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.”

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sara-goodman-bio-photoRev. Sara Goodman, Assistant Minister
revsara@wbuuc.org / 651-426-2369 x103
Pronouns: she/her/hers/herself

Sara loves creativity and movement, and she loves to laugh and to cry with people. She loves feeling useful and whole, and looking out her windows and seeing green things. Sara is a raised UU, transplant from California, mom of Jamie, married to Shawn, and is so much more than the sum of her parts.

She says,

We are dedicated to living our values, both in our actions as a church, and in our individual lives. It is a pleasure to serve people who are so deeply determined to serve the world.”

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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 and Lennon. I can’t wait to make new discoveries and to grow and serve alongside all of you at WBUUC.”

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nico-van-ostrand-bio-photoNico Van Ostrand, Assistant Director of Religious Education
reassistant@wbuuc.org / 651.426.2369 x108
Pronouns: Name in place of pronouns, or they/them

Nico brings to Religious Education work a passion for justice grounded in a BA in Women’s Studies and Social Justice, aspirations for a graduate degree studying US colonialism in the Philippines, and Nico’s own lived experience as a genderqueer Filipino American. These identities and passions shape Nico’s approach to teaching; Nico believes that hope for a better future lies in raising antiracist, feminist children, and Nico strives to create curriculum and classroom experiences with such a future in mind.

Nico says,

I value belonging to a community where I can explore and fully live my deeply complex identities, and know that my journey will be supported and celebrated. I strive to do my part in making the Religious Education program a place where UU kids can feel that same sense of love.”

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jack-gaede-bio-photoJack Gaede, Director of Congregational Community
jgaede@wbuuc.org / 651.426.2369 x110
Pronouns: he/his/him/himself

Born and raised in northern Minnesota, Jack has spent half his life in the Twin Cities. After attending United Theological Seminary, he completed his ministerial internship in Kansas City, Missouri, and he is so glad to be back.

He says,

As I embark on my first year at this church, I am excited to get to know more people, to hear their stories, and to help people discover where their passion and their strengths can meet the needs of the world.”

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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.”

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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 of White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church since 1998. She brings social justice and resistance music to her role as a song leader of community singing, accompanies the choir, collaborates with featured and guest musicians, and provides solo music for services. Carol studied piano and voice at the University of Minnesota and has decades of performance and recording experience. She holds B.A. degrees in English Literature and Education from Hamline University. She is a first place winner of the 2018 Unitarian Universalist Musicians Network Silliman Congregational Song Competition.

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”.

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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.”

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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.”

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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 social worker by training and brings many years of nonprofit administrative experience to her work in supervision, human resources, finances, IT, and facilities management at WBUUC. Anna volunteers with Big Brothers Big Sisters and enjoys music, reading, writing, dogs, and slow food. She lives with her partner in Minneapolis.

She says,

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

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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.”

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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.”

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connie-ruiz-bio-photoConnie Ruiz, Facilities Associate
Pronouns: she/her/hers/herself

Connie started at WBUUC in 2017 and says she really enjoys working at WBUUC. In her spare time, she likes to cook and spend time with her nieces and nephews.

She says,

I am really happy to be here.”