History and Heritage Committee

Membership inquiries are welcome. For more information please contact midamerica@uua.org.

Installation photograph of The Rev. Jennie Barrington

Investiture of the stole at Rev. Jennie Barrington’s Installation as Settled Minister of The Unitarian Universalist Church of Tippecanoe County, in West Lafayette, Indiana, October 23, 2022

The Rev. Jennie Barrington is excited to join the History and Heritage Committee. She writes:

I love Indiana and I love the Midwest! I am the settled minister of The UU Church of Tippecanoe County, in West Lafayette. And I have served as Interim Minister for the UU congregations in South Bend, Fort Wayne, and Terre Haute. And I have also served as Interim Minister for UU congregations in: Chicago; Wooster, Ohio; Columbia, South Carolina; Little Rock, Arkansas; Fredericksburg, Virginia; and Pittsfield, Maine. And I served the UU church in Winchendon, Massachusetts for seven years. I am life-long UU, originally from New England, and have been a UU minister for 22 years. I have especially enjoyed my work in church finances, fundraising, and capital campaign.

I was raised with an appreciation of our UU heritage’s Humanist roots in Unitarianism, and spirit-filled influences in Universalism. I was also inspired by the foundational ideas of UU Religious Education. For fun, I love traveling to places with a rich history, exploring state parks, listening to all types of music, and reading poetry. I am also an avid college football fan.

I was invited to serve on the History and Heritage Committee because they needed someone from Indiana. Together, we encourage UU congregations to write and publish their histories. I love doing so, since that was my favorite part of being an Interim Minister.

David Conradi-Jones

David Conradi-Jones was ordained in the American Baptist Convention. He joined historic First Unitarian Church in Rockford, Illinois, in 1977 and Pilgrim House UU Fellowship in Shoreview, MN, in 1988, served on many committees, and was Board Chairman for one term. He started a scrapbook of all UU churches in the Prairie Star District, including all churches in Minnesota and Iowa and three in western Wisconsin. The project is now suspended, but not permanently. He is a licensed counselor to perform weddings, funerals, and dedications and a conscientious objection advisor to youth who have to register for the draft. He attended several Prairie Star District annual meetings and the first annual meeting of MidAmerica Region. He asked Victor questions about White Bear UU’s heritage, and that began his involvement with the H & H Committee of the MidAmerica Region.

Jim Grebe

Jim Grebe has been an active member of All Souls UU Church in Kansas City since 1974, where he has served as president and on a variety of church committees, including chairing the grants committee of PSD Chalice Lighters. The history of All Souls and UUism has been an interest of his for many years. He has written about past minister Ray Bragg for the Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biography and published a biography of another past minister, Leon Milton Birkhead. Jim, his wife Jan, and their dogs live in suburban Kansas City. He researched and edited Tending the Flame: 150 Years of Liberal Religion in Kansas City (2017), a history of All Souls. He is also Historian and Archivist of the French Bull Dog Club of America.

Tim Hirsch

Tim Hirsch, Eau Claire, WI, was recruited to the committee by Lowell Hanson and Victor Urbanowicz at a restaurant near the Mabel Tainter Memorial, a historic church about which he created a video documentary. In 2018, he initiated and helped organize a celebration of Reverend Henry Doty Maxson, a humanist minister who was the first to serve the Tainter Memorial Church, which is now a center for the arts in Menomonie, Wisconsin. A retired University of Wisconsin professor of English with a specialty in American studies, he is a serious student of local and regional history.

Carol Jackson

Carol Jackson is a founding member of the committee and now serves as a consultant. Active since 1999, she served as chair from 2009 until 2016. She has also held major offices in Prairie Star District, including president, and served the UUA as well. She has belonged to First Universalist Church of Minneapolis since 1976 and served two terms as church president and in other major roles, the most recent in connection with First Universalist’s sesquicentennial. Carol also played a major role in creating the 2002 Light on the Prairie conference. Carol’s wide-ranging interest in history includes genealogy and historic preservation of our important materials and stories for the benefit of future generations.

Jane Kenamore

Jane Kenamore, a consultant for the Committee, is a founding partner of the archives consulting firm Kenamore & Klinkow. Prior to consulting, she headed special collections at the Rosenberg Library in Galveston, TX (1976–88), served as Archivist at the Art Institute of Chicago (1988–89), as Education Director of the Society of American Archivists (1989–95), and as Archivist at the American Medical Association (1995–97).

