Our Ministers and Staff
Rev. Alex Jensen, Senior Minister
Reverend Alex Jensen (he/him) is UUCGT’s Minister since August 2021. Rev. Alex is a first-career minister embarking on his first settled ministry with us. After a variety of ministry settings, Rev. Alex brings a depth of experience from serving as a Ministerial Intern at the First Parish in Wayland, MA, a Chaplain in hospital and domestic violence support programs, as well as his work as a Unitarian Universalist leader since his youth and early teens. Rev. Alex is a graduate of Harvard Divinity School, earning his Master of Divinity (M. Div.) in 2021. He also holds a B.A. in Human Communication and Peace Studies from CSU Monterey Bay, as well as a minor in Music.
Rev. Alex became a Unitarian Universalist in his early teens after searching for a spiritual community. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Rev. Alex joined the UU Congregation in Fremont, CA, bringing his whole family with him shortly after! Rev. Alex believes that Unitarian Universalism is a saving faith with a lifesaving message of love, acceptance, belonging, and inclusion. Rev. Alex experienced this firsthand after wrestling deeply with his identity and sexuality as a gay teen. Unitarian Universalism held room for him to feel loved as he was with no exceptions, moving him to come out in his young adult years. Rev. Alex strives to create Beloved Community in his ministry, where all feel welcomed to bring their whole and fullest selves.
In his free time, Rev. Alex enjoys hiking and other outdoor adventures. He also is an avid musician (violin) and enjoys playing, singing, and creating music with others.
If you have any questions, concerns, or other inquiries, please email Rev. Alex at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rev. Dr. Wendy von Courter, Community Minister for Social Justice
Rev. Wendy comes to us as a fifth-generation Unitarian (and then Unitarian Universalist) from New England. She has a lengthy history in our movement spanning over two decades as a religious leader. Some highlights of her years in ministry include 14 years of parish ministry in Marblehead, MA, Board Chair of Ferry Beach Park Association (a UU retreat center in Maine), founding member and president of UU Allies for Racial Equity, member of the UUA Accessibility Committee, co-chair of the UUA Journey Towards Justice Transformation Committee, member of the UU Council on Cross Cultural Engagement, and founding member of the General Assembly Right Relationship Team model.
Beyond Unitarian Universalism, Rev. Wendy has been an active interfaith leader in immigrant justice and community organizing. She received her Masters of Divinity at Boston University as well as her Doctor of Ministry. Her dissertation was on Successful Long-Term Ministries in Unitarian Universalism. Rev. Wendy now resides in Buckley, MI with her wife, Gini (former UUA Moderator), three von Kittens, and 21 von Chickens! She remains tied to Boston University School of Theology as the Mentor to the UU Community of Learning and teaches UU Polity, Interfaith Leadership, and Ministry and Leadership in Interfaith Settings. Here in Grand Traverse County, Rev. Wendy was active with the GT Action Council (GTAC) organized around the 2020 election, worked with the Election Defenders here and in Georgia, and is a member of the Northern MI E3 Council (Up North Anti-racism Taskforce).
Email Rev. Wendy at email@example.com.
Renée Russell, Music Director
Renée Russell is a performer, teacher, and community activist with a degree in Vocal Performance from Berklee College of Music in Boston and a Masters in Social Work from Grand Valley State University. With a studied background in classical technique and a firm foot in jazz and contemporary music, Renée has performed and taught for over 20 years throughout the country and abroad. She finds joy and spiritual meaning from helping each person to identify their unique gift and assisting them in developing skills through support and encouragement. She teaches private lessons out of her home studio and enjoys working with and teaching groups, witnessing the incredible beauty that comes from respectful collaboration. The younger sibling of an accomplished and independent sister with intellectual disabilities, Renée believes in advocacy and that every voice should be heard and valued. She is also a board member of Arts for All of Northwest Michigan, a local non-profit that empowers people of all abilities through accessible arts and cultural opportunities while advocating for inclusive community engagement. She enjoys living on the Old Mission Peninsula with her wonderful husband and two step-daughters, and their dog, Bernie, and cat, Finnegan.
Email Renée at firstname.lastname@example.org
Betsie Hammerberg, Director of Children and Youth Religious Education
Betsie attended the UUCGT from the ages of 6-17, and has many happy memories of the Religious Education program. She studied costume design and elementary education, and taught Pre-K through 3rd grade in Thailand, Syria, Vietnam, and Austria. Betsie and her spouse, Kris, moved back to Traverse City in 2019 with their children, Elliot and Oliver. The religious education that Betsie received through the UUCGT was fundamental to the development of who she is, and continues to strive to be today. She looks forward to supporting the next generation of UU’s as they develop their senses of compassion, acceptance, inclusion, peace, curiosity, and respect for all.
Email Betsie at email@example.com
Kinsey Hintz, Nursery Assistant
Kinsey Hintz is a native of Traverse City, and a student at TC Central High School where she plays clarinet in the marching band. She resides with her family (parents and brother) and has 3 cats. She enjoys running, cross country skiing, and hanging out with friends. Kinsey loves meeting new people and is excited to spend time getting to know the children at UUCGT in her new role as Nursery Assistant.
Arica Eshelman, Office Administrator
After growing up in Phoenix, Arizona, Arica graduated from Occidental College in Los Angeles with a B.A. in English and Comparative Literary Studies. She began her career as a script reader for Universal Pictures, and then embraced the adventure of moving to Manhattan without ever having visited The Big Apple. While there, she worked for WQXR – The Classical Radio Station of The New York Times. After another move from New York to Laguna Beach, she decided to put down roots in Traverse City – a long cherished place for her and her husband. She is a certified Yoga Instructor, an avid hiker and reader with a passion for Scrabble and walking her 140 pound Cane Corso named Luna. Arica is thrilled for the opportunity to contribute to the inspired journey of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Grand Traverse.
Email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (231) 947-3117.
Geoff Norman-Anderson, Technical Coordinator
Geoff Norman-Anderson has been UUCGT’s Tech Coordinator since 2021. Geoff was raised as a UU in Southern California, where he grew up in multiple congregations and participated in UU youth programs such as Coming of Age, OWL, and summer camps at Camp deBenneville Pines. A UUCGT attendee since 2016 after relocating with his family, Geoff previously served on the 2020-2021 Ministerial Search team as co-chair. A music lover, Geoff plays guitar, electric bass, and drums in his spare time, and is currently studying Audio Technology at Northwestern Michigan College. As Tech Coordinator, Geoff directs and operates the weekly live stream of Sunday Services and operates the sound and lighting boards.
Geoff is thrilled to be able to help this congregation’s transition to hybridized, accessible, and inspiring worship. Geoff can be reached for inquiries at email@example.com