Ministers & Staff 2017-09-26T15:20:49+00:00

Ministers & Staff


Rev. Bret Lortie,
Senior Minister

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Visit Bret’s Website at

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.

Rev. Eileen Wiviott,
Assistant Minister

Faith-in-Action and Membership

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Eileen is the Assistant Minister for Faith-in-Action and Membership, leading the Social Justice Council and Membership Engagement Council.

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.

She leads our congregation’s justice efforts in the surrounding community and world, grounding our work in Unitarian Universalist values and faith.

Eileen graduated from Meadville Lombard Theological Seminary in May 2017 and was ordained by this church on June 4, 2017.

Click the link to read Eileen’s blog UCE Membership

Rev. Eileen Wiviott will have office hours most Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and often evening meetings on those days. Mondays are sabbatical days and Fridays she works from home. Please contact her via email at [email protected], or via phone at (847) 864-1330 x111.

Susan Frances,
Ministerial Intern

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Susan Frances is our ministerial intern. She will be with our congregation part-time from September 2017 through May 2019. Her office hours are every Thursday. Susan has lived in Chicago since 2005 and is a part-time student at Meadville Lombard Theological School. At her home church, Second Unitarian Church of Chicago, Susan sang in the choir, started the group that grew into a chapter of the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans, sat as a member and then the chair of the Lifespan Faith Development Council, and facilitated small groups, adult classes and the 3-6 year olds Spirit Play class. Susan is transitioning into ministry from being an attorney practicing adoption law and estate planning and being a substitute house manager at Blue Man Group. She is looking forward to gaining experience in worship and working with the Social Justice teams at UCE.

Susan has office hours from 11am-7pm on Thursday.


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.”



Sandra Robinson, Executive Operations Director

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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

Dr. Mary Lamb Shelden, Director of Religious Education

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Mary is our new Director of Lifespan Religious Education. She has relocated to Evanston from Virginia where she was a lay leader at the Unitarian Universalist Community Church in Glenn Allen and on the faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. Her scholarship has focused on the Transcendentalist circle, especially Henry David Thoreau and Louisa May Alcott. She is a lifelong UU who grew up in the Palatine and Deerfield churches, and as an adult has attended at Elgin and DeKalb. Mary brings to this new calling a passion for social justice, worship arts, lifelong learning, and creative self-expression. She also has a strong background in curriculum development and adult pedagogy. She is thrilled to be at UC Evanston, and is eager to speak with members about sustaining and deepening our connections as we learn and grow together.

Mary will have office hours during the day on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and will usually schedule evening meetings on those nights as well. Fridays are Sabbath, and Mondays she will generally work from home or in the world at large.

News from our Director of Religious Education


Carli Magel, Office Administrator

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Carli is responsible for website maintenance, UCE’s 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. She has been part of the UCE staff since 2009.


Vickie Hellyer, Music Director

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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, Sexton

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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, Religious Education Assistant and Lobby Staff

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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.