Reverend Gabi Parks, Interim Minister
Rev. Dr. Parks came from Germany to this country in 1991, together with her husband Roger and her twin daughters. She joined the UU congregation of Columbia, MD, in 1995, and in 2001 realized that ministry was her calling. She received her MDiv from Lancaster Theological Seminary, and in 2011, she returned to school at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. She received her Doctor of Ministry degree in 2015, in the field of Narrative Theology. She is also an experienced grief counselor. Congregants are encouraged to call her 24/7 in times of crisis.
Rev. Gabi has served 4 Unitarian Universalist congregations as an intentional interim minister – or as they now call it, a “congregational transition specialist.” She considers herself a “UU-Evangelist,” eager to spread the “Good News” of Unitarian Universalism, especially in this time of fear and hopelessness. Her favorite hobbies are discussing theology, which she claims is not boring at all, and taking her dog for long hikes. Oops, we must not forget her two cats, they would be offended…
Matthew Shineman, Director of Lifespan Religious Education
Matthew Shineman has been serving as the Director of Lifespan Religious Education (DLRE) at UUFCC since August of 2014. Before that, Matthew served as the DRE at 4th Universalist Society in New York City under the guidance of Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt.
While music is a large passion and hobby of his (you’ll often find him performing during services), Matthew found his true calling in ministry. Believing strongly in the lifespan aspect of faith development, he trusts that each day brings us some newer, deeper truth. He stands firmly in his belief that Unitarian Universalism is the vibrant religion of the 21st century and describes himself as an unabashed UU evangelist.
Olivia Harper, Membership Coordinator
Olivia began working in our newly created position of Membership Coordinator in July 2016.
Olivia is a State College native. She lives just around the corner from the UUFCC, with her husband, Mike, and their children—Jack (16), Chloe (13), and Hawkins (5). For the past few years, Olivia has been a stay-at-home mom. She also worked for several years at the Center for Well-Being in Lemont, first as their office administrator, and later, after attending the Mount Nittany Institute of Natural Health, as a massage therapist. She has her bachelor’s degree from Clarion University in Library Science.
Colleen Kennedy, Music Director
A native of Los Angeles, Colleen has over 25 years of experience as a choral musician. Colleen attended UCLA, where she received a B.A. in Music, with an emphasis in Music Education, and a Master’s degree in Education. Over the course of her career, she has worked with singers of all ages, in church settings, schools, and community groups.
In addition to serving at UUFCC, Colleen sings with the State College Choral Society, where she is also the organization’s Chorus Manager. When she’s not making music, Colleen can be found in the accounting department of a local manufacturing company
Audrey Barner, Office Administrator
Audrey has served as the Office Administrator since February 2010. She brings to the Fellowship her cheerful attitude, love of people, a background in administration and supervision, as well as management skills gained from years of work as a freelance transcription contractor. Audrey is responsible for the day-to-day running of the office, manages facility use, provides support to the minister and board, and oversees the cleaning crew.
Martha Jordan, Piano Accompanist
Martha joined the UUFCC in 1999 and has enjoyed being the piano accompanist for the adult choir since 2003 and more recently our Youth Choir. Being a part of the music ministry at the Fellowship and providing music that follows the themes of our services throughout the year brings Martha personal and spiritual satisfaction. She appreciates and supports the wide acceptance of various musical genres used during our services and programs as a way to promote inclusiveness.
Martha’s musical background includes a Bachelor’s Degree in Music from Penn State and a variety of previous experiences as church organist and piano accompanist.
David Morris, Jazz Band Leader
David started trumpet studies privately in 1966. He participated in orchestra and concert band programs starting in junior high and continued his music studies at Allegheny Community College. While in college he was drafted, so he auditioned for the Air Force Field Bands and was accepted. After six years as a featured soloist with various Air Force bands, David was discharged from the service in California and went to study commercial music at the famous Dick Grove Music Workshops in Studio City, Ca.
Locally, David has volunteered to play lead in numerous school pit orchestras for musical productions. He currently teaches trumpet at Robert M. Sides Family Music Store where he started The Central PA Youth Jazz Experience for like-minded students who enjoy big band music. His students have gone on to music programs at Ithaca College, Brigham Young University, and Gettysburg College to name a few. Currently David’s experience in everything from Polish and Mexican Polkas, nightclub acts, big bands, Dixieland and pit orchestras is being utilized in his work as the Jazz Band Leader for the UUFCC.
Joe Kowalski, Financial Secretary
Joe joined the UUFCC staff in January of 2016. He is semi-retired after a wide-ranging business career that began in accounting and auditing, and then advanced to positions in business growth and, most significantly for him, customer care. Joe identifies with one of the Fellowship’s primary focal points—social awareness and involvement, because it connects well with one of his post-career enthusiasms—volunteering. Since transitioning into semi-retirement, Joe has become a very active volunteer with Mount Nittany Medical Center, Clearwater Conservancy, Centre County Big Brothers-Big Sisters, Centre County PAWS, the “KidTech” solar-car program (founded and headed by UUFCC member Toby Short), and several other programs. The common thread is interacting with people, sharing, learning, and giving back.
Joe and his wife Lori have lived in State College for 10 years. His family includes four pooches, two of which adopted Lori and him from PAWS. Joe and Lori were both born and raised in Pennsylvania but have enjoyed moving around with their careers. One of the most remarkable and memorable periods for them was living and working in Germany for three years.