Full Staff Biographies
Pastor Jennifer M. Kopacz
Pastor Jennifer M. Kopacz, better known as, Pastor Jenn, was born in Philadelphia, PA – her dad was attending the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, at the time. As you may have guessed, her father was a Lutheran pastor. Her mother was a nurse. Both are now retired and enjoying it.
Pastor Jenn grew up in New York State, living in the Albany area from the age of three until she was ten, and then they moved to Jamestown, NY, about 2 hours south of Buffalo. Pastor graduated from Jamestown High School, where she played flute in the Marching Band (go Red Raiders!) and sang in the choir. She and her husband, Rob, were college sweethearts, and married in 1999. They have a dog, two cats and several other less cuddly, reptilian creatures Rob keeps in the garage.
Pastor Jenn received her BS in Psychology from Elmira College, Elmira, NY in 1997. Prior to entering seminary, she worked in the non-profit sector, first as a Counselor/Advocate for victims of violent crime and eventually as a Risk Reduction Educator. This involved providing informational programs in schools, churches and various community organizations regarding what steps people of all ages can take to reduce their risk of being victims of such crime. She then went to the Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, OH, and received her Master of Divinity in 2011.
Her first call was to a very rural, three-point parish in central Pennsylvania. Services were at 8 AM, 9:30 AM and 10:45 AM on Sundays – at three separate church buildings! Sundays were hectic, but it was a beautiful place to become a Pastor, and to learn and grow in her own faith and her own calling, while also seeing the Holy Spirit at work in the people she was called to serve.
Pastor Jenn was installed at Grace July 7, 2015, and it is a blessing to her, as well as to our church that she is here with us. In addition to leading worship and presiding over Communion, she gets to walk with the wonderful people of Grace as they make their faith journey. She gets to participate in the lives of our congregation – baptizing young and old; providing First Communion instruction and then welcoming new young men and women to the Table; supporting our Confirmation class, and then presiding as our young people confirm their faith; welcoming new members; conducting marriage ceremonies and celebrating anniversaries; even commending our brothers and sisters back to God at their funerals. It is a privilege to be present in each of these moments, these milestones, in the life of this congregation and her members.
She says that Grace has also returned these gifts to her. In 2015, shortly after she arrived here, she was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, and had to have surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. The love, support and – most of all – the prayers that she and her family received were incredible, inspiring, and uplifting – which helped her to get through the treatments, to survive – and to come back to being the full-time pastor after months of full disability.
What Pastor Jenn enjoys most about her position here is the wonderful Grace Community. She says, “It is amazing how they care for one another here, and how they care for me! Many of our members have been a part of Grace from the beginning – they know the history and the stories of how we became who we are today. And they love one another – and this community – deeply and truly. But they also welcome those who are new to our area or new to Grace – wanting them to feel that sense of community as well. In addition, this community serves the wider community of Tallahassee in so many ways – Manna on Meridian; Meals on Wheels; Habitat for Humanity; One Blood; singing at Harbor Chase and Broadview assisted living facilities; Relay for Life – the list goes on and on. They are a blessing to one another, to our neighbors here and around the world, and to me.”
Prior to coming to Grace Lutheran, Pastor and her husband loved where they were in Pennsylvania, but she felt that the Holy Spirit was calling her to a new place, with new opportunities and new challenges. She considered calls to churches in many different places – from Upstate New York, to Washington State, and to Florida. But, in her interviews with the people of Grace, in conversations and in learning about one another, she felt that this was the place that she was being called to serve – this was the community she was being led to be a part of – to join with in carrying out their mission of welcoming all to the fellowship of Christ, serving the community, the Family of God, here at home, and around the world.
In her spare time, Pastor Jenn really loves to read. There are lots of places she enjoys going and things she enjoys doing, but no matter what, at some point she will likely be reading! She also loves to do work on her family tree (she is the family historian of sorts), and she enjoys going to the movies, and spending time with family and friends – especially at FSU Women’s Basketball Games – GO NOLES! Finally, both she and Rob love to travel – they’ve been to Canada, Mexico, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein and Israel (not all on the same trip!). And they have many more places on their list of countries to see. But a quiet night at home is always nice, as well.
Grace Lutheran is so thankful to have Pastor Jennifer M. Kopacz as our faithful leader and we hope that many of you plan to come visit our church, meet her and our loving members and experience true “Grace”!
