Ministerial Search Committee Nominees


Our Ministerial Search Committee will be helping our congregation find our new Settled Minister.  This is a very important job with many responsibilities and great time commitments.  These volunteers have been nominated by their peers and have agreed to the job description.  Please read their full bios below and, if you are a member, complete the ranked choice voting at the link here. Please note: your email can only be used to vote once.  If more than one person in your household is a member, you will need to vote through separate emails.

Allen Armstrong

  • Member of First Parish for 10-20 years and a U.U. for 20-40 years
  • Allen has served on the following First Parish committees: Finance Committee (Chair, 2014), Stewardship (Chair, 2008-2009), Faith in Action – Climate team, Governing Board, and Buildings and Grounds (Chair, 2021-present)
  • He has also been involved in the following: Income Treasurer, Directory projects, Auction Bookkeeping, Cash counting team, and Coming of Age mentor in 2013
  • Allen chaired a Ministerial Search Committee (at the Lexington, Massachusetts First Parish UU), which found a successful match.  The minister stayed at the church for 22 years until her retirement
  • Allen is passionate about mitigating climate change and has focused on it for 18 years.  He’s active in the Portland Climate Action Team of Sierra Club Maine Chapter, and Citizens’ Climate Lobby. 
  • Allen is comfortable leading meetings where decisions are made by consensus
  • “As we re-enter our renovated building, I’m looking forward to attracting new members (who give generously of their time, money and talents) with a message of our relevant response to the many challenges of this particular time, particularly climate change, political polarization and voter suppression and inequality.”

Susan Cook

  • Member of First Parish for 2 years and a U.U. for 20-40 years. 
  • As a long time UU, Susan has been active in many aspects of congregational life.
  • Currently on Finance, Stewardship, and Music Committees
  • Sue is active in service organizations, youth sports organizations, and alma maters.
  • She is organized and experienced as treasurer and manager of a nonprofit.
  • “I listen fairly to others, acknowledge different opinions, see things from others’ perspectives, but also see the big picture and what is best for a group or organization.”
  • “My vision for our collective future includes being open to questions and different possible answers,…building a strong supportive, diverse, welcoming community that is growing because we have shown the value of our spiritual experience and commitment to those values.”

Kip DeSerres

  • Member of First Parish for 5-10 years and a U.U. for 20-40 years. 
  • He has served as a Chalice Group leader, as the Reopening Membership Chair on the COVID Task Force 2020-2021, and as a Small Group Leader
  • Organized and conducted historical guided tours of church 2017-19; attended online services throughout the pandemic
  • He was on the hiring and interview team for the Music Director of the Augusta UU church in 2009
  • As a father, grandfather, husband, public health professional and UU group facilitator, he has a long career of service to others and staff supervision
  • Vice President of the American Cancer Society for Maine for 10 years, “I supervised 13 staff and was a part of interviewing and hiring over 50 individuals.  I know the process of group interviewing and consensus decisions.”
  • “My first vision of my role on this committee is to listen to all members about their vision of our collective future and the role of a future minister in that vision.”

Betsy Garnett

  • Member of First Parish and a U.U for 2-5 years
  • She currently serves as the Chair of the Library committee and hosts a monthly Book Club for church members via Zoom
  • She participates in the choir
  • She has ushered at services,  assisted with Coffee Hours, and helped with the Church yard cleanup for the past 2 years
  • Betsy is a single, retired RN/Nurse Practitioner who teaches Yoga for older people
  • She is an avid gardener, concerned about global warming, serves on the Citizens Climate Lobby, and is a member of the South Portland Land Trust
  • “I love being outdoors and walk several miles with my dog most days.”
  • “I bring a lively mind and a warm heart, a willingness to learn and work hard.”
  • “I am very committed to the spirit of inclusiveness.”
  • “I see us continuing to be involved in working for justice for various causes and peoples.  I also see us coming together to form an active and caring community for members of the congregation.  I see us hosting community events in our wonderfully remodeled building and also welcoming all people with our adaptations for handicapped persons.  I see us as leaders in our community, providing service and support to others and to our congregation members.”

