Our Minister and Staff
Rev. Alex Jensen
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.
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 email@example.com
Betsy Hammerberg, Director of Children and Youth Religious Education
Betsy 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. Betsy and her spouse, Kris, moved back to Traverse City in 2019 with their children, Elliot and Oliver. The religious education that Betsy 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 Betsy at firstname.lastname@example.org
Claire Crandell, RE Teacher
Claire has an eclectic work background. She has been an administrator for cultural projects (local, city, and state), facilitated cultural arts workshops, grants, and reports. She has been a teacher in various settings (public schools, private settings, and college) to students of all ages and skill levels and has taught special needs students and adults. She loves the outdoors and is “cousin to the wind”.
She loves to read and write fiction.
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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org