The Rev. Angela Herrera
Angela has served on First Unitarian’s ministry staff since 2010, and was called as our Senior Minister in September 2017.
Angela is originally from Oregon, where she was raised in a working class neighborhood in the Willamette Valley. She writes, “In that time, the UU faith of my childhood was tested against some of society’s harder realities, and I developed an early passion for social justice, and a deep love for life and for people.” These experiences continue to inform her ministry and theology.
“I am humanistic in the sense that I believe humans have the ultimate responsibility for what must be done in the world,” she says. “I also draw inspiration from our Judeo-Christian roots. I want not just to think about God but to experience God: in relationship with other people, in prayer, in the arts and in nature. God as love, as yearning, as the stillness, peace, or power that can erupt into the world even when it seems least likely. I also accept that there are many paths to meaning and ultimacy, some very different from mine, and I honor those.”
Angela holds a Master of Divinity degree from Harvard University. She has completed a chaplaincy internship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and a parish internship at First Parish in Concord, Massachusetts. She is the author of the Skinner House meditation manual, Reaching for the Sun, and co-creator of Lifting Our Voices: Readings in the Living Tradition.
Angela and her husband Carlos have two grown children, and are a bilingual, bi-cultural family. When they are not at church, they can often be found biking, hiking, running, or putting green chile on things.
The Rev. Bob LaVallee
Before coming to First U, Bob served as a chaplain and as Interim Minister at South Valley UU Society in Salt Lake City, UT. A graduate of Meadville Lombard Theological School, Bob’s first career was in non-profit management.
Matthew Pargeter-Villarreal is a 2019 M.Div graduate of Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, with a concentration in Sexual & Gender Justice, and a Candidate for Ministry with the Unitarian Universalist Association. During the pandemic, he’s had an unexpected ministry venture: offering worship planning and making virtual pulpit visits to 22 states across the country, “visiting” UU congregations of all sizes. Some of Matt’s ministerial and social justice interests are LGBTQIA+ ministry, immigrant justice, anti-racism/anti-oppression, and youth/young adult ministry. Although he was born in Massachusetts and grew up in Oklahoma, if you ask him where home is, he will tell you San Antonio, Texas. Matt is married to Gabriel and the proud parent of a 10-year-old calico named Juliette.
Director of Music
Susan Peck moved to Albuquerque in January 2016 to accept the position of Director of Music. She has been a Unitarian Universalist music professional since 1997, serving as music director in three congregations in Oregon. Susan has been an active member of the UU Musicians Network since 2000, serving on the UUMN board of directors in several roles. She was the Music Coordinator for UUA General Assembly in 2015 (Portland) and 2016 (Columbus). Her background includes piano and voice studies, teaching privately and in college classrooms, songwriting, arranging, performing and directing opera, choral music, music theatre, cabaret, and a few rock bands. Susan recently joined the New Mexico Women’s Chorus as Associate Director.
Director of Religious Education
Mia came to Albuquerque with her family in 2009, and she and her husband Skip have been members of First Unitarian since 2010. Following careers in banking and museum administration, Mia has held a number of positions at First Unitarian, allowing her a unique perspective on church operations. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA and was awarded the UUA’s Religious Educator Credential in 2019. She is also serving our District as the Chair-Elect of the MDD Liberal Religious Educator’s Association (LREDA).
Director of Membership & Communications
Laira joined the staff of First Unitarian in January 2015 as the Church Administrator. In the fall of 2018 she moved into the Communications Coordinator position, and in September 2019 she became First U’s Director of Membership and Communications. With a background in arts administration, PR, and volunteer management, the combination of these two portfolios is a perfect fit for her. Laira’s work helps those new to our community to get involved and truly find their church home at First Unitarian.
Laira received her BA in Fine Arts from the University of New Mexico in 1997 with an emphasis on theatre. She and her husband Blake are church members and have three delightful children: Shane, Miranda, and Esme.
Director of Finance
Phillip Robinson has over eleven years of experience in business and accounting. This experience includes non-profit, healthcare, school finance, and public accounting organizations. He received a Bachelor’s of Business Administration degree from UNM and an MBA from New Mexico Highlands University. Phillip enjoys the outdoors and has a passion for New Mexico, with ancestral roots dating back over 200 years. Phillip is married with two adorable dogs. They love traveling and visiting new places together.
Youth Programs Coordinator & RE Assistant
Alana grew up in Albuquerque and became a member of First Unitarian in 2013. About a year later, she was hired as the Religious Education Administrative Assistant. Since then she has evolved in the position, becoming involved our UU Kids Camp as part of the leadership team. In September 2019, she took over the role of Youth Programs Coordinator. She graduated from Central New Mexico Community College with a degree in Early Childhood Multicultural Education with a Program Administration concentration in May 2020 and was accepted into the College of Education at the University of New Mexico. Alana and her husband Patrick have a wonderfully blended family with three children: Alex, Alyssa and Mariah. They’re also the proud and doting grandparents to Alyssa’s son, Blake.
Information Technology Systems Manager
Rick Held has an electrical engineering degree and a graduate degree in business. He has over 35 years of experience in the computer industry, including computer manufacturing, integrated computer applications, and technology marketing, with a bit of retail mixed in. He retired from a local tech startup in 2013 and started volunteering for First Unitarian soon after. In early 2021 Rick moved to a part-time employment position here, responsible for the administration and support of Information Technology systems.
Technical Arts Director
Chris is a long-time church member who met his wife Valerie while part of FUUN, a First U singles group. Valerie is the professor of flute at UNM and the endowed chair of flute in the New Mexico Philharmonic. Chris has worked in film, video and television production for 35 years and runs his own company. His work includes documentaries on behavioral health, water conservation, and homelessness. He also edited the long-running New Mexico documentary series “Cavalcade of Enchantment.” He has twice won the Life in New Mexico award for editing and recently won the Adobe Creative Jam. His son Liam attends UNM and is active in state politics. He is very excited about what he can bring to the congregation in the new position of Technical Arts Director!
A native of Brazil, Gabriel Longuinhos began learning the piano in 2005 at the age of 17 in his hometown of Santos, Brazil, where he performed in his first recitals. He earned his B.A. from the University of Campinas in 2012 under the guidance of renowned Brazilian pianist Maria José Carrasqueira; he also worked as the resident vocal pianist, a position which he held for two years, playing in the studios of Profs. Adriana Kayama and Luciano Simões. In the interim, he performed in numerous concerts, including a solo recital in the Brazilian Museum of Sculpture (MuBE) as well as a voice and piano recital with Dr. Simões, both in São Paulo city. As of 2017, Gabriel has finished a dual Master’s degree in Collaborative and Solo Piano under Juilliard alumna Pamela Pyle, during which he held an assistantship as a resident collaborative pianist, working intensely with the great chamber, vocal and solo piano literature; he was also a recipient of the Friends of Music scholarship. Gabriel was part of the NM New Music contemporary music ensemble for two years and worked as a collaborative pianist at the New Mexico School for the Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico.