MWLS2019 Staff

MWLS 2019 volunteer staff at their March meeting


Rev Phil Lund Dec 2016 2

REV. PHILLIP LUND: I have over 20 years experience serving congregations in the areas of faith formation and spiritual growth, first as a religious educator in Bloomington, Indiana, New York City, and Chicago, Illinois, and most recently as a congregational life consultant working for the MidAmerica Region of the Unitarian Universalist Association. I have a Master of Divinity degree from Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago and a certificate in InterSpiritual Counseling from One Spirit Learning Alliance in New York. In addition to being a Certified Practitioner of The MBTI® Step I™ and Step II™ Instruments, I have also received training in The Art of Hosting Conversations That Matter and Discerning Your Call: Dependable Strengths® for Congregations at Luther Seminary in Saint Paul, Minnesota; I have completed the Mediation Skills Training Institute for Church Leaders sponsored by the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center, and am a Conscious Aging Facilitator approved by the Institute of Noetic Sciences. In 2013 I was named the Fahs Fellow for Innovation in Technology by the Fahs Collaborative at Meadville Lombard. I currently live in Saint Paul, Minnesota, with my wife, Julia, and son, Henry David, and two cats, Nika and Dima.

rev carlton elliott smith 

REV. CARLTON ELLIOTT SMITH:  co-presenter. Rev. Carlton Elliott Smith joined the UUA Southern Region's Congregational Life Staff in August 2013. In that capacity, he is most often called upon to support congregations as they negotiate with ministers, enter into transition periods, and learn about Compassionate Communication and dynamics of institutional change. From July 2015 to December 2017, Carlton was deeply involved in establishing a long-term presence for the Movement for Black Lives within our UUA. Ordained in 1995, he has served congregations of various sizes in Metro New York, Greater Boston, Northern Virginia and Oakland, California. He lives in Holly Springs, Mississippi.

Rev Connie Simon April 2018 

REV. CONNIE SIMON, UU History. Rev. Connie Simon is a 2018 graduate of Meadville Lombard Theological School. Prior to seminary, she served as a lawyer, a political consultant, small business owner, an event planner, professor, realtor and program director for a non-profit. At the heart of each position has been a desire to serve others. Rev. Connie describes her ministry as healing people from the inside-out so they can do the outside-in work our world so desperately needs. Rev. Connie held a variety of lay leader positions at her home congregation, First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia, and was Intern Minister at the Unitarian Society of Germantown. She is a former member of the Black Lives UU Worship Team and was a contributor to the UUA’s Promise & the Practice program and its Braver/Wiser blog. In 2018, Rev. Connie was called to serve as minister of the First Unitarian Church of Cincinnati.

Rev Lisa Presley Dec 2016 2 REV. DR. LISA PRESLEY, Meyers-Briggs. Lisa Presley is a life-long Unitarian Universalist who was an active lay leader before entering our ministry in 1991. As a lay leader she was board president, board member, worship associate, stewardship campaign chair, religious education teacher, bookkeeper, secretary, and shoveled the snow as well as many other "duties as assigned". She has served congregations as interim minister (Calgary AB, Rochester MI, Naperville IL, San Rafael CA), and as settled minister (Southfield MI). Her work for first the Heartland District and now the MidAmerica Region includes mentoring, teaching, and working with congregations in all aspects of congregational life. For MidAmerica she is a "deep generalist" working across the spectrum of congregational issues, while taking as her "deep" areas overseeing ministerial and other religious professionals transitions, safe congregations, regional finances, and working toward greater intercultural competency in our congregations. She lives in Kalamazoo, MI, with her partner and their cat.
 Rev. David Pyle REV. DAVID PYLE

The Rev. David Pyle is the Regional Lead and a Congregational Life Consultant with the MidAmerica Regional Staff.

Rev. Pyle holds a Masters of Divinity from the Meadville Lombard Theological School and a Bachelors of Arts in History and Political Science from East Tennessee State University.  He completed his Clinical Pastoral Education Residency at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinios.  He has served as a minister for congregations in California, Michigan, and Illinois, and as an Administrator for a congregation in Texas.  He also serves as a U.S. Army Reserve Hospital Chaplain for the 865th Combat Support Hospital, with units throughout New York and Pennsylvania.  


