants. Connect more with Jess on Facebook or Instagram @jess.mccray

Jess’s assistant is Rebecca:

Gwen Elmer

Gwen Elmer, Staff Pastor

Gwen has been married to John for over 30 years and they have 3 children: Josh, Jenni, and David and four delightful grandchildren. She oversees the Host Team, Hospitality Team, and the Food Pantry and is involved in other areas. She loves hiking, running and hanging out with her family.

Gwen’s assistant is Shalane:

Amanda Ward, Youth Pastor

Amanda  was born and raised in Syracuse, NY and has attended the church since 2009. After receiving her A.S. in photography, Amanda decided to become the Youth Intern to follow her passion to help teens discover their individuality in God. If she isn’t found working creative outlets herself, you can find her getting tattooed. Amanda also has a passion for local music and coffee. You can find her on Facebook.

Connor Mazzuca

Connor Mazzuca, Technical Director

Connor was born and raised in Syracuse, or as it should be called Siberacuse, New York. He assists Ted Kim with the church’s technology by attending every service and preparing during the week for a successful weekend experience. He absolutely loves watching movies, television and anime. He also love playing video games and reading books. But one of is favorite things to do outside of church is to read Aquaman and Cable comics. He also adores learning more about math and sciences. Connor helps out in whatever capacity he can, including volunteering as a youth leader or helping the staff scare Gwen. Find him on Facebook @Connor Mazzuca.

Rebecca Scheel

Rebecca Scheel, Kids Ministry Director

Rebecca has always had a passion for teaching and music and has a degree in Early Childhood and Childhood Education with a minor in music. She grew up in the Syracuse area and although she lived in Florida for a time she eventually returned to Syracuse to be close to her family. She found a home here at the Vineyard and wants to help other people feel as welcome and loved as she does. She loves to spend time outside with her kids and friends. Rebecca hates wearing shoes and if there is water, she is usually in it!

Nancy Kaleta, John Elmer’s Assistant

Nancy has lived in Camillus, NY all of her life! She is John’s assistant who loves her job because it allows her to use her gift of administration to create an environment for John to focus on his calling from God. You’ll find Nancy volunteering with the host team on her days off. “I love helping people who are checking us out to have a good first experience!”  Outside of church, she likes paper crafting, spending time in the Adirondacks and most importantly spending time with her family.

Christine Harris, Administrative Assistant

Christine grew up overseas as a missionary kid in Eastern Europe and Germany. She has lived in Syracuse for the past 6 years with her husband and three kids and has enjoyed building a community at the Vineyard over the past two years. Christine enjoys working with kids and families inside and outside of church! Otherwise, Christine loves to spend time hiking and camping with her family as well as traveling and explore new places!

Don Rothwell

Don Rothwell, Treasurer

Don has been a part of the Vineyard Church – Syracuse for 25 years. He and his wife, Susie, have 3 grown children and 5 grandchildren. Serving is his passion, Don is involved with the Auburn Prison Ministry Team, Host Team, Prayer Team, Scripture Readers and Food Pantry. He also serves as a Small group Leader, a member of the Board of Trustees and has been the Angel Tree Coordinator for the past 9 years. He spends his free time with his wife, family and 3 dogs.

Syracuse Site
312 Lakeside Rd., Syracuse, NY 13209  |  (315) 407-8463