Ministers & Staff 2017-05-24T14:18:42+00:00

Ministers & Staff



Welcome to the Unitarian Church of Evanston, a community of free faith and theological diversity. Our faith tradition is Unitarian Universalist. On any given Sunday you’ll meet friends who find primary inspiration in a traditional faith (including, but not limited to, Christian, Jewish, Religious Humanist, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, or Earth-centered) or in some combination that guides them on their life journeys. There’s room for a wide variety of belief at our church, including yours. None of us can claim a lock on the whole of religious truth. We believe that the process of spiritual growth and enlightenment is an individual one — facilitated by community and a spirit of Love that can work miracles in and through our lives.

Rev. Bret Lortie is available on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and by appointment. Monday is sabbath and Friday devoted to writing.


In our religious community, we are learning together and teaching each other all the time. Religious education is a lifelong process of learning how to relate to the mysteries of life, to each other, and to the larger community. Our lifespan religious education program includes aspects of religious study, spiritual practice, and ethical development.

We challenge and support each other in our individual spiritual journeys and in our collective religious journey. We offer our children nurturance and guidance as they develop and learn to live out their beliefs and values—even as we, as adults, are developing and learning to live out our beliefs and values.

We honor many sources of truth, and we are open to new ways of understanding. We take responsibility for our own actions in the world, and we ask lots of questions. We learn from the wisdom of science and nature, of the world’s religions, and of prophetic women and men. We trust our own experiences and listen to the stories of others.

We learn and teach in classrooms and in the sanctuary; engaged in facilitated discussion or in casual conversation; through working together to host a soup kitchen or while playing a game together.

Planned learning opportunities for adults may include classes, workshops, and presentations on a wide variety of topics such as world religions, Unitarian Universalist history or theology, spiritual autobiography, or ethical decision-making.

Opportunities for learning and teaching are many. The journey promises to be an exciting one.

Rev. Connie Grant is generally in the office during the day on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and often has evening meetings on those days. She takes Mondays off and works at home on Fridays.


Scott Aaseng has been a leader in organizing efforts since his early days as an activist on college and seminary campuses in the U.S. and South Africa in the 1980s. As a Lutheran pastor on the southwest side of Chicago in the early 1990s, he helped found the Southwest Youth Collaborative, and went on to serve as Project Director and then Development Director. From 2005-2009 he was a national organizer for the American Friends Service Committee’s Eyes Wide Open Action Network. While serving as Director of Music at Third Unitarian in Chicago in 2009, he discerned his calling to UU ministry focusing on social action, and went on to serve as Assistant Minister for Social Justice at Unity Temple in Oak Park, and Consulting Minister at the Unitarian Church of Quincy (IL) and First Unitarian Church of Hobart (IN). He now leads the growing Unitarian Universalist Advocacy Network of Illinois (UUANI). He lives in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago with his wife and sometimes his two college-age daughters. Click here for Rev. Scott’s newsletter articles.


Rev. Dr. Jerome Stone, Affiliated Community Minster

Jerome A. (“Jerry”) Stone is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at William Rainey Harper College and has taught World Religions and 20th Century American Liberal Theology at Meadville Lombard Theological School.

A United Church of Christ pastor for 18 years, Jerry is in Full Ministerial Fellowship with the Unitarian Universalist Association. He has his BA in Liberal Arts, MA in theology and PhD in Philosophical Theology from the University of Chicago and a MDiv from Andover Newton Theological School.

He is active in our Adult Lifespan Learning Program, preaches here and elsewhere on occasion, and works as an Independent Scholar. He is the author of The Minimalist Vision of Transcendence, Religious Naturalism Today, and is currently writing a book on religious naturalism and the environment.

According to the covenant between Jerry and UCE, Jerry does not perform other ministerial functions for us except at the request of the other ministers. Jerry is not paid for his services. Further information can be found in Wikipedia under “Jerome A. Stone.”


Kevin was born on November 4, 1972 and lived in Brewer, Maine for the first 31 years of his life. He met his wife, the Rev. Amy DeBeck in October of 1996 and they were married in August of 1998 in Castine, Maine. Their oldest son Henry came along in March of 2000 and his youngest son Charlie was born in September of 2003.

Kevin got his undergraduate degree in Education at the University of Maine in May of 2002. He felt the call to UU ministry in the summer of 2014 and started his class word at Meadville Lombard in the summer of 2014. He plans to graduate in May of 2017. He started his ministerial internship at UCE this past August and will be here until May of 2017.

Sandra oversees day-to-day operations at UCE and manages the building and grounds. Sandra serves as staff lead on the ISC and Budget Working Group, Information Working Group, providing input and data for accomplishing financial and fundraising goals. She oversees staff activities, interfaces with the congregation and Board on many programs and issues, as well as supervises lobby staff, office administrator, sexton, financial and custodian. Sandra has developed a strong rental program at UCE which contributes to UCE’s financial health and establishes relationships with the community, bringing many people to our church throughout the year who may not otherwise come through our doors.

