KAYLEE VANCE - WORSHIP LEADER
Kaylee was raised in a military family and was blessed with the opportunity to grow up amidst diverse people and communities. Despite the restlessness of military life, she always found Church a solid constant in the midst of constant change. However, as a Mental Health Therapist, she began to question a faith that seemed at odds with her work with hurting people in a context of extreme social injustice. Through her deconstruction of her childhood faith, she found The Hearth, which offered her a glimpse into a Christian denomination that recognizes the beautiful messiness of faith and the overarching love and true grace of Christ. Through this new lens of mature Christianity, she began to appreciate anew the ways in which the clients she worked with taught her that the world is not a juxtaposition of black (street alleys) and white (picket fences), but rather a lush kaleidoscope of human experiences to be celebrated (and mourned) together. When she finally found a Church that could enter into this tapestry lovingly and without judgment, she knew God had a calling for her that was beyond anything she had imagined.
Kaylee’s background in Clinical Psychology and her entrance into Seminary is preparing her for missional Church leadership, with a focus on reaching those who feel unwelcome or unwanted in traditional church settings - the people who joke, but often with a grain of belief, that they would be smote upon entering a vestibule. Her transitional leadership at The Hearth will be focused on sustaining this beautiful community and growing Christ’s Church to reach more individuals in Central Florida with a message of nonjudgmental love, community created by imperfect people, and warm hearts and cold beer.
FRANCISCO VALENTÍN - WORSHIP DIRECTOR
Francisco was born and raised in Puerto Rico. During some of his most formative years there, Ricky Martin’s “Livin' La Vida Loca” was one of the biggest hits. Which explains a lot about his wild personality (we’re being sarcastic). There are many things that Francisco is wild about, though. Among them, Jesus, family, community, playing music, The Beatles, and that sweet, sweet feeling of an ice-cold beer after a long week of work.
Francisco studied at Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA where he majored in Contemporary Writing and Production. After some years of living in New York City and teaching music there as well as touring the Northeast and South America, he and his wife decided to relocate here to Orlando, where everything was much cheaper and the weather was more like his native Puerto Rico.
Francisco’s journey with faith has had many twists and turns. He was raised Catholic until age 16. At this age, he gave up on church as a whole because, among other things, he felt like it was excluding people more than it was including them. During his teens and early twenties, he wrestled with his love of God contrasted with his doubts and skepticism. Francisco and his wife Cindy found this church one fateful November morning in 2018. They immediately fell in love with the community and the sense of openness and acceptance.
jared witt - FOUNDER
Jared grew up in Denver, Colorado near Red Rocks Amphitheater at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, which is a terrible place to be from—nothing else really compares. But mountain scenery was never his biggest passion. It was people. Still, it wasn’t clear where he was called to channel that passion until the third year of his somewhat unimpassioned progression toward a forestry degree at Colorado State University, when, very much out of the blue, he felt an intense Spirit calling to become a pastor.
This made far more sense of his predilection to enjoy books by dead theologians than trekking through mountain forests ever made sense to his weak ankles. But there was still one problem. He had never really resonated with most religious institutions (with some important exceptions) and definitely didn’t want to be bound to one for a career. It was clear to him that, if he was going to be able to mentally survive this calling, God was going to have to concede to him doing it his own way.
Fortunately, in the religious landscape of the US, where religious institutions have been declining in numbers and cultural influence for the better part of a century, the timing is ripe for the kind of restless people who might actually try something new, new wine into new wineskins. Once he realized that all the qualities which seemed to make him an unlikely candidate for this calling—his skepticism of settled ideologies, his irreverent sense of humor, his tendency to keep over-developed institutions at arm’s length—may be the very reasons why God was calling him to this, there was no more hesitancy. Maybe he wasn’t doing it “his own way” at all, but maybe God was way ahead of him.
In 2018, Jared co-founded Castle Church and Castle Church Brewing, a joint church and brewery venture, which was a resounding success in terms of the people it attracted but not quite a financial success under the pressures of COVID. He and a large contingent of “church refugees” from the Castle Church community founded The Hearth in early 2022.
Jared lives with his border collie mix, Lula, aka Lula Nemo, aka Sweet Baby Lu, aka Papadou d’ Bubbalou.