Search Committee members (l to r) Jeff Warner, Pam Middleton, Clare Gervasi, Jill Sherman, Maureen Taylor, Bill Allison.

Bill Allison

Born in Paris, Kentucky in 1942, I was raised in Louisville’s south end.  My dad was an Army Sgt. Lifer and my mom a sales lady, school lunchroom lady.  Athletics were most important throughout high school, until my college days, when fundamental religion (being “saved’’ at a Billy Graham revival) influenced me.  I was headed into the military in 1965 but failed the physical exam the day before my induction.  When I didn’t feel a “calling” to go into the ministry, I went to law school and began to drift away from fundamentalism, mainly because I thought the church should be in the forefront of the civil rights and anti-war movements, and it wasn’t.  I became pretty fed up with southern churches preventing African Americans from entering their churches, although I never rejected two fundamental principles I learned in church growing up: (1) that everyone is equal in God’s eyes, and (2) to treat your neighbor as you would like to be treated. 

Within a year of failing my military physical, I began to take part in anti-war, anti-draft activities on UK campus.  I met the Unitarian minister of Lexington’s church, who was active in campus anti-war activities.  Lexington Unitarian church was debating whether to grant sanctuary to draft resisters.  Upon graduation, I started a civil rights law practice and was hired by the Southern Conference Education Fund (SCEF), headed by Carl and Anne Braden. In 1972, I married my wife, Pat, and we started nominally coming to First U in the late 1970’s.  There was a debate at First U about offering sanctuary to immigrants; the issue failed to pass and disappointed me greatly in the church.  I probably stayed a nominal member because I thought the OWL program was good for our three kids.  I wish my three grand children could participate in it. 

My law practice took me all over the south representing Black activists.  By 1990 the civil rights movement had died out and my law practice became limited mostly to Louisville and Kentucky.  I got active in Jesse Jackson’s run for president in 1984 & 1988 and was a delegate for him at the Democratic National Convention in 1988.  I wasn’t too impressed with the social action commitment of First U, but I liked Richard Beal and his commitment to racial justice.  Tired of law practice after 30 years, I ran for Louisville’s Board of Aldermen (city council) in 1999 and won, spending four years on the Board until I was defeated when the city & county merged.  On the Board I sponsored—and we passed—the first Fairness law in Kentucky, a living wage ordinance, and a civilian police review ordinance.  I then worked 10 years for the Jefferson County Teachers Union (JCTA) and retired in 2015 because of back problems.  My wife was active in the choir for a while, and eventually I joined.  Music has been very important to both of us through our lives.  I play trombone in the Holy Name Band, and I was active in the church orchestra when it was playing.  I was a co-chairman of the Board when our former minister, Norm, left.  When Dawn Cooley became First U minister, I was impressed with her, and social activism picked up in the church.  I really appreciated the church making a statement in support of same sex marriage and Black Lives Matter. When we put banners up on the front of the church and when we held weekly/monthly demonstrations on Sunday after church in support of BLM, I was very impressed and supportive.  It’s only because of the church’s commitment to social justice and activism that I agreed to be on the Search Committee.  I also am very impressed with Rev. Kathy. 

Clare Gervasi

I joined First U in 2016 in the midst of the worst year of my life (and perhaps our country’s). I am a member of this church because I want to create, maintain, and expand community through meaningful spiritual and moral exploration together, in an attempt to counteract the cultural evils of alienation and apathy. I believe this is the purpose of our church, and so I came to be a UU after many years of wandering without a community while recovering from my Catholic upbringing. I bring a newcomer’s perspective to the Search Committee, as well as the perspective of an “elder millenial” parent, queer, non-binary, sex-positive person, and social activist, especially with regard to the rights of children.  On the Search Committee I think of myself as representing, in some ways, the UUs Who Are Not Yet Here, although I’m in no way an evangelist! In my short time at First U, I have contributed to the church in various ways, mostly in Religious Exploration ministry and on the Board of Trustees. I led an adult RE class for 2017-18, I have volunteered with Children’s Celebration regularly, and volunteer-managed Navigators. I also served as Secretary of the Board from 2017-18. In the rest of my life, I am a Montessori teacher for children 0-6 years of age and the co-head of my own non-profit school.

Pam Middleton

I grew up blocks from the Unitarian Church in Bloomington, Indiana, the home of Indiana University.  Although raised Presbyterian, I was stimulated to explore other religions in high school, starting with joining the Methodist youth group, proceeding through atheism and on to becoming a Bahai in college.   After divorcing my first husband, I became resolutely unchurched, agnostic and nature worshiping for more than 30 years.   One brother and one sister became Unitarian later in life, and the other brother declared soon after moving to California in the 70s that he was a pagan.