Sandra comes from a not-for-profit background having served as Associate Executive Director of the Greater north Michigan Avenue Association from 1979-1989 and after working part-time as and being a mother to Ryan, she became Executive Director of the Highland Park Chamber of Commerce and was there for 7 years. Sandra began her work at UCE in 2002 as Church Manager as was promoted to Executive Operations Director in 2010.

News from our Executive Operations Director

Eileen builds engagement at the Unitarian Church of Evanston: from welcoming visitors, to helping newcomers who are interested in becoming members, to coordinating covenant groups that deepen relationships among members. UCE membership has grown to 426 members in the last five years.

Eileen was instrumental in developing Social Action Council, which includes Peace & Justice, Green Sanctuary, Rainbow Alliance and Food and Shelter.

Eileen is a ministerial candidate at Meadville Lombard Theological Seminary, and is serving as a Ministerial Intern at the Countryside Unitarian Church in Palatine.

Click the link to read Eileen’s blog UCE Membership

On July 1, Carli Magel’s title changed from Communications Coordinator to Office Administrator to better reflect her wide array of responsibilities.  Among those tasks are website maintenance, UCE master calendar, greeting congregants and guests in the office, membership database updates, weekly newsletter, orders of service, social media, general oversight on the daily ground level office, and a number of administrative tasks, including support for the Annual Pledge Drive and assistance to the Executive Team.

Jerry Lorann joined staff in July 2016 taking on accounting work at UCE. Jerry comes to us with extensive training and experience in the accounting field and comes with excellent references. He is highly qualified, and has an outstanding attitude  toward his work here. Jerry is here Tuesday and Fridays each week.

Vickie Hellyer is very happy to be back at UCE where she previously sang in the choir, served as a substitute conductor, and as the Interim Choir Director between John Giles’ and Bart Bradfield’s tenures. Vickie has conducted church choirs for 23 years, including the past 19 years at the DuPage Unitarian Universalist Church. She has been a chorister and soloist in a number of professional groups in the Chicago area and, while in the Chicago Symphony Chorus and the Grant Park Chorus, she had the privilege of singing under and learning from the direction of many world-renowned conductors. She has also acted on stage and has an extensive repertoire of roles in the world of musical theatre. Trained in Applied Voice at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, Vickie teaches voice in Naperville and at her home studio in Skokie. She is married to Jon Siegel, who sings bass in the UCE choir, and whose connection with UCE goes back to 1981.


Gregory Shifrin, Pianist

The very talented Gregory Shifrin has been UCE’s pianist/keyboardist since 2006. He works to provide just the right music for all our worship services. Gregory is a master of classical music, but brilliantly plays many styles including jazz and blues. He leaves our congregation in awe with his offertory performances on Sunday morning.

Liz Kennedy is our multi-tasker. Her new title of Sexton represents the many jobs Liz handles at UCE, including lobby staff, office tasks and keeping the church tidy and clean. Liz is here during special events and rentals to make sure all details are in order and to make sure the space is properly cared for. She is our senior lobby staff person having been with UCE for more than a dozen years.

Margaret O’Connell has been with UCE since August 2016. She was born and raised in Evanston, IL, but has recently returned from 4 years living in Japan. Margaret enjoys international travel, reading, and exercising at the McGaw YMCA. She opens and closes the church on weekends and assists with meetings and other events. Margaret enjoys the opportunity to connect with members of UCE and the Evanston community.

Joe Hampton, UCE Audio/Visual Tech

Joe Hampton graduated from DePaul University with a B.S. in Sound Recording Technology. Joe has extensive experience with set up of equipment, speakers, microphones and visual equipment for special events. At DePaul, Joe’s double major was in English. He received an Honorable Mention for his poetry in Crook and Folly, a poetry publication. Joe has created web content for an audio-visual startup website called Second State Media. Joe Hampton is a valued addition to our staff. His skills fully utilize our sound and visual equipment capabilities on Sunday morning and at events.


Kathy Talmage, Kitchen and Lobby Staff

Kathy Talmage is our longtime kitchen and event food management person. Kathy provides hours of service in preparation of Sunday morning coffee, lunch set-up and clean-up and well as event food preparation such as Easter Service, Serendipity Auction and other important functions at UCE. Kathy is the master of our food and flowers, and a gift to UCE. Her background is in catering and food preparation, but Kathy has many talents such as making beautiful water color cards which she sends to congregants on behalf of the Caring Committee, and she sews.


Steven Eason, Custodian

Steven Eason is our all around clean-up and set-up man. Steven cares for our building and does it with a willing attitude and big smile. He is reliable and dependable. Our church is a cleaner and more comfortable place due to his good work.


Daniel Baer, Lobby Staff

Daniel Baer has been with UCE for 5 years as a member of the lobby staff team. Daniel opens and closes the church several days a week and watches the lobby during meetings and events.


Elizabeth Edelen, Lobby Staff

Elizabeth is the Sunday morning Lobby Staff person who greets congregants and guests. She arrives early to open and close the church and  watches over our lobby.

Elizabeth’s background is in education. For many years Elizabeth taught in the Chicago Public School system and is now a substitute teacher in the Evanston Public School system. Learning and teaching are her life’s joy.