In August of 2018, our congregation joyfully welcomed Reverend Manish Mishra-Marzetti as the thirteenth Senior Minister since our community’s founding in 1865.
Reverend Manish is a lifelong learner, scholar, author and a UU leader committed to community involvement and outspoken public ministry. His recent books include Conversations with the Sacred: A Collection of Prayers (2020), co-edited with Jennifer Kelleher, and Justice on Earth: People of Faith Working at the Intersections of Race, Class, and the Environment (2018), co-edited with Jennifer Nordstrom.
His warm and engaging preaching style appeals to both heart and head. He is a deeply thoughtful person with a multi-cultural background, drawing inspiration from a diverse range of literary, ethical, and spiritual sources, including Unitarian Universalism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Humanism, Christianity and Lakota spirituality.
Reverend Manish has previously served as the Senior Minister of congregations in Florida, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. He has also served extensively in Unitarian Universalist national leadership, including as president of the Diverse and Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries (DRUUMM, our national UU people of color organization), and most recently as a trustee on the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Board of Trustees.
Prior to entering the ministry, Reverend Manish served as a U.S. diplomat during the Clinton administration.
Reverend Cassandra Hartley graduated with her M.Div. from Detroit Ecumenical Theological Seminary and was ordained into Unitarian Universalist ministry by the Farmington UU Church. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications & Journalism from the University of Utah, and had a career working in development and public relations for non-profits before entering into the ministry.
In addition to the ministry, Cassandra is passionate about trauma and grief work, adoption/foster care issues, climate justice, and preventing gun violence. Her biggest passions, however, are parenting her three children and taking care of their small farm full of animals.
Reverend Cassandra has been a member of UUAA since 2013 and previously served as the Assistant Minister for Spiritual Growth & Development and Executive Minister. Now as Minister of Community Life, her focus is on small group ministries, social activities, communications, and adult enrichment opportunities.
Carter Smith is a conductor and performer from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He is excited to join the UUAA community in August of 2021. In addition to his current position, he is also in the final stages of completing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at Michigan State University.
Prior to moving to Ann Arbor, Carter enjoyed a variety of professional opportunities including Graduate Assistant at Michigan State, Choir Director at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in East Lansing, Director of Choral Activities for the Episcopal School of Baton Rouge, Chorus Master for Opéra Louisiane, and Director of Music for University United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge.
Carter holds a Bachelor of Music (Vocal Performance) from Louisiana State University, where he studied with Dr. Lori Bade and Prof. Dennis Jesse and a Master of Music (Conducting) from LSU, where he studied with Dr. Kenneth Fulton and Maestro Carlos Riazuelo. Outside of music, Carter is an avid college football and baseball fan. He and his fiancée love cooking, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.
Deb Markum has worked in congregational administration her entire professional career. While a student at the Conservatory of Music, University of Missouri-Kansas City, she landed her first church job as a choir director. There she discovered a passion for the systems that create community, support engagement, and cause congregations to thrive. Upon graduation she began working full time as a congregational administrator and has remained in active service to religious institutions since.
Prior to coming to Ann Arbor, Deb served a UU congregation in the Kansas City area for 17 years. She feels fortunate to continue serving Unitarian Universalism, her chosen faith, at UUAA. Deb’s social justice passions include fighting racism, income inequality, and oppression in all of its forms.
In her free time, Deb enjoys spending time with her family, reading, listening to and playing music, solving puzzles, and taking road-trips, especially to the Rocky Mountains.
Hannah has a B.A. in German from the University of Connecticut, studied abroad for a number of years, and eventually received an M.A. in Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) from Eastern Michigan University. She taught ESL to adults for over 10 years so she is no stranger to assisting people in adapting to new surroundings.
Hannah discovered her affinity for Unitarian Universalism when she was introduced to the UUAA in 2002. Five years later, she was thrilled to join the staff. Hannah’s responsibilities include managing ushers and greeters, running new member orientations and classes, and membership outreach activities.
