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Dear Members and Friends,

It is my pleasure to announce, along with the Search Advisory Team, that the Rev. Laura Shennum will be joining our staff next fall as our new Minister of Congregational Life, stepping into the role that Rev. Alyson Jacks has served these last 10 years. Rev. Shennum comes to us after more than a decade of experience in the Unitarian Universalist ministry, religious education and in depth training and experience in chaplaincy, and we are very excited about the possibilities of her leadership and experience on our shared journey into this next chapter of life together.  

Rev. Shennum, who was educated at Mills College, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Anthropology and Sociology, and went on to earn her Master’s in Divinity at Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago, Illinois. Before going to Divinity School, Rev. Shennum served as the Director of Religious Education at the Second Unitarian Universalist Church in Omaha, Nebraska, and did her ministerial internship at the Unitarian Church of Lincoln, Nebraska. After graduating, Rev. Shennum became the Minister of the Cascade Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Wenatchee, Washington. During her nine years at the Cascade UU Fellowship, Rev. Shennum developed strong worship and pastoral care teams, launched a capital campaign, built a robust Small Group Ministry program for adults and youth and served as an internship supervisor for two years among other initiatives and accomplishments.

Rev. Shennum left Cascade in 2021 to engage in a year of training as a Chaplaincy Resident through the UCSF Clinical Pastoral Education program based out of its Mission Bay hospital and clinics. This last year that work has deepened her experience providing emotional and spiritual support to the diverse populations served by UCSF and she has served most consistently on the Pediatric ICU unit and Adult Medical/Surgical units. However, in this time, Rev. Shennum felt very clearly the lure back to parish ministry, but in a team setting. 

Rev. Shennum has a love for religious education, for families, children, youth and the entire spectrum of ages and stages in congregational life. That and her gift and calling to a deeply pastoral ministry means that in joining us her position will be responsible both for our lifespan religious education programs and leadership of our pastoral care team and ministry. The membership responsibilities that had been part of the Associate Ministry position under Rev. Jacks will instead be supported by a part-time position for which we hope to hire later this year. 

Rev. Shennum’s references spoke of, and we saw and met, a person with a huge heart for ministry, broad experience and competence, and who has a particular deep love for the ministry to children, youth and families. She is lauded by those who know her for her pastoral presence and integrity, maturity, warmth and reliability. Rev. Shennum is committed to the self-understanding and shared transformation that are a foundation of our commitment to 8th Principle, anti-racism and anti-oppression work. The church feels lucky to have found such a person to be part of our ministerial leadership into the next chapter of life together. 

This year was a particularly complicated year to be in search and so I especially want to thank those who have been part of the process. I wish to express thanks to our Search Advisory Team: Courtney Young-Law and Christina Hamner, who represented family ministry; Bill Lowell, who represented membership; Lou Ann Wieand, who represented adult education and is a trained therapist; and Kathleen Quenneville, who brought the perspective of a former moderator and experience with previous search processes. Additionally, thanks to Rochelle Fortier Nwadibia, our Moderator, Lori Lai, our Board Treasurer, and Kat Liu who has broad experience in church and denominational leadership, for their involvement in the process. Finally, thanks to the staff, especially Rev. Alyson Jacks, Laura Ludwig and Joe Chapot for their involvement and support. 

Rev. Shennum will be starting with us late this August as she completes her fourth unit of Clinical Chaplaincy Training at UCSF Mission Bay. Starting in the summer, she will work with our Family Ministry Committee to prepare for a fall program for children and youth.  

Rev. Shennum lives in Fremont with her husband and three children, though they are looking to relocate further north in the East Bay this summer. 

All My Best, 

Vanessa Southern

New Minister Announcement: About Us
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