top of page


Rev Vanessa Rush Southern first service (12 of 13).jpg


Senior Minister

Vanessa Southern was born in Kansas, lived in Los Angeles until she was 8, then moved to New York City, living for the first couple of years a stone's throw from the Stonewall Bar and Christopher Park.  She did her undergraduate work at Stanford University in the religion and philosophy departments, and her professional training at  Harvard Divinity School. Vanessa has served congregations in Boston, Washington DC, Cherry Hill, New Jersey and was from the summer of 2001 until 2014 the Senior Minister of The Unitarian Church in Summit, New Jersey (now Beacon UU Congregation in Summit). 

In 2015 Vanessa and her family moved to Mumbai, India for two years while her husband opened the office of The Bridgespan Group, an organization that serves mission-driven organizations and philanthropists maximize their impact, and while they reconnected with their family there.  She began her ministry at The First UU Society of San Francisco in July of 2017 following the retirement of her mentor and former pastor, The Rev. John A. Buehrens. 

Vanessa is the author of This Piece of Eden and Miles of Dream, both published by Skinner House Press, and is part of numerous other anthologies.  She has been published in The Dallas Morning News, Scroll India, and Woman's Day Magazine and was the 2013 Service of the Living Tradition Preacher at the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly, in Louisville, Kentucky. 

415-776-4580 x132

Rev Laura Shennum


Minister of Congregational Life

Laura Shennum was born in California and spent the first 14 years of life living in different parts of the state. At 14yrs, she moved to Omaha, NE, then returned to California as a young adult, where she attended Mills College and earned her B.S. in Anthropology and Sociology. Since then, Laura has lived in Omaha, NE and Wenatchee, WA and recently returned to the San Francisco Bay Area, which she considers her "heart home".

Laura served as the Director of Religious Education at Second Unitarian Universalist Church of Omaha and then pursued her call to ministry by attending Meadvlille-Lombard Seminary. Laura served as Intern Minister at Lincoln Unitarian Church in Lincoln, NE. Once she earned her MDiv in 2012, Laura served Cascade Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Wenatchee, WA. She started as a Developmental Minister and then became the congregation's first settled minister in 2015. After serving 9 years at Cascade UU, Laura decided to take a break from parish ministry and entered a Chaplain Residency program at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital. She served in this program from Sept 2021 until she joined the staff at UUSF in Sept 20220.

Laura has served on the Pacific Northwest District Healthy Congregations Team both as chair and member. She has served as a Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association Good Officer and is currently on the UUMA Good Officer Coordinating Team.

415-776-4580 x232

PHILLIPS, Millie.jpg


Affiliated Community Minister

Rev. Millie Phillips has been a member of this congregation for 20 years. While becoming increasingly active as a lay volunteer, she began to hear a call to ministry. She took an early retirement in 2011 to begin ministry training - a process with many ups and downs - that eventually led to ordination in January 2020 right before the COVID pandemic took hold. She was co-ordained by SF UU and by the UU Congregation Santa Rosa (UUCSR) where she had interned.

After a year of part-time service as the minister of a small congregation, she was laid off due to lack of funding. With few ministry positions available, she applied for and was hired as a full-time organizer with the Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy (FAME), a project of the union-founded non-profit East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), a job that combines faith leadership with skills gained from her over 30+ years as a labor movement activist.

"Affiliated community minister" is a status for UU ministers who are not directly serving a congregation. It allows them to maintain UU ministerial credentialing while working in other faith-related or social justice capacities. In return, such ministers provide limited unpaid support to the affiliated congregation.

Millie lives in Oakland with her husband Richard Saunders, a professional musician. Between them, they have three children from previous relationships and four grandchildren.



Affiliated Community Minister

The Rev. Seanan Fong is an Affiliated Community Minister with UUSF and the founder of the San Francisco Contemplarium, a new civic institution tending to the hearts and spirits of San Franciscans through contemplative public spaces, programming, accompaniment, and community-building. As a second-generation Chinese American, he is the co-author of Family Sacrifices: The Worldviews and Ethics of Chinese Americans (2019, Oxford University Press). His M.Div. is from Harvard Divinity School, where he studied Asian American religiosity and East Asian thought, and his B.A. in philosophy is from Stanford University. The Cambridge First Parish in Massachusetts ordained him in 2018. Having grown up in the Bay Area, he is proud to call San Francisco his home.

Rev. Fong’s established and guides the San Francisco Contemplarium which provides a contemplative resource for the entire community. (visit their website HERE for more information)

Kopanang Sunday-34_edited.jpg


Minister Emerita

Born in 1937, Margot Campbell Gross is Scottish by heritage, but grew up in Great Britain. The oldest in a lively family of seven children, Margot had a talent for art and design. She graduated from the Royal College of Art with a BA in 1958 and went to work as a designer for the London County Council.

In 1960 Margot married Peter Watson Gross, an American law student. They lived in Boston but later moved to Knoxville, TN, where Margot quickly became involved in the Religious Education Program at the Unitarian Universalist Church. Youth services continued to be a strong calling, along with raising their growing family: two birth and four adopted children.   

In 1985 the family moved to Berkeley, CA, where Margot attended Starr King School for the Ministry. She graduated in 1988 after completing an internship at All Souls Church in New York City with Revs. Forrest Church and John Buehrens.  

Following her ministry at the First Unitarian Society of Plainfield, NJ, in 1995 Margot was called to be Co-Minister with Rev. John Marsh of the first Unitarian Universalist Church of San Francisco. Here, her passions for social justice and spiritual growth in the congregation created a living legacy, exemplified in the founding of our community after-school program – Up On Top – and the cofounding of the Faithful Fools Street Ministry.  

Margot retired in 2004. She enjoys traveling with her husband Peter, time for painting, walks on Ocean Beach, and visits with extended family.


What is a sermon, you ask? At a religious service or ceremony, a religious leader—typically a priest or deacon—delivers a lengthy address that is typically based on the teachings of a sacred text. Instead of delivering literal interpretations of religious texts, a Unitarian Universalist sermon tends to center on the speaker's life experiences and ethical considerations. To encourage, strengthen, and inspire people on their spiritual paths is the ultimate aim. The aim is to inspire, challenge, and uplift members of the congregation on their spiritual paths while they investigate and develop their personal values and beliefs. Congregants are encouraged to examine their own ideas and ideals in a friendly environment, which is meant to inspire, challenge, and uplift them on their spiritual journeys.

bottom of page