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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. 

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Associate Minister

Rev. Jacks is a graduate of Starr King School for the Ministry (1997) and received her undergraduate degree in Speech Communication from Emerson College in Boston. Alyson was ordained by UUSF in 2000 and served an Endorsed Community Minister from 2002 to 2012. In 2012, she joined the staff at UUSF as Interim Director of Religious Education, then as Minister of Family Life until December 2014. In January 2015, she became Associate Minister. 
Previously, Rev. Jacks worked with A Home Away from Homelessness, serving as the Director of Mentoring and Volunteer Services for seven years, and the Associate Director four years. Her Bay Area non-profit experience includes San Francisco Network Ministries, International Child Resource Institute, Compass Family Services, Berkeley Repertory Theater, and The School of The Arts Foundation. Prior to moving to San Francisco, she was Managing Director for PolyArts, a performing arts program sponsored by the State Street Congregational Church in Portland, ME. She is a member of the San Francisco Threshold Choir.

A native New Englander (Southboro, MA and Portland, ME), she moved to San Francisco in 1985. Alyson and her spouse reside in beautiful Bernal Heights. She is an avid bicycle commuter and long distance cyclist. Watch for her as she pedals around on her Bike Friday, Toots.

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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.