Babs Garcia

BABS GARCIA: Chair. I attended MWLS in 2017 in preparation for my upcoming role as President of the Board of Trustee for the First UU of Springfield, MO (2018-2019). The MWLS experience helped me to better understand some of the challenges faced by congregations and, so importantly, it helped me better understand the kind of leader that I want to be.  Unexpectedly, the leadership skills taught at MWLS have been applicable in my professional leadership role at the environmental consultant firm where I work registered geologist and team supervisor. I am honored and so happy to come back to MWLS as a volunteer staff member. For the 2019 session, I served as the Facilities Dean. When I am at home, I spend an inordinate amount working on household project with mi amor, Jonathan, and hanging out with my fur family: dogs Scooter and Pepper and the newest addition, Murphy the cat.

Anne Marie Chastain

ANNE MARIE CHASTAIN: Facilities Dean. This is my third year on staff, last year as Student Dean. I have loved my experience with MWLS for the community and deep fellowship each summer brings. I am a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Indianapolis and have served on the Religious Education Council and as a teacher for the third and fourth grade RE programs.  I am a not-for-profit consultant, specializing in fundraising and board development for arts and higher education institutions. I live in Indianapolis with my two children John (13) and Adele (10), my cats Anu and Rayray, two crawfish and a houseful of plants. I enjoy music, reading, running and great food.

Jeremy Guenther 300w

JEREMY GUENTHER: Student Dean. Second year staff member. I’m excited to be coming back as staff after being a student in 2017. I recently relocated to Des Moines, Iowa with my wife Sarah, our daughters Lucille and Penelope and two little dogs Frank and Muffin. Sarah and I were both raised Catholic but came to join the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Dubuque after moving to town from Madison, Wisconsin in 2009. I was serving my second year as board secretary for the Fellowship when I was fortunate enough to attend MWLS. Afterwards I served as board president in Dubuque until moving to Des Moines where I’m in the process of joining First Unitarian. I’m very excited to continue my faith journey as part of MWLS staff and join other UUs as we seek our truths, expand our knowledge, and hone our skills together.

David Clement 3x4 

DAVID CLEMENT: Marketing. This is my second year on staff with MWLS. I have served as a worship committee member for two years. I enjoy being a part of our services, both as a worship associate and worship leader. I lead a Bible study, both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. I enjoy using both my knowledge and teaching background to make this a positive learning experience for the participants (I spent some years as an Evangelical Christian, so I am very glad to put to good use all of that knowledge floating around in my head). I am currently serving on our search committee for a new minister. In addition to my leadership experience at church, I teach high school Leadership and Mentoring classes. I lead numerous service-learning and volunteer projects at school.  I have also been a head coach of varsity skiing and tennis. In addition, I am the head official of our high school football officiating crew. I have learned A LOT about working under pressure, keeping cool when others are losing it, working through conflict, the must of being prepared. I am very fortunate to be happily married; I met my wife, Deinna, at the University of Michigan. We have been married for 15 years; both of us are high school teachers. We have 2 kids: Hannah is 11 and Jack is 13. We are building a new house over the winter and are experiencing the joy and stress of that. I myself love to read and mountaineer.

Carol Torrens 3x4 

CAROL TORRENS: Registrar. 2020 is my second year as lay staff for MWLS. Last year I managed the bookstore. I’ve been a member of the UU Church of Bloomington/Normal (Illinois) for 20 years.  I’ve served on many committees, have taught RE at all grade levels, am a K-1 OWL teacher, and was the Sabbatical Task Force chair twice. I am on our Board of Directors and recently finished 2 years in the role of Secretary there.  I was also the on our interim minister search team--UUBN is in the first year of an interim period. Professionally, I’m a librarian. I currently manage the Adult Services Dept. at Bloomington Public Library. Having grown up in Illinois, I lived on the East Coast, in Michigan, and in Oregon before coming back home.  I did so because I needed my family’s support to become a foster parent. My kids were placed with me at ages 6 and 4 ½. I adopted them a year later, and they are now in their early 20s. I’m also a first-time grandma as of Dec., 2018.

