Rev. Nancy McDonald Ladd has served as Senior Minister at River Road since 2012. Passionate about preaching, liturgy and social justice, her first commitment is the building of relationships that sustain us and challenge us to grow braver in the face of brokenness and loss. Using her background in community organizing, pastoral ministry and worship design, her goal is to equip colleagues and lay leaders to do the work that is uniquely theirs to do in the congregation and in the world. After finding Unitarian Universalism in her late teens, Nancy has followed her commitment to liberal religion into national and regional leadership in both interfaith and Unitarian Universalist circles. She lives in Bethesda with her husband Jon and two children, Ruth and Josiah.
Ministers and Staff
Born and raised in the bible belt of East Tennessee, Amanda’s journey to Unitarian Universalism began at the Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Oak Ridge, TN. After undergraduate studies in Psychology and a ten-year career in Social Services, she found her way to Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, CA, from which she graduated in May of 2016.
While at Starr King, Amanda immersed herself in the study of multicultural growth and relational community building across a broad spectrum of theological and personal differences. She’s a network-builder, a connector of people, a movement-maker, and somehow both deeply humble and profoundly powerful – each in full measure – and all at the same time.
Amanda completed an Intern Ministry position at the UU Congregation in Berkeley, was a leader with the Black Lives of UU Organizing Collective, and an organizer with and among leaders of color in the Bay Area and beyond. She was ordained to the Unitarian Universalist Ministry in May.
Theologically, she defines herself as a spiritual humanist. Hers is a theology of this-world, connected to a network of community relationships and to the spiritual power of ancestors who paved the way before her.
Before coming to RRUUC, Ana Lim worked mainly in non-profits organization that were arts or education focused, including Kennedy Center and the Holton Arms School. Ana studied Art History at GWU, and doesn’t talk about it much but is pretty proud of her Smithsonian Cine Award for Best Art Documentary which she produced in 1995, and her President’s Award for Outstanding Campaign Manager for the Combined Federal Campaign she co-managed for the Kennedy Center in 2001.
Having always had a strong personal leaning towards social justice issues, joining RRUUC has been a constant source of joy, even if getting to that joy is sometimes bumpy. Ana lives in Bethesda with her college-aged daughter Maddy, and her poodle Sadie.
Our thriving music program is led by our Director of Music, Dr. Clifton Hardin. Clif believes in finding a dynamic combination of seeking musical excellence while fostering community through rehearsals that are engaging, uplifting and fun. He works with our adult choir and three youth choirs and regularly arranges and composes for those groups as well as composing piano music for services. His compositions and arrangements are widely performed in Unitarian Universalist congregations throughout the country and over thirty of his choral works are currently published.
Clif has been serving River Road since 1983. He and his wife, Jan, were married at River Road, and their three daughters were all very involved in the Religious Education program and singing with the Youth Choirs while growing up.
Clif holds degrees from Oberlin Conservatory (BM in piano and theory), the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University (MM in conducting), and the University of Maryland (DMA in choral performance).
Hear a recording of his “Gigue from Suite for Piano” below!
Gabrielle joined the River Road staff in May, 2012. Prior to coming to RRUUC, Gabrielle served as the Religious Educator of Lifespan Learning and Family Ministries at All Souls Church in Washington DC and as Religious Educator at First Unitarian Church of St. Louis. She is the co-author of two Tapestry of Faith curricula. One currently available is “Windows and Mirrors”, a multicultural multi-racial skill building program.
Gabrielle’s three central passions are 1) her family, including her husband of 31 years and her daughter currently living in California with her husband; 2) helping children and adults grow into their best selves; and 3) social justice — specifically, creating and sustaining beloved community. She would love for you to join her in #2 and #3.
Sheri started work at River Road on December 4, 2003 – three days before the Annual Bazaar. When she saw all the excitement, energy and love (and “good goods”) filling the building, she knew she found a great place to work. After spending years as RRUUC’s Director of Membership, Sheri is now responsible for print and electronic communications and database management. She also serves as liaison to the Financial Stewardship Committee.
Sheri has a BA in Sociology and Education, an MA in Human Resources Administration and over 25 years working in human resources, training and development for large retail organizations in New England, and as principal in her own consulting company. Prior to coming to RRUUC, she worked as Manager of Volunteer Programs for a nonprofit serving the needs of homeless and low income families in Fairfax, VA.
Actively participating in her own UU congregation in Virginia, she has served on the board of trustees, the membership committee and canvass, and co-chaired two capital campaigns, two annual auctions, and their 50th anniversary celebration.
Sheri invites all seekers to come explore River Road and all it has to offer!
Naan Pocen was born and raised in Nigeria, but she has spent most of her adult life in Italy. Her initial training was in Mass communication and Journalism. However because of several relocations, Naan also trained and was certified as an ESOL teacher in order to widen her chances of employment, and she has therefore taught English to Non English speakers in Greece, France, Spain, Italy and Qatar. She has also worked in the Maritime sector as a service coordinator, as an administrative staff with a few engineering firms in Europe, as well as at a synagogue in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
Although Naan was raised Anglican and she is spiritual, she doesn’t affiliate with any organized religion today. However, she believes in a divine creator that is not confined to dogma or to a specific ideology, but in one who is in all things and in all beings. Naan believes that spirituality is a constant quest for knowledge and growth through fellowship. Being a perpetual seeker of the divine, Naan finds the rich and vibrant community of River Road Unitarian Universalists Congregation the perfect ground for this and she invites you to partake in this amazing experience with her.
