Minister: Rev. Doug McCusker
UUFF called Rev. Doug McCusker to be our settled minister on May 3, 2015. This was his first settled ministry after serving a year as part-time Assistant Minister at the UU Congregation of Rockville, MD from 2014-2015. His gateway to ministry was as a long-time lay religious education teacher and youth advisor. As our minister, he loves to teach adult and children RE classes any chance he can get. His vision of ministry is one of helping others seek and express meaning, purpose, and connection to something beyond themselves.
Rev. Doug grew up as a Catholic, studied philosophy in college, and then discovered Taoism when he stumbled upon the Tao Te Ching. Now, Rev Doug identifies as a Mystical Humanist. This means he focuses his theology mostly on how humanity interacts within the natural world, but he leaves the door open when it comes to the mysterious interconnections that hold everything in the universe together.
In addition to his duties as our full-time minister, he has also been volunteering with the Humanist group at the Coffeewood Correctional Center in Mitchells, Virginia since October 2016. He is on the faculty at the Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago as a teaching assistant for UU History and Polity.
Rev. Doug is originally from Richmond, VA, the son of a mother who immigrated to this country from Colombia and a German-Irish father from Philadelphia. While he was young, his grandmother lived in the home, teaching Rev. Doug and his siblings to speak Spanish. Rev. Doug is proud of his Latino heritage, and his multicultural upbringing informs many aspects of his ministry.
Rev. Doug, along with his wife Marie and daughter Bree, began attending Accotink UU Church in Burke, VA in 1999. He was an active volunteer and lay leader, serving on various committees as well as their President. As Rev. Doug neared retirement as a Cartographic Systems Engineer with the federal government, he answered the call to ministry, earning his M. Div. degree from Meadville Lombard Theological School in 2014. He was ordained in March 2015.
Rev. Doug loves being in the woods. His main spiritual practice is Shin-rin Yoku, which is an immersive sensory meditation in the forest. He leads groups in outdoor mindfulness and is pursuing a certification as an Outdoor Mindfulness Leader. Additionally, he loves jazz music, science-fiction, the Washing Nationals and experimenting in the kitchen. Visit his website at www.dougmccusker.com for writings and further information.
Intern Minister: Michele Nierle
Michele Nierle is the Intern Minister at UUFF from September 2019 through the Spring of 2021 and sabbatical minister from July through October 2020 while Rev. Doug in on leave. In her second year of Master of Divinity studies at Union Presbyterian Seminary, Michele plans for UU ordination, hopefully in 2021. Her pursuit of UU ministry began a few years ago as her roles as yoga teacher and former wellness coordinator, began to merge with her roles at UUCC Glen Allen: as worship leader and chair, song leader, Peace Building Team member, part of the Labyrinth ministry, Soul Matters group facilitator, RE adult religious studies facilitator, co-facilitator of the Richmond Pledge to end Racism, and choir member.
While seminary and internship experiences challenge her to discern her call, embodied spiritual practice integrated with topics such as Sacred Space, the Theology and Politics of Food, racial reconciliation, and pastoral care, expand her sense of what ministry can be. This internship is an opportunity to learn and grow with the community and staff of UUFF. While under the care and supervision of Rev. Doug and an Intern Mentoring Team, she embarks on new projects which engage embodied relationship with self and environment, such as an outdoor labyrinth and ritual stations. Between her bachelor’s degree in fine arts and community-building through teaching, Michele leans into creative brainstorming and collaboration as enriching and empowering to a community’s understanding and engagement of interdependence. She is grateful to be part of such a community’s endeavors at UUFF.
Director of Lifespan Religious Education: Chris Johns
Director of Lifespan Religious Education, Chris Johns and her family first attended the UUFF on Caroline Street in April 2000, felt immediately at home and signed the book two months later. A graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, her interest in music and the theatre arts led her to serve this beloved community as a member – and chair – of the Music Committee, as the director, and often writer, of the yearly Holiday Pageant, as well as the former director of the UUth Choir, which she founded in 2007. All of this, along with volunteering as a teacher in RE, helped Chris develop a passion for working with children. When the DRE position became available in 2011, it seemed a natural fit for “the pageant lady.” Her creative talents, infectious enthusiasm, and warm-hearted leadership style are tremendous assets, and she is a strong advocate for our children and youth. She found that her training as a performer and director served her well in her new role. However, continued growth in RE, and her transition from children’s programming to lifespan, inspired Chris to seek out increased professional development opportunities in order to expand her knowledge. She successfully completed the Credentialed Religious Educator program (Associate Level) in 2015. Committed to the continuing faith development of this congregation, Chris is currently working on the next level of credentialing, which she hopes to complete in April of 2021.
Music Director/Adult Choir/Handbells/UUth Choir: Jason J. Michael
Jason received his BA in Music Composition from Susquehanna University in 1993. Subsequently, he received his BA in Theatre from Kutztown University in 1996, his MA in Theatre from Villanova University in 2005, and most recently his MFA in Theatre from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2014. During the 1992-1993 season, Jason served as Assistant Conductor for the Susquehanna Valley Chorale. From 2001 to 2004 he was Director of Choral Activities and Drama at LaSalle College High School in Wyndmoor, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia. A two year internship with the Berkshire Chorale Festival led to two faculty appointments with BCF in 2006 and 2007, one in Sheffield, MA and the other in Vancouver, Canada. For five years, from 2006 through 2010, Jason was the Children’s Theatre Artistic Director of Upper Darby Summer Stage. From 2011 to 2016 Jason was adjunct faculty at VCU, where he taught Directing and Speech.
As a conductor of musical theatre, Jason has music directed seven national children’s theatre tours for American Family Theatre, and has been a guest music director/vocal director at the prestigious Fulton Opera House in Lancaster, PA, Reading Civic Theatre, Ritz Theatre of NJ, and the Ephrata Performing Arts Center, conducting pits for Annie, Oklahoma!, Peter Pan, Kiss of the Spider Woman, and The Sound of Music to name a few. Locally, for the Riverside Center Dinner Theatre, Jason has music directed 9 to 5, Spamalot, West Side Story, Gypsy, Les Misérablés, Legally Blonde, Pinkalicious, The Full Monty, High School Musical, Phantom, Cabaret, Dreamgirls, and Whorehouse and assistant music directed both All Shook Up and Hello, Dolly! with Sally Struthers.
An active composer, arranger, and author, recent area premieres include “We’re Gonna Shovel the Snow,” The Colors of Christmas,” and “What Cool Child is This.” Other composition credits include incidental music for Cheaper by the Dozen at the Ritz Theatre Co. in Haddon Township, NJ, songs for Twelfth Night at Hunter College, and three revues, The Magic of Spring, America Sings, and Victorian Christmas in the Country, all in collaboration with Oliver Blatt for Blatt’s Dinner Theatre in Kutztown, PA. In 2014, he contributed songs to Warp Speed: A Sci-Fi Parody Musical, which had its run at the Midtown International Theatre Festival in New York City in August 2014. His spiritual, All Aboard: The Ballad of Harriet Tubman, is published by Theodore Presser Co. His children’s books, Daddy Doesn’t Purr (But I Love Him Anyway) and Mommy Made a Beastie (But I Love Her Anyway), and his books of poetry, A Haiku a Day and True Haiku for You, are all available on Amazon. Jason is Artistic Director/Music Director of the Stafford Regional Choral Society and teaches Music Theatre Performance at UMW. He is married to UUFF Office Administrator Nancy, and they have one son, John Adams.
Office Administrator: Nancy Michael
Dr. Nancy holds a PhD in English Language and Literature from The Catholic University of America, where she specialized in medieval literature. Her dissertation, “Motherhood and Power in Middle English Romance,” was successfully defended March 2020. She holds a BA in Psychology from Boston University, an MA in Theatre from Villanova University, and a Graduate Certificate in Medieval Studies from Catholic University. She currently teaches at NOVA Annandale, and she teaches a medieval cultural foundations survey for New York University’s DC site. She has taught literature, composition, and Intensive English at Catholic University, University of Maryland Baltimore County, The United States Naval Academy, and Villanova University, and has presented papers on medieval literature at a number of academic conferences. In 2016, Nancy was the recipient of a Fellowship to attend the National Endowment for the Humanities’s Summer Institute “Teaching Beowulf in the Context of Old Norse-Icelandic Literature” at the Medieval Institute in Kalamazoo, MI. Currently she is working as a contributing author to two books, Teaching Beowulf: Practical Approaches, forthcoming from DeGruyter Press; and How to Teach a Play, published by Bloomsbury Press in January 2020.
If and when she has time, Nancy works as a freelance stage manager, costume designer, and actor, although her theatrical pursuits have been put on hold so that she can focus on her other full-time career as mother to her son John Adams. She is active in the UUFF Adult Choir and Handbells.
Accompanist: Pati Dunn
Pati is a musician. She has been singing since she was 3, started on flute and choir in 3rd grade, piano in middle school and then guitar. Graduated from the Crane School of Music with a Bachelors of Music Education, Pati has since taught music from general to specific to ages 5+, both in public school and private lesson settings. The best feeling is when students return, showing you made a difference to them. Directing over 300 middle schoolers singing “We Are the World” was a highlight of her most recent public teaching experience. She has also performed with the Chamber Chorale of Fredericksburg, Camerata Chorale, St. Lawrence Chrorus (Sweet Adelines) and the Crane Chorus.
When not at the piano, Pati lives in Spotsylvania with her husband, homeschooled son, and cat (ask her name!). She is also the leader of the Herbal Arts Collective associated with Downtown Greens, serves on the board of the Fredericksburg CSA, and choreographs musicals for Spotsylvania Middle School.
Minister Emeritus: Rev. Walter Braman
Rev. Braman has many years of experience in both settled and interim positions, and has ministered to a wide variety of congregations. In 1998, Walter served as our interim minister for two years, helping us to successfully navigate a time of transition as we began the process of calling our first settled minister. He became so enamored with the Fredericksburg area that he continued to reside here. In 2010, Walter returned to the UUFF as our part-time minister. He officially retired in 2015 and was bestowed Emeritus status at the Annual Meeting in May, 2015.