Rachel Gadd Nelson RACHEL GADD NELSON:
Ruth Jenkins RUTH JENKINS: 
Julie Trombley   JULIE TROMBLEY:
Jackee Orozco

JACKEE OROZCO: Bookstore Manager, (she/her/hers): I attended MWLS in 2018 as part of my professional development for my role as Director of Lifespan Faith Development at Unitarian Church North in Mequon, Wisconsin. Mequon is a Northern suburb of Milwaukee. Professionally, I am an Academic Support Specialist for K4-3rd grade students and run two small businesses: one as a pet care specialist and the other as a health and wellness coach. I am grateful for the skills that MWLS provided me in particular around the area of responding to conflicts and facilitating communication as they have benefitted me in all areas of my life. Above all, I am grateful for the life-long friendships that I formed there. I am an embracer of the words "BOTH" and "AND"; I am also a practicing Jew. I am a convert who was raised Catholic. I found UUism while in college at UW-LaCrosse. I live with my two children: Luis (16) and Ana (15) and many beautiful, loving pets. I am passionate about soccer, fitness, writing, and art. I am so excited to be on staff this year!

MANY THANKS to past Faculty and Staff!

rev sharon dittmar 2016 REV. SHARON DITTMAR: I served 3 years as a co-faculty presenter at MWLS.  I served for twenty years as a parish minister (intern, interim, and settled minister).  My favorite parts of ministry were worship and working with staff and lay teams in order to deepen relationships and develop and execute mission while having fun.  I recently completed work with Parker Palmer's Circle of Trust, and have become committed to wonder and asking open and honest questions. Again and again it is the people in our congregations who bring me the most joy in my work.  I live in Cincinnati, Ohio with my son, step-son, and husband
matthew foraker MATT FORAKER: Outfitter in 2019 and three year staff member. I work as a Research Coordinator for Western Kentucky University. Since becoming a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Bowling Green, KY in 2011, I have served the church in many ways, including a recent stint as President of the church. As early as elementary school, I had strong doubts regarding the beliefs of my Presbyterian parents, in particular the notion of eternal punishment. My spiritual quest began in earnest in my 20s, studying eastern religions, yoga, meditation, and I practiced methods based on the ideas of G.I. Gurdjieff for 10 years. After moving to Bowling Green, I discovered the UU church and felt I had found a place to call home. My other interests include world cinema, mathematics, and the study of consciousness.
Laura McGee LAURA MCGEE: In 2019, my third year on MWLS staff, I served as Chair. I am a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Bowling Green, Kentucky, and serve as its Board President. It was a long and circuitous journey that brought me to the UU Church. An educator by profession, I particularly appreciate the emphasis the our denomination places on the personal search for truth, as well as its openness to the teachings of many religious traditions. I am a professor of German at Western Kentucky University, where I am also Head of the Department of Modern Languages. In the summers and on semester breaks, you will find me traveling to favorite spots in Europe, or discovering new places there. I also like to paint in my studio.
Chris Rode CHRIS RODE: 2019 Registrar and First Year Staff Member. I live outside of Iowa City, IA with my wife Anna, and our 3 sons, Ethaen (9), Aedan (6), and Leo (6 months).  My family also consists of 2 dogs, 2 goats, a fluctuating number of chickens that enjoy listening to NPR (currently 19), 4 ducks, a rabbit, and a fish.  I joined the UU Society in Iowa City in 2016, and currently serve on the Board of Trustees as Treasurer. During the week, I work remotely as a systems architect & administrator for a non-profit in Tucson, AZ.  I also enjoy books, movies, music, spending time with my family, and good BBQ.
  TOM SEGUIN: I attended MWLS as a student in 2018, and was on staff in 2019. I am a member of the First Unitarian Church of Omaha and am a board trustee there. I am also an advisor for our YRUU group, a member of the Young Adults group, and I am involved in setting up a Right Relations Committee for our congregation. I have previously been a member of the church choir and contemporary music group, the Early Morning Risers - I sign tenor and have played the trumpet for over 20 years. I am a husband and father of a toddler (with one more on the way), and we have two cats. I am a professional counselor and psychotherapist in private practice, and I am a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. I am originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, and I moved to Omaha when I was stationed there on active duty in 2012. I intend to pursue a PhD in counselor education in a few years, and I hope to become a university professor. My current hobbies include cooking, reading, and chasing my toddler around.
jack round 200w

JACK ROUND, 2018 Outfitter, and three-year staff member. Jack has recently served as the congregation president at the First Unitarian Church of Omaha, NE where he has been a member for 17 years. During the week, Jack works in finance and accounting for a non-profit foundation.  Jack enjoys serving on the boards of an urban garden and a high school based on the Montessori method. He has a wife and two children.