Stella Anderson earned a B.A. in history from the University of Michigan followed by a Master of Fine Arts in Dramaturgy from the Moscow Art Theatre School/the American Repertory Theatre at Harvard University. Following a marketing stint at a local theatre, Stella spent three years as an actor and coordinator of a touring educational theatre group at the University of Michigan Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT), focusing on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
More recently, Stella earned a Master of Secondary Education from the University of Michigan. She spent three years teaching high school social studies and theatre arts before deciding to take time off to stay at home with her three children. Born and raised in Southeast Michigan, Stella was an active member of the Birmingham Unitarian Church as a youth and happily found her faith community at the UUAA in 2011.
theresa graduated in May of 2019 with a Master’s of Divinity from Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago. She was ordained by this congregation in April 2020, and currently holds a half time position as the Minister of Pastoral Care. She also serves in a part time capacity as a chaplain at Trinity Health – St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor hospital.
theresa was awarded a Fulbright study grant in her final year of undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan’s School of Music, where, as a violist, she graduated with a Bachelor of Musical Arts. After returning from studying traditional music (gamelan) and dance in Indonesia for three and a half years, theresa began what became a 30+ year career in teaching English for Academic Purposes to international graduate students at the University of MIchigan’s English Language Institute. She earned an MA from Eastern Michigan University in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL) and is a published author by UM Press.
A lifelong musician and teacher, rev. theresa brings those skills into her current work in pastoral care and as a member of the worship team. She finds joy in bringing the spiritual and pastoral into worship and creating services that integrate music and poetry. rev. theresa is dedicated to creating personalized rituals and services for memorials, weddings, and other life transitions, and is grateful for the opportunity to do so in the context of her home congregation.
Allison Halerz is a graduate of the University of Michigan School of Music with a degree in Performing Arts Technology. As a previous member of the UMS Choral Union, she participated in the Grammy Award-winning recording of William Bolcom’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience in April 2004 under the direction of Leonard Slatkin.
Allison has been attending UUAA since 2003 and became a member in 2007. She was drawn to the congregation partly because of its already excellent music program, and quickly became an active participant both as a member of the Chalice Singers and as a substitute pianist. She became the UUAA’s Pianist-in-Residence in 2007 and is excited to be a part of the continued musical experiences and growth of this congregation.
Erin has has been with the UUAA youth programs since 2006. She focuses on providing a safe, secure, nurturing and welcoming environment for children and families of preschoolers ages 3-4. She has worked with children and families for over 25 years and has an Advanced Child Development Associate Degree (ACDA), and an associates degree in Early Childhood Education from Washtenaw Community College. Her certifications include: Music Together and HighScope. She also serves on a therapy dog and handler team with Therapaws. Erin is married to Ken Dixon and has two grown children, Jill who lives in Delaware and Kenny who lives in Tulsa, OK.
Rev. Gail served from August, 2008 to August, 2016 as UUAA’s 12th called senior minister and first female to fill that position. Rev. Gail was a huge advocate of social justice, bringing the Black Lives Matter movement to our congregation and offering inspiring sermons on a wide range of social justice topics. In March, 2014, before the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of the right to gay marriage, there was a brief window of time when gay marriage was legal in Michigan. Rev. Gail went to City Hall and performed 10 joyful marriage ceremonies in one day. Under her leadership, our congregation became the first UUA congregation to be certified under the Equal Access- Accessibility and Inclusion Ministry (AIM) program. In 2016 when she announced her retirement, the congregation created the Geisenhainer Music Fund in her honor and also dedicated a new concert level Steinway grand piano as an ongoing legacy of her devotion to music programming.She is known among UUs nationally for her rousing 2006 UUA General Assembly Sunday Sermon and is a contributor to the 5th edition of the The Unitarian Universalist Pocket Guide (Skinner House Books, 2012). After retiring from UUAA, Gail and her partner Celeste retired to their home state of Maine.
Reverend Doctor Kenneth W. Phifer was the senior minister of our congregation from 1980 – 2005. His thought-provoking sermons, caring leadership, vibrant sense of humor, and dedicated community involvement provided our congregation with much inspiration for 25 years. Reverend Ken continues to teach classes and preach in area churches. He is a founder of the Interfaith Roundtable, and has worked on issues relating to peace, aid in dying, and LGBTQ concerns. A graduate of Harvard University and the University of Chicago Divinity School, he is the author of two books: Hold On: Getting Through Tough Times and Becoming at Home in the World.