1st Unitarian: Church Staff

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Church Staff


Executive Staff

Kaaren Anderson

Rev. Kaaren Anderson, Senior Minister | email | 585-271-9070, x106
Kaaren became our Minister in August 2004. She often describes herself as a spiritual non-theist who believes in Grace.

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America's Clergy Advisory Board chose Anderson to receive The Reverends Betsy M. and Thomas R. Davis Distinguished Service Award for 2011. Anderson helped our church launch an abortion hotline called “Connect and Breathe” that offers support without judgment. The free talk service, for women after abortion, is staffed by trained volunteers. Her work was featured in the Spring 2011 issue of UU World.

Kaaren is particularly interested in integrating the arts in worship and emphasizing the quest for boldness in our living and loving. She is committed to cultivating an "evangelistic" church culture in which members feel so grateful for what they've discovered in their spiritual community that they can't help but want to share it with others.

In addition to her degree in divinity Kaaren has done graduate work in the arts. She is a mom to three children - Nils, Solveig and Neva - and married to Rev. Scott Tayler, Director of Congregational Life at the Unitarian Universalist Association.

Kaaren's book, Glad to Be Human, is available through the church bookstore. Her writings have also been included in the anthology Singing In the Night: Collected Meditations, Volume 5.

Tina Simson Rev. Tina Simson, Minister of Pastoral Care and Spiritual Development | email | 585-330-9177
Tina believes that people are whole and worthy of grace no matter what circumstance has come their way, and that given the opportunity to listen deeply to their inner spark of life, they will find their way home to their true self. Tina Simson is an Interfaith Minister educated and ordained through One Spirit Interfaith Seminary in New York and holds a certificate in Spiritual Counseling. In addition to her work at First Unitarian, she provides individual spiritual direction and counseling and is committed to respecting all faith traditions and to assisting individuals in navigating life's transitions in light of their spiritual needs and beliefs. Tina is also a facilitator and consultant for the UU Wellspring™ Spiritual Deepening Program. Tina has worked in the Rochester, NY community as an administrator for non-profit social service organizations, and as a counselor and workshop facilitator for 25 years. She travels this life with her soul mate Joe, her three children, assorted grandchildren and her delightful dog Roscoe.
David S. Blanchard Rev. David S. Blanchard, Associate Minister | email | 315-427-3339
David describes himself as a "devout" Unitarian Universalist. He is a graduate of Harvard Divinity School, where we was able to study with Henri Nouwen, Harvey Cox, Conrad Wright, Peter Gomes, and Diana Eck. Ordained in 1986 by his first congregation, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Lexington KY, he has also served our congregations in Syracuse, Utica, and Canton NY. He is the author of "A Temporary State of Grace" and "Listening for our Song", and has contributed to many denominational publications. Julia and Emily are his treasured daughters, and 'Rufus' is his four legged companion. An introvert by nature, David re-charges his batteries in the garden, with his nose in a book, or over the soup pot at the stove. ( A 'luddite" at heart, don't be surprised if you find a note or clipping or a postcard from him delivered by your mail-person. He may single-handedly save the US Postal Service.)
Picture not yet available Rev. Emily Hartnett Liefert, Associate Minister | email
Emily started as Associate Minister at First Unitarian Rochester in August 2014, sharing the position with her spouse, Marcus Hartnett Liefert. She jokes that in her family, she comes from a long line of dedicated church ladies. Her understanding is that all of life is connected, and the web is holy. Emily's theology emerges from the ministry she engages in, alongside others seeking shelter, truth, and liberation together, learning and leaning ever deeper into Love, God, Mystery, Power and Presence. Her belief is that we are here to awaken to our interconnectedness, to grow in our capacity for compassion and in service to life.

Previously, Emily worked in healthcare, fundraising and organizational development. She is a passionate social justice advocate. Emily has organized alongside fellow students, employees, and activists to build a world where everyone is valued. She was honored to be part of the ministerial team in the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of San Diego, nurturing a multi-cultural, multi-generational community. Her work there included leadership development with veterans, immigrants and people of color in the congregation.