Claude Diogo

CLAUDE DIOGO, 2018 Technology Manager and two-year staff member. He lives in Wauwatosa, WI. His spiritual quest found a home at the Unitarian Universalist Church West of Brookfield WI, few years ago, in 2014. As an active member of his congregation, Claude currently works with the membership committee and also contributes to the leadership development team’s work. He participated in the 2016 - 2017 “Wellspring” program at UUC West. In his day job, he is a Customs Coordinator with Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate, a food manufacturer. On the side, he partake in the “Grow and Eat Local” movement of sustainable urban agriculture.

Omega Burckhardt 200w OMEGA S. BURCKHARDT, Chair and third-year staff member, lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She is a member of the First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee where she is a Trustee. She has served as the Chair of the Social Justice Council, which is comprised of over 10 very active groups in the Milwaukee metropolitan area. In addition, she was a member of the Chalice Circle Steering Committee and the Immigration and Deportation Issues group. Embracing many career paths, she currently owns her own company that provides design and chef services, however she was previously with the University of Kansas and Marquette University as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Spanish and Latin American Cultures. In addition, she also leads technical brewery tours and beer education classes at one of Milwaukee’s largest craft breweries. She shares her full life with a loving husband, two kids, two dogs, a cat, and a frog. She is also thankful to have a wide circle of friends with whom she camps, travels, and enjoys fine food and conversation.
tom peterson 200w

TOM PETERSON, 2018 Facilities Dean, was on staff three years. He has been a UU for nearly 30 years, currently as a member of Second Unitarian Church of Omaha, Nebraska since 2002, where he is past chair of Nominations and Leadership Development. Tom is also a Worship Associate and choir member, and also assists with technology, building and grounds, and stewardship committees, and is a past chair of the Board of Trustees.  During the week, he works as a technical systems architect in information systems for a major midwest insurance and financial services company.  Tom is an avid woodworker and retired hot-air balloon pilot, and enjoys working in and around the rural home he shares with his wife and two dogs.

Rev Ian Evison Dec 2016 2

REV. DR. IAN EVISON, Leadership Development co-leader for several years on MWLS staff and a member of the MidAmerica Region program staff team -- just about the best team experience I have ever had. In 2018 Sharon Dittmar, new to our MidAmerica staff team joined me as co-leader.

I love driving the roads of our MidAmerica Region and seeing how our congregations make real our UU faith in some many different and wonderful ways. A major focus of learning for me in the past few years has been the series of events beginning with the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson and continuing this year with the witness at Standing Rock. The theme of racial justice has become a central theme weaving through out work. I love working at that point where practical helpfulness for the jobs our leaders need to do right now meets vision for the future of what our faith will need.

Lisa Friedman2a

REV. LISA FRIEDMAN, In 2018 I looked forward to being a part of the MWLS team and exploring the challenging and inspiring stories of our faith together. I currently serve as the Minister of Congregational and Community Engagement at Unity Church-Unitarian in St. Paul, Minnesota and have served congregations throughout MidAmerica, including Mankato, MN and Flint, MI. I have had a passion for history since growing up at the First Unitarian Church of Rochester, NY, where Susan B. Anthony was a member in her day. I currently live in Northeast Minneapolis, with my husband and two sons, where I attend a lot of youth baseball games in my spare time.

Rev Chris Rothbauer

REV. CHRIS ROTHBAUER Worked 2 years as spiritual director of the adult school at MWLS. I currently serve as a chaplain resident at the University of Louisville Hospital and as a community minister at-large in Louisville, Kentucky. I’m a native of Southern Indiana, and served as a parish minister for five and a half years at congregations in Louisville, Kentucky, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and Houghton, Michigan. I received my Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Leadership Studies degrees from Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago. Among my leadership activities, I serve on the steering committee of TRUUsT (Transgender Religious Professional UUs Together).

Emily Lewis

EMILY LEWIS, Student Dean 2017, was serving in her third year on staff. Emily embraces her journey as a Unitarian Universalist lay leader with gratitude. She was first introduced to UUism through her parents’ congregation, the First Unitarian Society of Madison, Wisconsin, nearly 25 years ago. Emily is currently an active young adult member at UU Church West in Brookfield, WI, and serves on their Leadership Development Team.

Emily grew up in a family of classical musicians, and later pursued studies in psychology, environmental education, and Montessori education. Emily lives in Milwaukee, WI, with her loving partner, Quinn, and their 10-year-old fur baby, Max. Emily cherishes time spent with family and friends in the outdoors, plays viola in community orchestra, is an active member of Educators’ Network for Social Justice Milwaukee and its greater LGBTQ community, and digs community-supported agriculture… pun intended :)

TRENA WINANS, Chair 2017, was serving in her third year on staff. She found her first spiritual home at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Midland, MI over 20 years ago. She recently finished serving a 3-year term on the Committee on Ministry including 2 years as Chair.

In her day job, she is Director of Education and Outreach for Senior Services: Midland County Council on Aging where she manages a department that teaches classes, organizes guest speakers, manages publicity and outreach efforts and oversees the volunteer program. On the side, she teaches a variety of fitness classes including Zumba and Boot Camp and is a very active volunteer in community theater as well as with her Leadership Midland class. She shares her life with her beautiful daughter Sophia, a junior in college, her boyfriend Michael, and his girls, Lexi and Emma, who are high school students in Auburn, Michigan.

tony sweazy TONY SWEAZY, 2016 chair and returning staff member, has been a member of Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Church in Louisville, Ky., since 2001. Tony’s family includes his wife, Kelly, of 22 years and his son, Leif, who will be a Senior at the University of Louisville. Roles served are Personnel Committee, Chair, past president of the Board of Trustees, and a member of the Green Sanctuary and Co-Chair, House committees, his involvement with church community has filled a void since leaving his previous career. Tony stays busy cycling, motorcycling, hiking, spending time at the lake, cooking, having fun volunteering with maintenance around TJUC.
stacey grenier 200w

STACEY GRENIER, Secretary 2017, was serving her last year on staff. Stacey is a member at First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis, MN. She has been an active young adult helping out when and where she can.

Stacey just completed her Doctorate of Nursing from the University of Minnesota. She lives with her partner and their three fur-babies (cats). Stacey enjoys being in nature, traveling, and trying new restaurants.

Rev Tom Capo

REV. TOM CAPO, 2015-16 MWLS History/Theology presenter, is minister at DuPage Unitarian Universalist Church in Naperville, Ill. Rev. Capo has also served congregations in Iowa and in Texas. While in Iowa, Rev. Capo was a commissioner on the Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Commission and served on many non-profit boards and steering committees, including Family Promise of Linn County, the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa, the Inter-Religious Council of Linn County, the Sexual Health Alliance of Linn and Johnson County, and the Partnership for a Drug-Free Cedar Rapids. He was also a moderator for “Ethical Perspectives on the News,” a show sponsored by the Inter-Religious Council of Linn County and televised on the local ABC affiliate, KCRG.

Prior to ministry, Rev. Capo was a marriage and family therapist for 30 years. In addition to his marriage and family therapy practice, Rev. Capo provided consultation to NASA Johnson Space Center and a number of local hospitals, schools and universities in such areas as stress management, eating disorders, meditation and employee management.

Rev Dr Lisa Presley

REV. DR. LISA PRESLEY, our 2016 organizational Development co-leader is a lifelong UU, and is in her 26th year of ordained ministry. Prior to that, she did almost every job imaginable in congregations including, but not limited to, board member, president, stewardship chair, worship associate, teacher of adult and youth RE, snow shoveller, bookkeeper, administrator, buildings and grounds person, caring committee and lots of other things. Lisa has worked as both a called minister and an interim minister in four congregations.

She has been on the UUA staff for ten+ years, working with congregations to help them do what they want to do better. Her current specializations for the MidAmerica Region include intercultural competency, ministerial transitions, safe congregations (both disaster preparedness and protection of members and children), and the finances for the region. Lisa lives in Michigan with her partner, and she enjoys reading, playing the celtic harp, kayaking and going to movies.

kathy mcgowan

KATHY McGOWAN, Congregational Life Staff for the Southern Region.  She is on the faculty of the Southern UU Leadership Experience (SUULE). More about Kathy.





terry mark



Ryan Thomas



Jennifer Thomas 2016




REV. DAVID BREEDEN, minister at Minnesota Valley UU Fellowship, Bloomington MN, lecturing on Theology and History in 2013


hilary krivchenia

REV. HILARY KRIVCHENIA, Minister at Countryside Church, Unitarian Universalist in Palatine, IL.
More about Hilary.


REV. DAWN COOLEY, Minister of First Unitarian Church in Louisville, KY. Read her Blog.



REV. RENEE RUCHOTZKE, Leadership Development staff for the Central East Regional Group, and Dean of the UU Leadership Team Institute (UULTI). More about Renee.