Ministers & Staff

rev-victoria-saffordRev. Victoria Safford, Lead Minister
vsafford@wbuuc.org / 651.426.2369 x101
Pronouns: she/her/hers/herself

A native of New York State, Victoria came to Minnesota in 1999, following a ten-year ministry at Northampton, Massachusetts and five years of work with the American Friends Service Committee as a community organizer and activist. Reverend Safford is a graduate of Vassar College and Yale Divinity School.

She says,

This is a creative church, making art and justice all the time, within the building and far beyond its walls. The sanctuary brims with music, the Atrium with artwork, the kitchen with delectable amazements, and this same lively love of life pervades the work for peace and social justice. This church is alive with hope.”

 

rev-luke-stevens-royerRev. Luke Stevens-Royer, Associate Minister
revluke@wbuuc.org / 651.426.2369 x103
Pronouns: he/him/his/himself

Luke began serving White Bear UU Church in 2012, after serving as Coordinator of Youth and Campus Ministries at Unity Church – Unitarian in St. Paul for three years, and as Intern Minister at First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis. He is a native of southern Minnesota, and a graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College and United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. He and his wife Jenna, and their daughters Louisa and Clara, live in St. Paul’s eastside.

He says,

I believe this faith, and this church, truly transforms lives – with a deep commitment to radical hospitality, spiritual depth, and the common good. We gather here, in hope, to grow our souls and together, work to build the beloved community – heaven on earth.”

 

amy-peterson-derrickAmy Peterson Derrick, Director of Religious Education
dre@wbuuc.org / 651.426.2369 x106
Pronouns: she/her/hers/herself

Amy Peterson Derrick comes to us from serving as Professional Lifespan Religious Educator for 10 years at the Unitarian Universalist congregation of Flint, Michigan.

She says,

I find our UU faith when engaged in advocacy work, walking (or running!) in nature, gardening and in spending time with my husband, Mark, and our two amazing, budding UUs: Alexandra, age 6 and Lennon, age 4. I can’t wait to make new discoveries and to grow and serve alongside all of you at WBUUC.”

 

jill-schwendemanJill Schwendeman, Director of Youth Programs
jschwendeman@wbuuc.org / 651.426.2369 x105
Pronouns: she/her/hers/herself

Jill has been Director of Youth Programs since 2003. She holds an M.Div. from the University of Chicago Divinity School. She is author of health articles, a book entitled When Youth Lead: A Guide to Intergenerational Social Justice Ministry, and co-author of a book on HIV/AIDS. Jill has a background in fundraising and communications. She served as executive director for two Chicagoland coalitions – one focused on services for HIV-impacted families with children and the other on peace/justice organizing. She is proud of WBUUC’s vibrant programming for youth.

She says,

This is an asset-rich congregation that exhibits creativity, intelligence, and collaborative depth in all it does.”

 

thaxter-cunioThaxter Cunio, Director of Music & Director of the Adult Choir
thaxter@wbuuc.org

Thaxter has served as Director of Music since 1996. He is a former soloist and assistant conductor at the First Unitarian Church in Rochester, NY, and is currently a voice faculty member at MacPhail Center for Music. Thaxter holds a Bachelor of Music Degree from the University of Wisconsin, a Master of Music degree from the State University of New York, and a Performer’s Certificate from the Eastman School of Music.

He says,

The purpose of this church is to transform lives, dive deep into big questions, and help each other grow.”

 

carol-caouetteCarol Caouette, Assistant Director of Music and Principal Collaborative Musician
caouette@wbuuc.org / 651.426.2369 x110
Pronouns: she/her/hers/herself

Carol has served as principal musician and assistant to the Music Director at WBUUC since 1998, accompanying the choir, collaborating with other musicians, and providing solo music for services. She studied music and voice at the University of Minnesota and has decades of performance and recording experience. Carol holds B.A.s in English Literature and Education from Hamline University.

She says,

I believe my life’s work and the work of our spiritual community is to experience most directly the joy and suffering of the world while applying our best gifts”.

 

mary-duncanMary Duncan, Pianist
Pronouns: she/her/hers/herself

Mary has served as pianist since 2008. She lives in Marine on St. Croix where she teaches piano and decorates eggs. Since getting both her Bachelors and Masters degrees in Music from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, she has played piano and organ and taught music at all levels from pre-school to college.

She says,

I joined the choir to get involved as a new member. And did I ever! I’ve loved singing in the choir because of the high quality of the music and our terrific director, Thaxter. It was a great way to get to know people and to be able to share my primary gifts. The congregation is amazing–they really listen. When I have a chance to share as a soloist, I can feel everyone with me. Playing here is always a spiritually uplifting experience.”

 

russell-packardRussell Packard, Children’s Choir Director
russellpackard@yahoo.com

Russell has been directing the Youth Choir since 2001. He currently teaches Music, Arabic and Spanish at Academic Arts High School in West Saint Paul, instructs for the Concordia Language Villages and provides private music lessons, and has twenty years of teaching experience at Friends School of Minnesota. He completed independent ethno-music research while performing and working throughout Latin America, the Middle East, Europe and parts of Asia. He established Crossing Borders: A World Music Ensemble to promote cross-cultural understandings through performance, artistic exchange, and to host international artists.

He says,

I love the supportive and welcoming atmosphere at WBUUC where progressive and tolerant values enable children to thrive and explore freely and where value based education is a hands-on and liberating experience.”

 

anna-gehresAnna Gehres, Operations Director
agehres@wbuuc.org / 651.426.2369 x107
Pronouns: she/her/hers/herself or they/them/theirs/themself

Anna joined the WBUUC front office staff as Operations Director in 2010. She is a licensed social worker and a nonprofit administrator. They bring a strengths-based perspective and many years of experience to their work in human resources, finances, IT, supervision, and facilities management. Anna is a member of and volunteer for the Twin Cities Women’s Choir and volunteers with Big Brothers Big Sisters. She lives with her partner and dog in Minneapolis.

She says,

I am proud to be part of a community that is dedicated to social justice and radical inclusion and welcome.”

 

betsy-banceBetsy Bance, Communications and Data Coordinator
bbance@wbuuc.org / 651.426.2369 x109

Betsy joined the WBUUC staff in 2013. She received her Master of Arts in English in 2011 and has contributed to several publications such as the University of St. Thomas’s Irish Studies journal—New Hibernia Review, and the Minnesota Literacy Council’s literary magazine, Journeys.

She says,

The WBUUC staff has made me feel so welcome. I am lucky to have found such a wonderful place to work.”

 

john-sistermanJohn Sisterman, Custodian
John has served as Custodian since 2000.

He says,

 

 

 

The church has always been very welcoming. They are just like family.”