Our Minister & Staff
rev. mandi huizenga* has served as the settled minister of DuPage Unitarian Universalist Church since August 2022. Raised in the Dutch Reformed tradition, mandi now centers her theology in Daoist, earth-based, feminist, and new science theologies and philosophies. The heart of her theology rests in a deep sense of the interconnectedness of all creation and our human lives. At the juncture of this connection is where we find the sacred mystery which inspires in us personal transformation, leading us in love to bring justice and transformation to our community and the world.
Prior to her seminary studies, rev. mandi was the congregational administrator at a Unitarian Universalist church in New Jersey. She also served on the Board of Trustees for the Unitarian Universalist Association of Membership Professionals (UUAMP) and served as their liaison to the UUA’s Office of Church Staff Finances. rev. mandi holds a Master of Divinity degree from Chicago Theological School.
rev. mandi lives in Naperville, IL, with her partner of more than 20 years, Dr. Elías Ortega and their two children, and two cats. Her family loves to travel, explore, hike, and eat their way through their adventures. Often found in the garden grounding herself in the holy dirt or on walks that include stops to hug trees, rev. mandi is passionate about connecting our lives to all creation and slowing down our lives to pay attention to the divine mystery all around us.
* Note: As a practice to honor the interconnected web of all creation, mandi does not capitalize her name. First suggested by Robin Wall Kimmerer in her book Braiding Sweetgrass, this practice is a reminder that humanity is a part of the natural world and does not hold dominion or importance over it. mandi’s surname – huizenga – is pronounced HI-zing-ah.
Director of Membership and Engagement
Tina Lewis is our Director of Membership and Engagement, joining us in July 2023. Tina has a wealth of Professional Membership development experience, most recently from Unity Temple Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Oak Park, IL, where she was the Director of Engagement and Membership. In her 13 years with Unity Temple she was instrumental in building its membership and deepening engagement within the congregation.
Director of Religious Education
Steve Cooper C.R.E. (Credentialed Religious Educator) has been our Director of Religious Education since 2005. Steve, a long-time member of the church, embodies a passionate commitment to instilling Unitarian Universalist values in the youth of our church and incorporating them into the whole life of the church. He is a modern-day Renaissance man whose talents inform both his leadership and his cooperative work, building trust with our youth and attracting a wide range of interested volunteers. Steve knows that youth are the future of our church and our world.
Sheri Regalado has supported staff and members of the congregation since 2003. She supports the administrative aspects of our congregation, including communications, finances, facilities, and more, as it relates to the mission of our church. Her exceptional organizational skills and long-term experience with the church are vital to the smooth functioning of this busy community.
Interim Choir Director
Amanda M. Thomas – Mezzo soprano is a retired UU music director and a member of Unity Temple Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Oak Park, Illinois. She has been an active UU for 23 years, and has served on the Board of Trustees for the Association of UU Music Ministries and on the UUA’s Music Leadership Certification Committee. She has led workshops and music at the UUA General Assembly as a soloist, choir member, worship leader, and choir director for Ministry Days, and for The Service of The Living Tradition. Amanda is now serving as a Troubadour and offering services as a freelance soloist, music/choir consultant, choral conductor, workshop facilitator, worship leader, vocal instructor and respite music director. She enjoys the monumental task of creating ways to inspire and feed the souls of all individuals through music. Amanda believes we can each find our own joy through music, as we navigate our musical path to our free and responsible search for truth and meaning.
You may email Amanda.
Vera Pelin has been our pianist and musical accompanist since 2019. She has been playing piano, harpsichord and organ for more than 20 years. Vera holds a Bachelor degree in piano performance from the National University of Music in Bucharest, Romania. She has performed at festivals, competitions and recitals in Hungary, Romania and Moldova. Vera also teaches piano at the Naperville Music Academy and she is a member of the Illinois State Music Teacher Association.
The Rev. Dr. Myriam Renaud has been affiliated with DuPage UU Church as a community minister* since May 2013. Raised Unitarian Universalist, she was ordained as a UU minister in 2005 and holds a Master of Divinity degree from the University of Chicago Divinity School as well as a Ph.D. in religious thought and ethics from the University of Chicago.
In her ministry to the community outside the walls of this church, she is a scholar of religion in public life who specializes in data-driven analyses of current issues. Her general-audience articles have appeared in the UUA magazine UU World as well as The Atlantic, The Conversation, Religion & Politics, The Globe Post, Religion Dispatches, Sightings, and others. Currently, she is at work on an academic monograph, Toward a Moral God in an Age of Globalization and Expressive Individualism, and a general audience monograph, White Evangelicals in America.
A software engineer in her first career, she earned an undergraduate degree in chemistry and a graduate degree in computer science from the University of Missouri at Rolla. She lives in Chicago with her daughter, Sidney, and her husband, Paul, a musician and fiction-writer.
* Community ministers are ordained Unitarian Universalist (UU) ministers who take our message and care beyond the walls of an individual church. Each community minister affiliates with a UU congregation.