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Obituary: Nancy Jane Carroll Butler

Published December 2016

On December 7th 2016 Nancy Jane Carroll Butler’s soul broke free of her failing body and bounded towards the warm embrace of God. Nancy, who is best known as the founding pastor of Riverfront Family Church, made it her life’s mission to bring people closer to God, and in her last few days she felt God telling her that her mission on earth had been completed.

Nancy grew up in Cazenovia, NY. It was there, in her 5th grade Spanish class that she met Gregory Butler. They dated, got married and had two daughters. After graduating from Duke University, Nancy earned her MBA from the University of Maryland and worked in marketing and Human Resources for a number of years but eventually felt called to plant a new kind of church. She then received an M.Div from Yale University and was ordained in the American Baptist Church prior to founding Riverfront Family Church in Hartford. Nancy’s progressive evangelical church – one of the very first evangelical churches in the nation to affirm gay marriages – is truly welcoming to all, and has led many to encounter the love of Christ.

In February of 2015 Nancy was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS). As she faced a disease that she knew would end in death, Nancy was an inspiration to her friends, family, and the countless strangers who heard about her story. Her life motto had been “trust Jesus,” and once again she did. She preached until her voice failed her, and continued to help guide the church and disciple congregants until her last days. Through the greatest challenge of her lifetime, her faith shined brighter than ever.

Nancy is survived by her husband of 33 years and best friend, Gregory Butler, her daughters Elizabeth “Liza” Butler Arulampalam (Arunan) and Sarah Butler, grandchildren Sahana (3), Theeran (2), Nivadita “Nivy” (1) and Dayanand Arulampalam (1), grand-puppies Max E. Moose Butler and Addison Arulampalam parents John Benjamin and Jane Carroll, siblings Woodruff Carroll, Jennifer Carroll Archie (Timothy), Susanne Carroll Duffy (Brian), Jonathan Carroll (Claudia) and Andrew Carroll and 14 nieces and nephews. She is preceded in death by her grandparents, nephew and beloved dogs Kaylee and the inspiration behind the church mascot, Daisy Doodle. She loved dogs, teaching kids about Jesus, vacationing in Ocean City, NJ, political humor, reading books, listening to music, working with refugees and most of all her family. Her laugh was infectious, her enthusiasm for life undeniable, and anyone who spent 5 minutes with her came away liking her. As ALS stole her physical capabilities one by one she was relegated, first to a wheelchair and then largely to her bed. On the wall that faced her, she painted the names of many of her heroes along with the passage from Hebrews: “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” In the way that Nancy ran her race, and the way she finished it Nancy became a hero to so many others.

Funeral service will be Saturday, December 10th at 2pm, at Central Baptist Church at 457 Main Street in Hartford. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to Riverfront Family Church online at or by mail to 341 E. Center St, #123, Manchester, CT 06040. For online condolences please visit