Originally from Kentucky, Emily has lived in five states and three countries - she loves travel, the arts and the outdoors. She speaks conversational Spanish, aspires to learn a third language, and loves connecting with new people and places. She's a graduate of Starr King School for the Ministry and was ordained as a Unitarian Universalist minister in March 2014.

Picture not yet available Rev. Marcus Hartnett Liefert, Associate Minister | email
Marcus joined the Rochester Unitarian team in August 2014 with his beloved partner in life and ministry, Emily. A lifelong Unitarian Universalist, Marcus believes we are all held by a love beyond knowing, and that we are called to respond creatively and ethically to the beauty of the world.

Before entering ministry, Marcus worked as an educator in a wide variety of settings. He is most grateful for his work with Mosaic Project, an outdoor school that brings together children of diverse backgrounds for a week of experiential peace and multiculturalism education. Marcus has intentionally worked to cross the barriers that separate us—especially those of race and class—in his own life, as well as to support others in crossing those barriers. He is committed to a ministry that embraces justice as a cornerstone of the spiritual life.

Marcus has a passion for theater and storytelling, and has been a performer throughout his life. He is a teacher of InterPlay, an improvisational practice that uses storytelling, singing and movement to unlock the wisdom of the body. Marcus is committed to play as a spiritual practice, and seeks ways to infuse it into all that we do.

Marcus is originally from Berkeley, CA. He received his Master of Divinity from Starr King School for the Ministry in 2012. Before coming to First Unitarian Church of Rochester, he served two years as intern minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley and one year as a chaplain resident in the mental health field at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center.

Sheila Schuh Sheila Schuh, Director of Religious Education | email | 585-271-9070, x109
Sheila served as Director of Religious Education for six years in Syracuse and has been with us since 2009. Fun Worship! Social Action! Sacred Stories! The Arts! These are her loves in the ministry. Supporting parents in their roles as spiritual guides is also a passion, especially in a culture of many forces which conflict with our UU Principles.

Sheila is a licensed Creative Arts Therapist, has won awards for intergenerational worship, and is currently Vice Chair of the Seaway Chapter of the Liberal Religious Educators Association. To relax, she loves to run, play volleyball, write, picnic with her three children, and listen to 100.5 The Drive!
Thomas Snell Thomas Snell, Worship Music Director | email | 585-271-9070, x110
Hailing from Northeast Ohio, Thom holds a Master of Music in Conducting from the University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Music in Sacred Music from Westminster Choir College. As a baritone soloist, he specializes in baroque oratorio and American art song. Recent solo engagements include Haydn's Lord Nelson Mass, Schubert's Mass in G, and Handel's Messiah. He has performed as a choral singer with the world's leading orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, and Staatskapelle Berlin. Passionate about vocal pedagogy, he maintains a private voice studio. When he's not making music, Thom enjoys baking, textile arts, and researching prohibition-era mixology.
Picture not yet available Ursula Staneff, Director of Finance and Operations | email | 585-271-9070, x101
Also hailing from Northeast Ohio, Ursula joined the First Unitarian staff team in July 2014. She spent the past 2 years as a Regional Operations Manager for an educational company called Knowledge Universe based in Portland OR. Prior to that Ursula spent 6 years working in the Rochester non-profit arena where she served as the Associate Executive Director of the Carlson Metrocenter YMCA. Ursula holds an undergraduate degree in Early Childhood Education from Ashland University as well as an Executive MBA from the Simon School of Business at the University of Rochester. Ursula lives in Fairport NY with her husband Devin and enjoys following Nazareth College Athletics, running and spending time with family.
Erin Julian Erin Julian, Executive Assistant | email | 585-271-9070, x105
Erin is a Rochester native and has been involved with many charitable organizations in the area, including Gilda's Club, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and the Monroe Community College Foundation. Erin is a member of the congregation and enjoys singing with Orange Sky, when possible.
Program Staff, Religious Education
Marjorie Bovenzi Marjorie Bovenzi, Religious Education Administrator | email | 585-271-9070, x109
Marj Bovenzi is very happy to have joined the First Unitarian staff. She is excited to be working with Religious Education and lending her sense of organization and technical knowledge to this highly enriching and thoughtful program. She lives in Webster with her most favorite family. She enjoys taking care of the horses; ringing English Handbells; and daily exercising and nourishing her body, mind and soul.
Emma Kilmer Emma Kilmer, Workshop Leader/Teacher | email
Emma has been working at First Unitarian Church for a year. She is the youth representative for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Alliance as well as an active member of our church's youth group. She loves any opportunity to work with kids, and volunteers at Strong Memorial Hospital as well as her work in the Religious Education program at our church. She is currently a student at Monroe Community College, and plans to go to medical school for pediatric surgery. She loves reading a good book, swing dancing, and spending time with her siblings.
Jan Cook Jan Cook, Mindfulness Educator | email
Jan has developed, delivered and coached within culture change and leadership programs for 30 years. She now focuses exclusively on helping busy people effectively deal with the stress of their engaged and purposeful lives. She is a certified Body-Mind Centering® practitioner and registered somatic movement educator and teaches a mindfulness oriented stress management program in and outside of Rochester. She considers herself a "walking laboratory" for dealing with stress, and has sought and continues to study with brilliant leaders in the field. Joining First Unitarian ten years ago was an opportunity to put her spiritual life in the foreground of this inquiry. She has been in a rigorous study of Buddhist teachings and practice with a Tibetan lama/scholar named Anam Thubten. In 2008 she was ordained by him as a Dharma Teacher in a ceremony auspiciously held in our church. For the last ten years she has been integrating the love of community and working for social justice with the depth of Buddhist tradition and practice. She has been sharing this inquiry within our church in meditation classes, small retreats and spiritual direction within UU Wellspring™, and attended the Buddhist UU Fellowship conference this year. She is deeply honored and excited to work with Sheila to incorporate mindfullness practices and communication with the children, staff and parents in the grand experiment of Listen Open Serve!
Kristen Rogers Kristen Rogers, Director of Early Childhood Ministry | email
Kristen has a degree in Child Care Administration and for twelve years served as owner/operator of a Licensed Group Family Daycare. Within that role she had the pleasure of forming meaningful relationships with children and families. Kristen has been able to continue her passion for working with children and families in her current role as an Early Head Start teacher and it is this same passion that she bring with her to First Unitarian Church.
Kelly Lund Kelly Lund, Teacher for 3- and 4-year-olds
Kelly is proud to have been a part of First Unitarian since 2012. She absolutely loves being a lead teacher for the three and four year olds. She is a graduate of Roberts Wesleyan college with a bachelors in education and a minor in art. Some of the things Kelly likes to do are spending quality time with her family and traveling. She also enjoys spending time with her three cats.
Chris Davis Chris Davis, Coming of Age Assistant
Program Staff, Social Justice
Luis Torres Luis Torres, Social Justice Coordinator | email
Luis Torres-Rivera's past position was Lead Organizer for Workers United. Prior to that he worked as director of the western NY office of Rural and Migrant Ministry and as project manager for the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice in Washington DC. Having lived and worked in Rochester for the past 6 years, Luis is connected to many local leaders and aware of the many challenges facing Rochester and the wider region.

Currently he balances his time between First Unitarian Church, being a stay-at-home dad, and serving as an active board member of Metro Justice and Rural and Migrant Ministry. He is committed to working towards social and economic justice in Rochester, NY and its surrounding rural areas.
Vicki Robertson Vicki Robertson, UU/Schools Partnership Cooordinator | email
Vicki is a strong advocate for city schools and city living. As a regular volunteer in city schools she knows the impact a caring adult can make. She serves on various RCSD committees and the PTA at both Wilson Foundation and James P.B. Duffy School #12, where her children attend. She also coordinated the volunteer program at School #12. Before kids, she was an engineer at Kodak. She is a member of the church and greatly enjoys singing in the Early Service Choir. Vicki lives on South Ave near Highland Hospital with her husband, Ted; kids, James and Julia; and cat, Zoey. It's the house with the big chairs and cool tree house. She enjoys old houses, long walks, reading, throwing parties, and playing board games.
Program Staff, Deaf Inclusion
Rupert Dubler Rupert Dubler, Deaf Inclusion Ministry Coordinator | email
Having graduated from University of California, San Diego (UCSD) with a degree in Political Science, Rupert found upstate New York to be a refreshing change for this Southern California native; First Unitarian of Rochester made this town so much more of a blessed place to live. His passions in life center around healing the disconnection that all of us experience to various degrees in this modern society and how we as a people can live in harmony with the natural world. In his spare time he enjoys imagining how the future can be even more wonderful and then considers how he can play a part in making that happen. Oh, he happens to be deaf and communicates fluently in American Sign Language. No big deal.

Equipped with an extensive background as an educator and in community building, he grew quite naturally into this position where he now work towards the creation of an inclusive spiritual home for deaf people. First Unitarian is uniquely positioned to become a model for this type of inclusion, for our faith centers around inclusiveness and this church happens to be located at the heart of world's largest deaf community. Rupert travels along this life path side-by-side with Brooke Dubler and their family of five furry animals in their Brighton residence.
Program Staff, Worship
Zachary Zwahlen Zachary Zwahlen, Organist | email
Raised in Las Vegas, NV, Zachary Zwahlen is the second of seven children. He began his musical journey climbing on pianos at the age of 3, although he did not begin lessons until the age of 5. During his teens Zachary became very involved in musical events - performing and accompanying musical selections for church services, accompanying high school and church choirs, and playing piano in pit orchestras for musical theater productions. He also tried his hand at a number of woodwinds, playing saxophone, flute, and oboe in various community and school ensembles. Zachary was homeschooled during middle and high school, graduating at the age of 15. He then attended the Community College of Southern Nevada, earning an Associate's degree in piano, following which he earned his Bachelor's degree in piano and organ performance from Brigham Young University in Provo, UT. He served a two-year Spanish-speaking proselyting mission in New York City, after which he returned to BYU and completed his Master's degree in organ performance with Dr. Doug Bush. He is currently a doctoral student at the Eastman School of Music, studying organ with Dr. David Higgs.
Office Staff
Carol Anne Cleary Carol Anne Cleary, Office Administrator | email | 585-271-9070, x102
Carol Anne is very happy to be a part of the staff at First Unitarian, where she has been a member of the congregation since 2010. She has served on the Religious Education Committee, volunteers for RAIHN, Supper at St. Joe's, and our UU/Schools Partnership Backpack Food program, and is a current member of the Safety Committee. Carol Anne is a native of Rochester and a graduate of Nazareth College. She has held previous arts administration positions at Nazareth College, Hochstein Music School, and the University of Rochester's Eastman School of Music. Her hobbies include photography, music, reading and hiking. Carol Anne lives in Brighton with her daughter, Sarah.
Allen Gundlach Allen Gundlach, Finance & Database Director | email | 585-271-9070, x103
Allen joined us after 26 years with Kodak, Kodak subsidiaries and Kodak joint ventures. He has a MBA in Finance and a BS in Mechanical Engineering. Al lives on Cranberry Pond in Greece with his wife Laurie and daughter Emily. He enjoys water and snow skiing, volleyball, tennis and hiking.
Brian Casey-Campbell Brian Casey-Campbell, Evening Administrative Assistant | email | 585-271-9070, x100
Brian has lived in Rochester for two years. He has been a member of First Unitarian for a year. He is currently in nursing school at St. John Fisher College.
Support Staff
William Hayes William Hayes, Custodian | email
William Hayes joined the staff in November 2007. He lives in the 19th Ward of the city with his grandson, Quamae. He has two children, William Patrick and Tiffany Ryane and two other grandchildren, Madeline and Stephan. He enjoys music, fishing, camping, woodcarving and working in the garden.
John Grego John Grego, Custodian | email
John was born and raised in Rochester. He follows the NFL and is interested in political science and is currently working on his degree. John enjoys reading, music, and running.
David Chamberlain David Chamberlain, Sunday Custodian | email
David joined the church staff in October 2010. He and his wife of 40 years are the proud parents of two sons, Christian and Mathew and grandparents of Nathan. David is a native of Monroe County and is currently semi-retired. Licensed as a New York State Professional Land Surveyor, he has worked managing survey departments for several local engineering firms. He is also a member of the Planning Board for the Town of Gates. He enjoys music, reading, history, genealogy and gardening.

July 9 2014