John Leeker

John Leeker, who joined the Committee in 2016, has been instrumental in changing its meeting format from phone to video. He is Archivist and Librarian at Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago and also serves as Secretary-Treasurer for UU Collegium.

Mary Mullen

Mary Mullen, Archives Committee Chair at the Prairie UU Society of Madison (WI), is a former school teacher and state employee, a neighborhood leader, and an active member of the Society since joining in 1983. She has written a history of her congregation’s neighborhood. After retiring from teaching in 2005, she volunteered at the Wisconsin Historical Society for two years, helping produce one of its publications. She has published three books through Lulu.com, most recently heading up production of the two-volume, 966-page Prairie UU Society: 50 Years in the Life of a Congregation, 1967-2017. She is an avid photographer, gardener, bicyclist, birder and inveterate night owl. She lives just a few doors down from Prairie UU with her partner Patty Stockdale and their two cats, Aggie and Rudy. She has held seven different positions on the Prairie Board over the years.

Rev Dr Sarah Oelberg

Rev. Dr. Sarah Oelberg is a descendant of English Unitarians on both sides of her family. Her fourth great-grandfather came to Northumberland, PA with Joseph Priestley's son to survey land and find an acceptable place to settle. They returned to England and brought their families, living on adjacent land in Pennsylvania. He helped Joseph Priestley found a Unitarian church in Northumberland. Her great-grandfather was a founder of the Unitarian church in Cherokee, IA. Sarah was raised in several Unitarian churches. She graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in special education and taught for several years before attending Yeshiva University in New York to get her Master's degree. She then developed a special education curriculum for the USOE, based at Yeshiva and then NYU. When that project ended, she joined the faculty of Buena Vista College in Storm Lake IA to train teachers. She left that career to attend Meadville Lombard Theological School to qualify for the UU ministry. Her doctoral dissertation was a history of Unitarianism in Iowa which is now being considered for publication by Skinner House Books. She served congregations in Hanska and Mankato, MN for twelve and a half years before retiring to Milwaukee, WI, with her husband of 62 years. They have four children, six grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. Sarah still preaches about once a month at the UU church in Mequon, WI. A lover of history, she has visited Transylvania five times, and has also been to Raków, the site of the Socinian community in Poland.

Frank Potter

Frank Potter is a charter member of the UU Fellowship of Dubuque, Iowa, founded in 1984. He is interested in the 19th century Transcendentalists and UU reformers and is now writing a book on a Dubuque woman who was a national leader in mentoring women’s clubs. He has collected information and has written an outline on the First Universalist Society of Dubuque, which existed from 1858 through 1900. Frank joined the Committee in June 2006.

Dave Richardson

Dave Richardson is retired from teaching high school English and continues as a long-time active member of the First Unitarian Church of Omaha, Nebraska, where he headed the team that recently completed that congregation’s sesquicentennial history.

Victor Urbanowicz

Victor Urbanowicz, chair since 2016, is a long-time member of White Bear UU Church in Mahtomedi, MN, where he has served in several roles, including leader of the UU history discussion group. He is a charter member of the committee and worked on the 2002 Light on the Prairie conference. He writes or enrolls writers for the MidAmerica Region’s online history vignettes. He has also written and staged dramatic readings on Midwestern UU history. In 2013, he and two other UUs produced a book of brief histories of Twin Cities congregations. He is now retired from technical writing and post-secondary teaching. He lives with his wife Janet in St. Paul, MN.

Walter Wells

Walter Wells is a veteran member of All Souls UU Church in Kansas City, where he has served in capacities such as Board President, Treasurer, Chair of Archives Committee, and current Archives Committee member. He has represented All Souls at District meetings, General Assemblies, and elsewhere. Walt joined the history team in 2002 and contributes to history activities at All Souls. Walt is active in community groups and has served on statewide boards addressing housing and historical preservation. He repairs and rehabs older buildings (hands on) and consults on the rehab of historical buildings. With his spouse he now lives in a newer house (1904, upgraded in 1924, rather than the 1897 house where they raised a family.) His ancestors include Unitarians in Canada and Universalists in Massachusetts.

Lowell Hanson

In Memoriam

Lowell Hanson (1927-2016), was the founder and for many years leader and driving force of the Committee. After serving as an officer in the US Marine Corps during the Korean conflict, he became a professor of agronomy at the University of Minnesota. He initiated and completed some of the Committee’s most ambitious projects, notably the 2002 conference and the congregational trainings for recording history on video.