Meet our staff
Settled Minister, Rev. Shari Woodbury
Rev. Shari Woodbury began as First Unitarian Church of Omaha's settled minister in August 2020. She is honored to be called to this congregation and is eager to connect with our members and the wider community.
An Iowa native, Rev. Shari came to ministry from a previous career as a non-profit leader. She completed her M.Div at Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago. After doing campus ministry and membership work for her home congregation in Bloomington, Indiana, completing chaplaincy internships in a regional hospital and an agency serving homeless people, and carrying out a ministerial internship in Columbus, Indiana, she settled into her first parish ministry, in Fort Worth, Texas. Her recent return to the Midwest is a happy homecoming. Shari loves crafting engaging worship with partners, fostering spiritual growth for all ages, tapping into creativity, and putting our liberal religious values into practice in the world around us.
With her husband William and their daughter, born in 2010, Rev. Shari enjoys cooking, hiking, biking, camping, ping pong, board games and movies. She is also a poet, singer, and compulsive photographer of nature. You can learn more about Shari at her website.
Lifespan Director Of Religious Education, Christina Strong
Christina Strong has been a Unitarian Universalist since 2008 and was employed in various positions at the Unitarian Church of Lincoln from 2009-2019. She received a B.A. degree in Psychology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and nearly completed an M.A. in Sociology (emphases in Social Inequality and Education), before switching directions to open Strong Family Child Care in Lincoln in 2012. She is excited to begin what she hopes will be a lifelong career in Religious Education, and plans to pursue the Religious Education Credentialing Program through the UUA. Christina lives in Lincoln with her husband, Paul, and their four children, Tiana (20), Keijuan (15), Tina (13), and Pele (8). She enjoys traveling, audiobooks, cardio kickboxing, cake decorating, and deep conversations with friends. She is looking forward to getting to know the Omaha UU community!
She'd love to connect with you about your religious education needs: email@example.com
Membership Coordinator, Melissa Gibson
Melissa Gibson started at First Unitarian in May 2022. As Membership Coordinator, she organizes visitor and membership classes and coordinates the new member joining process. Melissa is a low-residency student at Starr King School for Ministry in Oakland, California and is pursing a Master of Divinity and Master of Arts of Social Change. Originally from Indiana, she lived in Texas and Louisiana for about 15 years before returning to the Midwest. Melissa’s background includes a variety of roles at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Shreveport, Louisiana and time as a self-employed artist. She is the parent to three school-aged children and enjoys houseplants, gardening, and most anything dirt-related.
Church Administrator, Catharine Dixon
Catharine, in addition to being a capable office manager, is a published poet and adjunct professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. For the last fourteen years she has been an outstanding administrator. Committed to service and professionalism, the stuff that makes our church run gets done well by Catharine. Meet her during church office hours, Tuesday through Friday, 9am-3pm (except for federal holidays).
AV Technology Coordinator, Oliver Coffman
Oliver Coffman joined our staff in the new position of AV Technology Coordinator in October 2021. In that role he has worked with our volunteer Tech Team to build a sustainable streaming program for multi-platform worship. Oliver brings a depth of experience as both an audio and video technician. When he's not behind the Steve Raybine Memorial AV Station in the First Unitarian sanctuary, you can find him composing and designing sound for theatrical performances in the Omaha area.
If you have a question or comment about church technology, Oliver would be glad to discuss it at firstname.lastname@example.org
Childcare Coordinator, Sara Switzer
Sara Switzer has been the childcare coordinator at First Unitarian since Sep 2022. She is originally from Colorado, and while serving in the Air Force she was stationed in Omaha, and stayed in the area after her service. She has a Bachelor's from Creighton University and works at Methodist Hospital. She has three young kids of her own and when not working is usually kept busy keeping up with them.
If you need daycare for a group meeting, event, or rehearsal, please email email@example.com to arrange supervision for you.
Custodian and Event Host, Bobby Medrano
Bobby has worked at First Unitarian Church since February 2011. In that time, he has assisted with weddings, memorial services, special church events, and kept the church building clean and welcoming. Bobby is a friendly and hard-working staff member who is always willing to lend a hand to help a church member.
Email the church office: firstname.lastname@example.org
Affiliated Community Minister, Rev. Dr. Sarah Voss
Rev. Sarah is a Unitarian Universalist minister, author, and lecturer who currently is a contract chaplain at Methodist Hospital and a state ODR (Office of Dispute Resolution) family mediator affiliated with Concord mediation center in Omaha. Over the years, she has published extensively about religion and math, including articles on matheology and moral math in publications as varied as Parabola, Journal of Religious Humanism, Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, Still Point Arts Quarterly, and Theology and Science. She came to First Unitarian, Omaha, when she was still teaching mathematics, a career which ended not long after she found herself telling her College of St. Mary calculus students how God might be like the definite integral of calculus. She knew then that something was definitely moving her in a new direction. She took math with her into Meadville-Lombard School of Theology in Chicago, and, eventually, the thesis she wrote for her Doctor of Ministry degree became her first published book, What Number Is God? (SUNY, 1995). She now identifies herself as a math mystic.
Sarah’s very first UU experience was with First Unitarian Church of Omaha. She remembers how a friend invited her to come on a visitors’ Sunday in the 1980s when Rev. Ron Knapp was preaching about the poetry of May Sarton. At the time Sarah was an atheist and Ron’s sermon hit just the perfect note with her. She came back the next Sunday and heard him blasting away as he processed in full black robe down the aisle to the pulpit; he spoke about hell, fire, and damnation, and Sarah thought “Oh, no, I’ve made a horrid mistake.” It was Sunday, April 1st and when Ron reached the front of the sanctuary, he smiled and said “April Fool” and then talked about freedom of religion and our faith tradition. Sarah has been a UU ever since, first as a friend, then as a member, then as a minister, and now as a retired but active community minister. Last year she gave the twenty-five-year class comments at Meadville’s annual GA meeting. Today she feels honored and empowered to be formally connected to First Unitarian Church as their first affiliated community minister.
Sanctuary Singers Director, William Miller
William has been a choral conductor for over 30 years. His previous choral conducting roles were with Baptist Presbyterian Church in Valley, NE, First Presbyterian in Council Bluffs, Benson Presbyterian and has been the director at First Unitarian since 2016. He obtained his Bachelor of Music Degree in Voice Performance from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Aside from choral conducting, he's participated in hand bell choirs and is a frequent soloist. William has performed with Opera Omaha for over 30 years and has performed in over 50 productions. A skilled keyboardist, he has accompanied vocal soloists and choirs as well as performed in instrumental ensembles. William earned a Master of Arts, Management degree from Bellevue University and has worked at several Omaha area Fortune 500 companies and currently works at Union Pacific Railroad Company as the Director of Technology Vendor Management.
Sanctuary Singers Accompanist, J. Gawf
J. Gawf is an accomplished pianist, collaborative pianist and a highly trained vocal coach in musical theater and opera. He earned his Bachelor and Master of Music degrees in Piano Performance from the University of Central Oklahoma and a Master of Music degree in Opera Coaching/Piano Accompaniment from Temple University in Philadelphia. J. has collaborated with Opera Saratoga, Michigan Opera Theater, Augusta Opera, New Jersey Opera Theater, Center City Opera and numerous international musical theater and opera singers. He continues to work regularly with the Omaha Symphony and was previously the Music Director at Opera Omaha.
Music Director, Judi Unger
Judi Unger, mezzo-soprano, is a professional musician who has performed locally with Opera Omaha for over 22 years, with the Omaha Symphony, and recently toured in Mexcio with Mujeres de Música. Judi serves on the board of the Omaha Chamber Music Society as Marketing Coordinator, and volunteers at North Omaha Music and Arts. She is passionate about music education, and teaches vocal music, West African drumming and guitar for Omaha Public Schools. Judi completed graduate research on music education in Kerala, India, as part of her master’s program. She loves performing and teaching music, and using music as a means of social justice activism. She studies with Judith Natalucci, voice, and Sowah Mensah, drumming.
See our music page here.