River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation

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Our Ministers Past and Present
Revs. Luke and Murray.

Rev. Robert J. Lewis served as our first minister from May 1961 to June 1968.  He had been the former part-time minister of the Unitarian Fellowship in Hagerstown, and executive director of the Hagerstown Goodwill Industries.  His social justice interests dovetailed well with those of River Road’s members.  In March 1965, Rev. Lewis joined 25 Unitarian Universalist leaders in Selma, AL, for the March to Montgomery to protest the state’s poor civil rights record.   Rev. Lewis left River Road to go into counseling.

Rev. James Curtis served as minister from October 1969 until his untimely death in June 1973.  Rev. Curtis was an innovative and creative minister who used poetry, music, colorful costumes, and expansive decorations as part of his sermon presentations.  He also brought people together across generations and encouraged artistic, musical, and literary expression.  His mantra was “I am Loving and Capable.”  He and his wife Mary Rose Curtis supported a range of social justice activities, starting in 1972 the Sunday morning Coffee, Controversy, & Conversation sessions to educate people about the injustices of the day.  CC&C continues to be a significant forum at River Road.

Rev. Joyce Smith served as minister from June 1974 to 1980?  Rev. Smith adopted the practice of not using scripts for her sermons after she gave one sermon in clown makeup and costume and querying congregants with an upturned umbrella.  She focused upon strengthening River Road’s ministry and religious education program.  She left River Road to become director of the Department of Ministerial and Congregational Services at the Unitarian Universalist headquarters in Boston.

Rev. William Murry served as minister from January 1981 to May 1997.  Rev. Murry had a strong commitment to social justice actions, and he regularly incorporated these issues in his sermons.  He also encouraged the congregation to affirm and respect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals by becoming a Welcoming Congregation.  He suggested the motto long used by River Roaders that we are “A religious community with a warm heart, an open mind, and a social conscience.”  Rev. Murry brought stability through his presence and also through his selection of key staff members for church administrator (Rebecca Birnie), Director of Religious Education (Ginger Luke), and Director of Music (Clifton Hardin).  Rev. Murry left River Road to become President and Academic Dean of Meadville/Lombard Theological Seminary in Chicago, IL.

Rev. Pat Hoertdoerfer served as our first Minister of Religious Education from 1991 to 1993, when she went to UUA Headquarters in Boston.  Rev. Hoertdoerfer combined her talents and skills in religious education with her call to serve the whole congregation.  She introduced the idea of having the congregation sing the students and teachers out to their classrooms during Sunday services (at the time, children only attended services once a month).  She also worked hard with the Racial Justice Task Force to invite a special guest minister to hold a well-attended racism workshop on a Sunday and then have the guest minister preach on that Sunday on that same topic.  Rev. Hoertdoerfer recommended that River Road consider Ginger Luke as her replacement when she left.

Rev. John Burciaga served as interim minister between 1997 and 1998.  He had recently completed 20 years as minister of the Clearwater FL, Unitarian Universalist congregation.  Rev. Burciaga helped the River Road congregation transition from its longtime minister Rev. Murry to its new minister, Rev. Scott Alexander.

Rev. Scott Alexander served as River Road’s senior minister from June 1998 to August 2010.  He had previously served as the Senior Minister of the Church of the Larger Fellowship.  Rev. Alexander authored or edited five books about our Unitarian Universalist faith, and he shared his missionary zeal in various sermon series.  These series addressed words like prayer and God that traditionally make Unitarian Universalists uncomfortable while another series has looked at 10 Commandments for the 21st century.  First an avid runner and now an avid biker, Rev. Alexander brought energy and enthusiasm to River Road. Rev Alexander left RRUUC to become Senior Minister of the UU Fellowship in Vero Beach, FL.

Rev. Ginger Luke began serving as Director of Religious Education in 1994, and after she completed her ministerial training, River Road called her as Minister of Religious Education in November 2002.  She had previously served at the Unitarian Church in Lincoln, NE, and the First Universalist Church in Minneapolis, MN.  Rev. Luke has made life-span religious education a priority, whether establishing curriculum for children as young as age two, engaging our middle schoolers and teens with age-appropriate activities and lessons with a youth minister, or overseeing adult enrichment classes that refresh body and soul.  She brought children and their families into the first fifteen minutes of services, and she has engaged all with her Children’s Stories each Sunday to emphasize the key theme of the day’s sermon for all ages. Rev. Luke retired in July, 2013 and is Minister Emerita at River Road.

Rev. Lynn Thomas Strauss served as River Road’s Associate Minister from August 2000 until July 2005.  She had previously served for nine years as senior minister at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, TN.  Rev. Strauss brought an attention to counseling and pastoral care to River Road, spearheading the successful development of small-group ministry in the establishment of covenant groups.  She also shared her passion for social justice in her sermons and her involvement in social-justice activities, especially for the Peace Initiative and Interfaith efforts.  She provided a meditative and evocative character to Sunday morning preaching as a balance to Rev. Alexander’s logical and energy-driven sermons.

Rev. Russ Savage served as Minister of Congregational Life during Rev. Ginger Luke’s leave of absence 2007-2008.  He began his career with AT&T and retired as Executive Director-Personnel and Public Relations for Bell Laboratories before returning to school to study for the ministry.  He served as minister at the Unitarian Church of Barnstable, MA, and as senior minister at the First Unitarian Society of Schenectady, NY, before retiring.  His personnel experience served RRUUC well when the congregation conducted a search for a Director of Administration.  Rev. Savage frequently educated congregants about the Christian roots of our faith in his sermon and enriched all with his steady hand and flair for humor.

Rev Dr. Maureen Killoran served RRUUC as Interim Senior Minister from August 2010 to July 2012. She is is an accredited interim minister in the Unitarian Universalist tradition. Her ministry combines 25 years' service to UU congregations, training in transition coaching, and proven success in facilitating congregational healing and change. 

Rev. Nancy McDonald Ladd currently serves as Senior Minister of RRUUC. She started in August 2012.  She received her Master's of Divinity from Meadville Lombard theological school and was ordained in 2004. Before joining River Road as Senior Minister, she served the Bull Run Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Manassas, VA for eight years. 

Rev. Louise Green started in July 2013 as Interim Minister of Congregational Life. Most recently she served at All Souls Unitarian Church in D.C., from 2004-2011.