Our Minister & Staff

Reverend Christina Sillari, Minister

Christina Sillari has been the minister of First Parish in Portland since 2010. Originally from Somerville, Massachusetts, she is from a working-class family of Greek Orthodox and Catholic Heritage. She rejected those faith-based traditions as a teenager, and sought meaning in mysticism and dance, and became a practicing Buddhist, embracing the ways of Eastern Philosophy. She became a Unitarian Universalist in her mid-20s after feeling empowered by a sermon given by a female UU minister in Boston. She values UU’s willingness to let individuals define their own brand of faith. And that open-mindedness drew her to our congregation.

In addition to her Masters in Divinity, Christina has her Masters in Psychology with a focus on yoga and mind/body health. Prior to becoming a minister, she worked as a therapist, yoga teacher, shamanic practitioner and group leader. After choosing her path as a UU minister, she was an integral member of the ministerial teams at UU churches in Newburyport and Arlington, MA.

Christina is a strong and supportive minister with varied experience, knowledge and belief that deeply benefits the First Parish Congregation. She is passionate about work in justice, compassion and understanding within the local, denominational and world communities. In addition to her insightful sermons and spiritual teachings, she provides perspective, support and growth to the church, it’s members and visitors.

If you would like to reach Christina, please contact office@firstparishportland.org to schedule time.

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Toben Cooney Callnan, Director of Religious Education

Toben Cooney-Callnan is our kind-hearted, good-humored and grounded Director of Religious Exploration. He first  taught RE at First Parish from 2012 to 2014 and connected deeply with the families here, which led him to return to become our Director. Driven by creating connection, he is passionate about creating a space where kids and their families come together and talk about the huge possibilities of spirited human existence.  

Having studied Elementary Education and English, Toben loves working with children and he is absolutely built for it. He is kind, compassionate and fun and is always coming up with creative and interesting ways to work with the children of First Parish.

Toben is an amateur poet and his most prized material possession is a signed copy of “Dog Songs” by Mary Oliver.

You can reach Toben at dre@firstparishportland.org.

Toben

Scott Wheatley, Music Director

Scott Wheatley joined us at First Parish at the beginning of 2017. He feels that he was called to First Parish and he loves church music because he can feel the joy that music brings to the church community and to all who are exposed to music.

Originally from Kansas, he received his Undergraduate degree from the University of Missouri and his Graduate degree from the University of South Florida. When Scott is not here at First Parish, he is teaching at USM.

You can reach Scott at musicdirector@firstparishportland.org.

Scott

Tina Smith, Membership Coordinator

Christina “TinaSmith grew up in Portland, Maine. She is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine with a degree in Studio Art and Entrepreneurial Studies. After graduating college, she spent a few years in Boston, only to decide she belonged with her first love: Portland, Maine. Her work history includes working in child development, sales, marketing and fine arts. In her free time, she enjoys painting, reading, traveling, and spending time with her many nieces and nephews. Tina is looking forward to getting to know everyone at First Parish!

You can reach Tina at membership@firstparishportland.org.

Sheila Sullivan, Congregational Administrator

A long-time resident of Portland, Sheila Sullivan has been coming to First Parish since 2013 and joined our staff as the Membership Coordinator in 2016 before transitioning to the role of Office Administrator in 2017. 

She enjoys her role because it allows her to meet interesting, thoughtful people. She believes in the impact First Parish has on its members as well as the impact is has within the community. She loves helping people to feel welcomed, and she also enjoys helping members and newcomers find ways to get involved at First Parish that resonate with them.

When she is not at First Parish, she works with the School Ground Greening Coalition of Portland Trails, bringing nature to school grounds to allow more opportunities for children to interact with the natural world. Prior to this work, she was the Assistant Director of a study abroad program based in Thailand.

You can reach Sheila at office@firstparishportland.org.

Sheila New

Moe Blanchard, Sexton

Our Sexton, Moe Blanchard, has been with First Parish since 2002. A Portland, Maine native, he is a valuable member of our staff. Together with various committees, volunteers, and paid hourly workers, Moe ensures the care and upkeep of our lovely historic meeting house and memorial gardens. He enjoys working with the Staff as well as the members of First Parish in Portland and is happy to help where he can.

Moe is caring, helpful and honest. And he makes the world’s best popcorn and coordinates the bountiful display of goodies for our coffee hours!

If you have questions or requests for Moe, please direct them to office@firstparishportland.org.

Moe