Learn about First Church Security and Community Care,  July 14 – 19.

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Staff Roles During Sabbatical

Rev. Dena McPhetres, Associate Minister

We have a good plan to cover Rev. Jennifer’s responsibilities while she is on sabbatical. I will serve as Head of Staff, supervising five staff members. I will also lead the Worship Associate retreats and Worship Staff team.

To ease your mind, it might help to know that I’m in my 14th year of serving as your Associate Minister and I was ordained into the UU ministry over 25 years ago. Every summer while Jennifer takes vacation and study leave, I function as Head of Staff. In 2016, during the four-month gap between our Interim Senior Minister’s departure and Jennifer’s arrival, I served as our “bridge minister.” I also served as a solo minister for a small congregation for ten years before First Church called me to Milwaukee.

I’m super excited to work with and supervise our part-time Assistant Sabbatical Minister Rev. Jim Foti. I think you will love him! I’m grateful for my colleagues Rev. Kimberlee and Jean Johnson who serve with me on our staff executive team and who will also cover some of Jennifer’s work. We have a great staff that works well together and enjoys each other. All will be well.


Jean Johnson, Director of Administration

During Jennifer’s sabbatical, I am happy I will work closely with the Board of Trustees. I’ll assist them in shaping their monthly agendas and holding their monthly meetings. Larger annual issues the Board will engage in are planning for the annual congregational meeting and reviewing the annual budget proposal.

Over the 24 years I’ve been administrator at First Church, I’ve worked with the Board quite a bit. I filled a similar role during Minister Emeritus Rev. Drew Kennedy’s sabbatical several years ago. I’m familiar with the Board’s policies and annual monitoring calendar as I participated in portions of the Board’s retreats while they developed policy governance structure and processes. I’ve been reporting and presenting quarterly financial information as well as the annual budget process for many years. There are additional Board policies about which I report to the Board on an annual basis, such as asset protection. The Board and church staff has worked with policy governance since 2019; I’m certain all will run smoothly.

I’ve enjoyed working with our talented and dedicated Board members. I look forward to working closely and serving them and the church during Jennifer’s sabbatical.


Rev. Kimberlee Tomczak Carlson, Minister of Religious Education

During Jennifer’s sabbatical, I will be assisting more with pastoral care as well as leading our First Church Anti-Racism Team. Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression education and action has been a part of my UU faith journey since attending a Journey Toward Wholeness retreat at First Unitarian Society of Madison in 2000. Since then, I have helped create and coordinate numerous AR/AO events to help inform and educate UU’s in the Midwest and across the country.

Our Unitarian Universalist values beckon us to respond in a world that continues to be dominated by systems of oppressions, it calls us to do the work of creating equity. The Anti-Racism Team is one way we do that work in our church, finding ways to better practice what we believe as we learn how to create the beloved community in our congregation and our community.

I am excited about the projects the Anti-Racist Team will be working on this spring. First, we will be researching and discerning future educational and training opportunities to offer to the congregational about dismantling racism and oppression. Additionally, Rev. Jim Foti and I will work with the Anti-Racism Team to offer a Juneteenth multi-generational worship service on Sunday, June 18.


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