Our Ministers and Staff
Howard N. Dana came to First Parish in August 2013, after 13 years serving the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg. A graduate of Starr King School for the Ministry, he previously served as intern minister at Birmingham Unitarian Church outside Detroit and interim minister at the Mission Peak UU Congregation in Fremont, California.
Under Howard’s leadership in Harrisburg, his church was designated by the UUA as a Breakthrough Congregation, for its visionary acquisition of an inner city church building to accommodate a growing congregation.
In his free time, Howard enjoys contra dancing, cooking, painting, movies, bookstores, gardening, and travel. An outdoor enthusiast, he loves kayaking, hiking, camping, biking and walking. Ask him about his pit bull, Rosie.
Rev. Amy Freedman is a lifelong Unitarian Universalist with a depth of experience in religious education, shared ministry, and creative arts. She comes to us after serving as the Consulting Minister of First Church in Boston where religious education, worship, and leadership development were part of her portfolio. She has served UU congregations as a Director of Religious Education, Consultant, Interim, and Parish Minister since 1996. For ten years, she served as the Senior Minister of Channing Memorial Church in Newport, RI.
Most recently, Marion worked part time as a Chaplain with Connecticut Hospice and part time with the Unitarian Society of New Haven (USNH). Her primary area of ministry at USNH was in Pastoral Care. She oversaw the congregation’s Pastoral Care Program, which included training and meeting monthly with its Lay Ministry Team, working with its Rides Coordinator, Meals Coordinator, and Friendly Visitors to assist members of the congregation during times of illness, injury, loss and transition. She provided short-term pastoral counseling for members. Marion is originally from Hamden, Connecticut. She is a graduate of Starr King School for the Ministry where she specialized in pastoral care. Marion’s career path has been a journey to wholeness; she has undergraduate and graduate degrees in communications and became a television producer (mind). She was a massage therapist in physical therapy, hospital and retreat center settings (body), and then she became a chaplain and minister (spirit).
Rev. Margie King Saphier has served as a Hospice chaplain, and Associate Minister for Pastoral Care. Presently she is Affiliate Minister at First Parish in Concord, MA serving as Community Minister for Restorative Justice. In this capacity she is the Chairperson of the Board of Directors of Partakers and works closely with Arthur Bembury, Partakers’ Executive Director. She also serves as the First Parish’s liaison to Louis D. Brown Peace Institute in Dorchester, MA. Prior to ministry Margie served as a public health nurse, pediatric nurse practitioner, and an advocate for families when their child was hospitalized. Throughout her professional life, Reverend Saphier has been committed to those who are disenfranchised, helping them to “find their voice” as they struggle to meet their needs, as well as the needs of their families.
Jennifer “Jo” VonRue comes to us from northeast Pennsylvania, and recently graduated with her Masters in Divinity from Meadville Lombard Theological School. Unlike most of our previous intern ministers, Jo has already completed all of the work to become a UU minister and was ordained in April of 2017. She has come to First Parish as our Minister in Residence to gain some experience working in a large congregation.
Jo has previously served as intern at our Congregation in Binghamton, New York, and as a consulting minister at our Church in Cortland, New York. Her husband Isaac is a Chemistry Professor at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania where he will remain at their home in Shavertown while Jo is with us in Concord.
Outside of Ministry, Jo is a competitive equestrian, riding both Dressage and Hunters. She loves exploring the outdoors with her two dogs, Sam and Derby, and is a musician, playing both the French horn and ukulele.
Zachary Roe has lived in many places, but his roots are deep in the hills of Central Appalachia. Much of his life has been spent working to educate youth and adults on matters of social justice, especially regarding matters of race, religion, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status. From the experience of engaging with various cultures and traditions through extensive travel and living abroad, to being in an inter-religious, inter-cultural, inter-racial, multi-lingual, gay relationship, he has learned about the importance of engaging with these issues and working for justice.
Zachary holds a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Andover Newton Theological School and a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Communication from Middle Tennessee State University. He and his husband, the Reverend Ángel D. Marrero-Ayala (ELCA), currently reside in Norwood, Massachusetts.
Beth Norton has been Music Director at First Parish since 1994. Beth believes in the power of music to express what is beyond words, to deepen our spiritual experience and to build community. As a singer, conductor, violinist and folk musician, Beth enjoys making music in a wide variety of styles with people of all ages and abilities. She received her BA in Music from Smith College and her MM in Choral Conducting from the Hartt School of Music. Beth has served as the president of the Unitarian Universalist Musicians Network, the professional organization for UU musicians and remains an active member.
Fifi focuses primarily on the financial aspects of First Parish, helping the Senior Minister, Standing Committee, and First Parish Treasurer Tom Wilson prepare and manage the budget.
Before joining the staff at First Parish, and since 1994, Fifi and a business partner have run Squared Away, an office organizing and productivity consulting firm. Fifi’s primary goal at First Parish is the transparency and understandability of the church’s finances to the congregation. Fifi has an MBA from Simmons College School of Management. She especially loves working with numbers, fairness and openness, and solving problems.
Sarah comes to us after serving as an Administrative Assistant at Hancock United Church of Christ in Lexington, MA, for the past two years. Sarah graduated from New Hampshire Institute of Art with a BFA in Illustration in 2014. In her spare time, Sarah writes and illustrates graphic novels, and helps young artists build college-worthy portfolios. She also loves playing with her dogs and finding a great cup of coffee.
Gail Carey has served as First Parish Children’s Choir Director since 2008. Within her music ministry, Gail emphasizes the role of music in helping our children to “discover their voices” within the larger church. From an early age, children are consistently invited into the safety of song circles and ultimately nurtured into worship leadership. Whether borrowing from folk, world music, gospel or our own historic UU tradition, Gail reaches to evoke the prayerful joy that comes with shared song. She has a particular passion for intergenerational song. Gail received her diploma from Interlochen Arts Academy, her BA in music therapy from Emmanuel College, and her MSW from Simmons College. She has worked as a performer, music theatre director, accompanist, music therapist and social worker. She is an active member of the Unitarian Universalist Musicians Network and is a newly credentialled music leader within the UU faith.
Anderson Manuel has been a member of the First Parish music staff since 2000. He is the founding director of our Youth Gospel Choir. A native of Haiti, Anderson is a dad, husband and a teacher. Anderson has been singing since birth and continues to demonstrate to our youngsters the love and power of Gospel music.
D. Eric Huenneke, a native Californian,has been organist of First Parish in Concord since January 2001. He is a graduate ofthe University of California at Santa Barbara and Rutgers University in New Jersey, where he also taught and served as College Organist for Douglass College. Active as a church and concert musician for over three decades, his concert venues have ranged from coast-to-coast in the United States. He is also a Past Dean of the Merrimack Valley Chapter of the American Guild of Organists.