Diana joined the staff as bookkeeper in 2001 not long after serving as a volunteer for an accounting project in the RRUUC office. She is responsible for the congregation’s financial data management. During her tenure, she has worked with committees on two Capital Campaigns; the first campaign for the Fellowship Building addition in 2008 and the second for a major building improvement project which included a new HVAC system and new windows in the original building in 2016. She has also worked with outside auditors for two financial reviews and one full audit.
Diana feels fortunate that she gets to work with numbers in this open, warm, and loving place.
Beth is a Credentialed Religious Educator having completed the UUA’s credentialing program. She has a certificate in Lay Ministry with an emphasis in Youth Ministry from Wesley Theological Seminary. Beth and her family attend the Unitarian Universalist Church of Rockville, where she was a lead advisor for their youth program for three years. Beth serves as a Credentialing Mentor and a Good Officer for LREDA (Liberal Religious Educators Association) and on the Board of UU Wellspring.
Mandy is a native Washingtonian, born and raised in the Mt. Pleasant/Adams Morgan area. She has been married for 24 years, and has three children who are currently in college. After a 7-year stint in the greater Nashville area, Mandy and her young family returned to DC in 2010. In her spare time, Mandy enjoys honing her culinary skills, caring for her two dogs, and spending time with her large and diverse family.
Our building holds a special place in Mandy’s heart because it was here that she had her first job as a teenager, working as a junior counselor for MCCA’s preschool summer camp. She returned in August 2017 to join RRUUC as our Building Manager. Mandy’s experience in property management dates back to the 70’s when she helped her father manage the family’s commercial properties. She is excited to serve the RRUUC community!
Jessie Delaplaine started working at River Road in 2016 serving as an administrative assistant, coordinating rentals, scheduling the congregational calendar, and occasionally helping Beth with the website.
When not at work Jessie is an artist, aerialist, contortionist and puppeteer from Baltimore. She earned a B.A. in General Fine Arts from MICA in 2012. She’s a founding member of Tryfuss Puppet Collective and has worked extensively with Daydreams and Nightmares Aerial Theatre and the Baltimore Rock Opera Society. She has a pet Taiwanese beauty rat snake and rock climbs in her free time.
She grew up around the corner in Bannockburn attending Cedar Lane UU Church and is excited to support RRUUC’s warm, welcoming, and socially conscious congregation in any way she can! Feel free to email or call if you need anything please.
Emilie joined the staff in January 2019 as our morning Office & Accounting Assistant. She previously worked at several non-profit associations and also worked for a time as a paralegal. Emilie also did behind-the-scenes work in the membership department of a financial association. She is originally from Washington, DC and has lived in Bethesda for over twenty years. She looks forward to working with everyone at RRUUC.
Born in China, Shuai Wang began playing the piano at age of five. Shuai received the Bachelor of Music degree at Oberlin Conservatory, her Master of Music degree at University of Michigan, and is now pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at University of Maryland.
She has placed in various piano competitions, including the first prize of Mozart Piano Competition in Hong Kong, Second Prize of China Audition of the 6th Annual Music Competition of Canada, first prize of the 69th Steinway International Children and Youth Piano Competition in the Northeast China Region, winner of the Sigma Alpha lota Competition in the Chautauqua Music Festival, and first prize of the UMSO Concerto Competition at University of Maryland. Shuai’s significant appearances include Winner’s Concert in Hong Kong City Hall, Mozart Piano Concerto K.459 with Music School Festival Orchestra in Chautauqua Music Festival, Noon Concert Feat at Arts Club of Washington D.C., and the Beethoven Choral Fantasy with the UMD Summer Chorus & Orchestra.
The Reverend Ginger Luke is currently the Minister Emerita of River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Bethesda, Maryland. As the Director of Religious Education or Minister of Religious Education she served Unitarian Universalist congregations in Lincoln, Nebraska; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the River Road UU Congregation in Bethesda, Maryland.
Rev. Luke obtained her Masters of Divinity degree in 2001 from Meadville Lombard Theological School, where she received the Roberta Nelson Award for Excellence in Religious Education. She was ordained the following year by River Road Unitarian Church. She is a member of the Unitarian Universalist Panel on Theological Education, a member of the Church of the Larger Fellowship Board and a member of the Unitarian Universalist Associations President’s Council. She received the Unitarian Universalist Skinner Sermon Award in 2000 to the preacher of the sermon best expressing Unitarian Universalism’s social principles that year. In 2013 she received the Meadville Lombard Theological School Alumni/ae Service Award for her exemplary service to the school. In 2015 she received the 44th Annual Unitarian Universalist Angus H. MacLean Award for Excellence in Religious Education. Her article “Love as the Ethical Basis” was recently published in Humanist Voices in Unitarian Universalism and the UU World Spring 2017. Her passions for children, youth and families, spiritual growth, pastoral care and social justice have been at the heart of her ministry.
Rev. Leslie Westbrook is a Unitarian Universalist minister with a doctorate in clinical social work. She offers therapy to individuals and couples, with offices in Bethesda and Kensington. She is affiliated with River Road. Leslie passionately believes that religion and mental health are intertwined. When we are hurting, the whole person is struggling. This understanding led her originally to theological school, Unitarian Universalist parish ministry, our denominational headquarters in Boston, and finally a specialized ministry in mental health. She has been a therapist for more than thirty years. Leslie is married to the Rev. Roger Fritts. Together they have three adult children.