Marianne Hill

  • Member of First Parish for 5-10 years and a U.U. for 20-40 years.
  • Faith in Action Chair (2017-20). Organized nonprofit representatives to speak during Share the Plate; organized Earth Day discussion; issued statements of support for immigrant rights; conducted social justice congregational survey; attended Mosaic Makers; worship service sermons; blankets & clothing collection for homeless; chalice group member; hosted spring dinner; helped with community kitchen; attended MUUSAN meetings; organized Sierra Club zoom panels
  • Congregational President in Jackson, MI (1995-97). 
  • Passionate about: righting wrongs and building a better world while spreading compassion and understanding; lifelong activism for environment, civil rights, anti-war, and women’s rights
  • International Economist: my research focuses on justice-related issues, discrimination, inequalities, poverty, and building an economy that serves us and protects the planet through a more equitable distribution of power
  • Leadership, teaching, legislative work, and writing experience for nonprofits and UU churches, especially advancing human, civil, and consumer rights such as creating a consumer owned utility, reforming taxes, and securing rights of the Wabanaki
  • Foster caring and compassion with a strong collective sense of community
  • Be allies of Justice by addressing hardships and suffering of refugees, those struggling with homeless, and those hurt by racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination

Dirane Kelekyan

  • Member of First Parish for 10-20 years and a U.U. for 20-40 years
  • She has served on the Worship Committee and currently serves on the Ministerial Leadership Team
  • She belongs to a Chalice Group and has facilitated a Chalice group in the past
  • While part of a different congregation, she served on the IT committee
  • Dirane passionately believes in the 7 Principles and that we should live by these principles
  • “I love to learn new things, and explore spiritual and intellectual topics.  I am a dog-lover, traveler, movie buff, and a good friend.  I am a widow since 2013, and while I will always miss my husband, I am thankful to have been married to the love of my life for 35 years.”
  • “I have a proven record as a team and program leader (professionally and as a volunteer).  I have strong organizational skills, communicate well, am comfortable with technology, and am a creative problem-solver.  I have a passion for finding a more efficient way of doing things.  But, maybe most importantly, I bring commitment and accountability to anything I set out to do, which is particularly important in a volunteer context.  I believe that teams work best when members have a chance to play to their strengths, co-lead the effort and contribute equally to the team’s goals.”
  • “I feel strongly that we need to give equal weight to spirituality, community and social justice – the three pillars of our mission.  They work together to keep a congregation vibrant.  We need to inspire congregants to engage in the work of the church by finding out what their skills and interests are and guiding them into volunteer roles that match those.  We also need to motivate the congregation to fund more staff hours, so we can have strong Music and Faith Formation programs, and more Administrative staff hours to support the work of the church.”

Jake Kulaw

  • Member of First Parish and a U.U. for 2-5 years.
  • Active with the Wabanaki Ally Team, member of the Governing Board, and Congregational Legislative Liaison (CLL)
  • “I live in South Portland with my partner Carolyn.  We have a sweet rescue beagle named Major.  I enjoy nature, hiking, the great outdoors, and the beach.  I am a health and PE teacher at Deering High School and I’m also the Portland Public Schools Health and PE District Coordinator.”
  • Currently serves on the board of Maine Healthcare for All
  • Passionate about social justice and peace, including non-violent communication.  Strong commitment to any volunteer experience taken
  • “I am kind, patient and understanding.  I am able to listen attentively and empathically.  I can appreciate differences in others and I am able to be objective.  I care deeply about people and the planet.  I can set healthy boundaries when I need to.”
  • Past experience with interview committees; activism in community demonstrations and collective responses to health and environmental issues; great listener; community organizer; past experience on Boards (including First Parish’s Governing Board); member of the Human Rights and Social Justice Committee with the Maine Education Association; trained as an Implicit Bias Facilitator with Mindbridge; build trusting relationships and is fair minded
  • “I have been a social activist for most of my adult life and I am a fierce advocate of fighting oppression and injustice.  First Parish is the only church that resonates with my values and I feel a deep connection with First Parish values and its mission.”
  • A strong commitment to social justice and to meeting the needs of not only church members but also to our surrounding community.  Jake wants First Parish to welcome all community members and provide a safe space where all can deepen their faith