Leslie Heffner, Music Program Coordinator
A native of Ohio, Dr. Leslie Heffner completed her Bachelor of Music Education degree at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and her Master of Music degree from Bowling Green State University. Dr. Heffner is an alumna of Florida State University where she earned her Doctor of Music in Vocal Performance and also a certificate in Arts Administration.
Dr. Heffner is the Artistic Director and Conductor of the Tallahassee Civic Chorale and is on faculty as adjunct Instructor of Voice at The Baptist College of Florida, in Graceville, FL. Prior to moving to Tallahassee, she served as the Director of The Creative Arts Program at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, OH.
Leslie came to Grace Lutheran Church in 2013 as the Director for the Chancel Choir. She also maintains the choral library and assists the music director with the children’s hand bell activities. Leslie is thrilled to be involved with a church that has such a deep love, appreciation, and commitment to music making.
Johnny Shaw, Organ, Keyboard, Piano Player
Johnny grew up in Versailles in Western New York, which is a town so small that many of his high school classmates don’t know where it is. Johnny’s large family of (mostly) amateur musicians instilled in him a passion for music of all kinds. He started his journey as a pianist by playing rock and jazz at age 6 and began studying classical music in high school. Johnny earned a Bachelor of Music Performance degree at SUNY Fredonia in 2018, and graduated with a Master of Music degree from Florida State University in 2020.
After graduating from FSU, Johnny has worked as a freelance pianist. He accompanies music students, performs, and teaches piano. Johnny’s passion for music regularly takes him outside of his comfort zone. He views every performance as a personal victory over anxiety and the difficulties of playing an instrument. He hopes that by sharing his love music despite the challenges of performing, he might inspire others to chase their own passions despite whatever obstacles there may be.
His passion for sharing music led him to start playing hymns in his small hometown’s church as soon as he was able to play a simple tune (or maybe even before that). He has been playing piano and/or organ in various churches ever since.
Lisa D. Rubin, Church Office Administrator
Lisa was born in Tallahassee and grew up in the small town of Perry, Florida. She was the youngest of 4 children (2 sisters and a brother). Her mother owned a dress shop and her father was head of Life of Georgia Insurance Company for a tri-county area. Eventually, she married her husband, Larry, an architect, after his second proposal, once she was sure he knew what he was getting into! They have two sons, Ben and Sam, who are both recent graduates from Florida State University with degrees in International Affairs and Mechanical Engineering, respectively.
Lisa graduated from Tallahassee Community College with an AA Degree in Theatre. Then she earned a BS in Philosophy with an emphasis on Ethics and a minor in English, from Florida State University. Always loving school, she then earned an MS in
Administration with a Specialization in Public Administration with a focus on Administrative Law, Human Resource Management, Conflict Resolution, Ethics and Organizational Structure and with program emphasis on business administration in the public, private and non-profit sectors, from the University of West Florida.
Lisa has a many years work experience in state government in Florida and with Florida State University and the University of West Florida. But probably the most fun employment she has ever had was as a competitive twirling coach for 4 years when she was in high school and college.
Lisa came to Grace Lutheran in 2004 and has the position of Church Office Administrator. She is responsible for the day-to-day business administration of the church, which requires the wearing of many hats while performing a healthy variety of functions, tasks, responsibilities and deadlines that keep the church office running on a weekly basis as well as interacting with and assisting the many different folks who phone or drop by the church office during the week. What she enjoys most about her job here are the people. She says, “The members and leaders at Grace Lutheran Church are just the nicest people. They are loving, kind and giving – true blessings. It’s my pleasure to work here.”
Lisa says that she was drawn to work at Grace because, as a mother of young children, she needed to work in an environment that offered both a professional growth opportunity for me, while also honoring and understanding my role and responsibilities as a wife and mother. “I’ve been able to give my all to both my family and my job and appreciate that I’m valued and successful in both roles,” she says.
Lisa has been a very busy employee during her time at Grace. While the kids were in school, she volunteered at Buck Lake Elementary, Swift Creek Middle School and Lincoln High School. She enjoys reading, playing electronic word games, keeping up with/helping friends, taking classes, spending time near water and making up recipes (mostly Italian, due to her heritage). One day she plans to write a book. Over the past few years, she has acted in 11 (still counting) films produced by undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in the FSU Film School. She loves to travel and has visited many foreign countries and states within the U.S. However, hands down, her most favorite thing to do when not working is spending time with her family and her yellow lab Hayley.