When my second husband, a biology professor at Hanover College in Southern Indiana, died after 28 happy years together, I knew that I needed the support of a community, and I knew that only the Unitarian church could give me that.  So I moved to Louisville in 2012 expressly to join the First Unitarian Church.  I threw myself into volunteering, because I knew that was how to become part of the community.  I taught 3rd-5th grade RE for two years, then joined the worship ministry, where I picked up the job of organizing the ushers, which I may have to keep forever.  When Rev. Dawn went on sabbatical, the chair of worship ministry and I worked closely together to organize the worship services without benefit of clergy.  When Dawn announced that she was moving up in the world, I was chair of worship ministry and more than ready to hold down the fort for 6 months until we could get an interim minister.  Even after our interim minister (Rev. Kathy Hurt) started, she had to ask us to let her do more Sunday services. 

In my college years I decided that one important life role for me was social justice gad-fly.  I demonstrated against the Vietnam War and in support of civil rights and women’s liberation.  I wore a combat jacket and heavy boots, drove a motorcycle to school, scorned the preppies and frat-kids and was just angry at a lot of people a lot of the time.  I kept my left wing leanings through graduate school, but got too busy to be an active protestor. 

After earning a PhD in microbiology and immunology, I was hired as a biology professor at Hanover College.  I met my second husband there, who was a calming influence in my life.  My activism scaled down to passionate speeches in faculty meetings, leading a local “friends of AIDS victims” group and being a steady presence on the the board of our local Planned Parenthood.  After 10 years of small college professorship, I went to medical school–a risky move, spurred by my association with Planned Parenthood and lovingly supported by husband.  As a family doctor, I gave up maternity care, but specialized in the treatment of opioid addiction. 

After I moved to Louisville, I rediscovered my inner activist, under the influence of Dawn Cooley.  I don’t particularly like being so angry at our government, but it makes me feel better to get out there and march, give speeches, and provide street medic support.  

I’ve realized with age how important it is to find joy. Two volunteer jobs give me joy: being receptionist 2 days a week at First Unitarian and being a doctor at the free clinic 4 hours a week.    My greatest joy is contra dancing, which to my surprise has given me more than I ever expected, including another community and a new life partner with deep ties to Unitarians, Wicca and contra dancing.   I’m old, but I ain’t dead yet.

Jill Sherman

I have been a member of First Unitarian church for almost 10 years. During this time, I have volunteered in a variety of positions as RE teacher, OWL facilitator, Board of Trustees member, Board Liaison to the Ministry Council and Personnel Committee, and Board President. This array of experience has given me a comprehensive perspective relating to both our ministries and administration of our church, and should aid in finding an excellent match for our church. I am a parent of a grade school-age child, and am very interested in the First Unitarian Church RE program, as well as ministries for our younger members and their families.  I look forward to and enjoy my work on the First Unitarian Ministerial Search Committee.

Maureen Taylor

Once was not enough for me:  I joined First Unitarian Church twice—first in 1989, when I moved to Louisville after finishing law school in Ann Arbor, and again in 2007, when I returned after 11 years in Ohio.  I’ve been a Unitarian since about 1974, when I joined People’s Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  My roles here have included being Treasurer, co-chairing the Capital Campaign, chairing the Connections Ministry, serving as a Greeter, and counting the collection money.  My roles outside church include being a construction lawyer, the mother of two grown sons, a widow, the caretaker of four dogs and one cat, a lifelong vegetarian and teetotaler, and an unrecovered former English teacher.  I am excited to be on the Search Committee, as I know from personal experience how important the selection of a minister is:  For most of my time in Ohio, I avoided church because I found the minister off-putting.

Jeff Warner

I am a relatively new member at First Unitarian, having only attended services for the last two years. My husband and I officially joined the church in May 2017 while First U was in transition from our last settled minister and awaiting our interim minister’s arrival. Our son is involved in RE and currently enjoys attending the K-2 level OWL classes. My family is warmly welcomed in our church, which is why it was an easy choice to join and get involved so quickly. Professionally, my work focuses on retail software systems, and I am very fortunate to have a career that I enjoy. Personally, in addition to my family time, I enjoy renovating houses. I just recently completed my last project, a 115-year-old Italianate in Old Louisville. It was a 10-year process from start to finish!  Being a new member as well as a new UU, I think being a part of the Search Committee has already given me a greater exposure to the church, our congregation and the UUA. It has been enlightening to learn many of the different perspectives and dynamics within our congregation as well as UUA process. Through this experience, my choice to be a UU and active member of our congregation has been repeatedly affirmed.  I am looking forward to seeing what new perspectives our next minister will bring to First Unita