Jenn McAdoo

  • First Parish member for 5-10 years; UU for 20-40 years
  • Served as co-chair of the Faith In Action Committee, and Chaired the Friends of Safe Harbor subcommittee. Significant engagement with social justice activities at First Parish including Rallies4Justice, community meals, various forums, and was a member of the Roots & Wings social justice ministry cohort. 
  • History of involvement with adult RE classes, Cakes for the Queen of Heaven women’s group, and chalice group.  Served as the church liaison to the Al Zahra Arabic School (2015-2016) and led several worship services.
  • Strong commitment to First Parish and Unitarian Universalism; understands workings of the UUA; UU religious educator for 12 years
  • Jenn is a cis-gendered woman, married and the mother of two adult sons
  • “Living a journey of learning and loving while trying to put my faith into action on a daily basis. I grew up in the Episcopal church but, once I found my way into a UU church almost 30 years ago, I realized I had been a UU all along. My faith is grounded in the natural world and in my strong belief in living for the seventh generation.”
  • Currently serves as Executive Director for a local nonprofit, Furniture Friends; great organizational skills; communication and facilitation; good listener; creative thinker; and believes diversity, equity and inclusion is fundamental to the human experience and that we are better together than we are apart
  • Jenn’s vision for First Parish is deepening our exploration of what it means to be “a church in the heart of the city” through a lens of Unitarian Universalism. She believes our world — and our city — needs the voice of liberal religion and a beacon of hope and justice

Kris Minister

  • Member of First Parish for 5-10 years; UU for over 40 years
  • Currently serves on the Racial Justice Team, 5 years; Wabanaki Ally Team, 2 years; Stewardship Committee, 1 year.
  • Promoting racial and social justice by managing 5 workshops in racial justice in 2018 and 2019; Poor People’s Campaign since 2017; led study group on the 1619 Project; Wabanaki Ally Team; wrote First Parish’s Truth Statement; created the Maine Historical Society’s exhibit “Begin Again” (Colonial First Parish’s involvement in Wabanaki genocide); Death seminar; spiritual dance group; and Sunday worship services
  • Began teaching communication and directing experimental theater in New York in 1960.  “I knew I was called to promote students’ communication skills so that they could climb into the middle class.  The majority of these young people were Black and Puerto Rican.  They taught me more than I taught them.” 
  • Strong ally for people of color with direct involvement in early civil rights marches and protests (1963 March on Washington)
  • Kris has two graduate degrees, taught in several colleges and universities, and was a founder of women’s and gender studies programs in the 1970’s.  She taught at two universities in China, “What a privilege it has been to cross racial and cultural boundaries and to help my students negotiate their identities despite gender, racial, and economic barriers.”
  • Skills in encouraging individuals to commit to group goals; able to teach successful group communication practice; goal directed; good at teasing out procedural matters from substantive matters; and a love for the discipline of writing
  • Kris believes that First Parish must improve at helping to heal the world. Adopting the 8th principle will guide us because it makes explicit that action is imperative for everyone.
  • A strong commitment to social justice and to meeting the needs of not only church members but also to our surrounding community.  “I want First Parish to welcome all community members and provide a safe space where all can deepen their faith.”

Philip Ptacin

  • Member of First Parish and a U.U. for 2-5 years.
  • He is recently (mostly) retired from work as a physician and wants to be active in helping the world be a better place
  • Co-founder and board member of Nursing Clinic of Battle Creek Michigan, a non-profit that delivered healthcare to poor and uninsured 1989-2013 until it was replaced by the Affordable Care Act
  • Member of Maine Healthcare for All
  • Active in Citizens Climate Lobby
  • In his 70’s, a husband and spouse, a father and active grandfather, he believes the church has a role in the health of the community
  • “I’m wanting to work towards making our church more relevant to the community and to youth.”

Tom Rogers

  • Member of First Parish and a U.U. for 10-20 years.
  • Tom has served on the following Committees: Finance (2004-12); Stewardship (2009-10); Governing Board (2011-14); Ministerial Incentive Compensation (2012-14); Church for Everybody (2020-21); Committee on Ministry (2020-21).  He has also participated in Sunday services, Chalice groups, and the Breathing and Meditation group
  • Tom is a happily married white male in his mid-50’s, economically privileged with liberal arts education, secular humanist, former financial planner, open minded, collaborative, conscientious, calm, persistent, a bit of a contrarian, witty, lived/worked/studied in Japan, social justice proponent, long-time donor to environmental, social justice and civic nonprofits
  • Strategic and pragmatic thinker, team player, counselor/advisor, focused on goal setting and prioritization, coordinated and cohesive planner, researcher, tenacious, holder of institutional knowledge
  • Experience serving as the Governing Board’s liaison to the minister. General familiarity with the roles and responsibilities of the various First Parish teams
  • Tom is grateful that under the Policy Governance model, our minister and congregation share responsibility for joyfully carrying out our mission statement. We are diverse: religiously, socioeconomically, educationally, culturally, musically, racially. We enjoy intellectually and spiritually stimulating worship services, healthy finances, and strong social justice and Faith Formation programs

Jason J. Shedlock

  • Member of First Parish and a U.U. for 10-20 years
  • Over the last 10 years, Jason has served our community by participating in various committees: Governing Board (including as President of the Board), Interim Search Committee, Church for EveryBody Team, Communications Committee, Religious Exploration (now called Faith Formation), and Buildings and Grounds
  • During his time on the Governing Board, Jason was involved in crafting our policy governance structure
  • Jason is a young parent and feels that this is an inflection point in our Faith Formation programming
  • Having run organizations and nonprofits, Jason has experience in budgeting, leadership, communication, messaging, and PR
  • “I make it my mission to do whatever I can to work with allies to help level the playing field in our community so that each one of us has equal opportunities to be heard and have our impact felt.”
  • “I believe my work with Portland and Maine’s working class community advises my approach to most every decision I make in both my professional and private life, and that lens is an important one for many in the community we serve.”
  • “A collective path informed by a diverse discourse – both diversity in the individual and in the opinion.  We must ensure that our pathway forward be absolutely bold yet grounded without fail in thoughtful progress, informed by our principles as well as our congregation and our new spiritual leader.”

Mary Wheeler

  • Member of First Parish for 10-20 years and a U.U. for 40+ years
  • Mary has served our church community on the Worship and Membership Committees
  • She is a member of the Choir, the book group, the Peaceful Harbor Sangha, and a co-leader of a chalice group
  • A life-long UU, Mary has taught RE, co-led a women’s group, and participated in many adult RE activities.  She is knowledgeable about UU history, First Parish’s history, and the nuances of our congregation’s culture
  • Mary is a member of the Westbrook School Department Equity Leadership Group (including a member of its Subcommittee for Hiring).  She is well versed in equity-related issues
  • The timing and nature of this committee is perfect for Mary.  She is retiring from full-time teaching in June.  She will have ample ability to devote her teacher skills and talents (managing time, working with groups, and ease with technology) to the committee
  • “By nature I am conscientious, well-organized and grounded in UU values.”
  • “As a congregation, we have been scattered, bruised and diminished by Covid. Our community will need to be restored and nurtured, and welcoming a well-suited new minister will be a crucial piece of this process. The right person will be able to lead our church to a rich and expansive future by rallying our current membership, attracting new people to join and enrich our community, and creating an inspiring new vision of our potential as a UU congregation.”