Ministers and Staff

The Rev. Angela Herrera Koren

Senior Minister

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. “Today, as a Jewish Unitarian Universalist, I am humanistic in the sense that I believe humans have the ultimate responsibility for Tikkun Olam, the healing needed in our world,” she says. “Yet I also see God here among us: in relationship, in prayer, in the arts and in nature. God as love, and as 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 and expects to receive a Master of Arts in Counseling from New Mexico Highlands University in Spring 2025, with a focus on counseling LGBTQIA folx and those in nontraditional relationship structures. 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-editor of Lifting Our Voices: Readings in the Living Tradition. Angela is fluent in Spanish as a second language. When she is not at church, Angela and her wife can often be found chasing or coaxing their large, fluffy German Shepherd on walks.

The Rev. Bob LaVallee

Associate Minister

Rev. Bob LaVallee is white, cisgender, heterosexual, and male. He’s from Buffalo, NY and has lived all over the place. He was an artillery officer in the Marine Corps, served as a civilian contractor in Afghanistan, and trained as a chaplain at the VA in New York City. Prior to the ministry, Bob drove ice cream trucks, lead bike tours, managed a homeless shelter, and did a lot of nonprofit management. He was a founding member of the Buffalo, NY chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice and relishes the memories of disrupting a Trump campaign rally and occupying the county sheriff’s office. Bob’s spiritual journey has been less interstate highway and more crooked path. He was raised very Roman Catholic and even wanted to be a priest when he grew up. He’s studied and practiced Buddhism, including stays at the Zen Mountain Monastery in the Catskills region of New York. He attended Meadville Lombard Theological School and was ordained into Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in 2018. Bob has worked as a hospital chaplain in a substance abuse disorder ward, ICU, ER, and hospice. He served as Interim Minister at South Valley UU Society outside Salt Lake City, Utah. Bob is a believer that Unitarian Universalism can make us larger, freer, and more loving.

Susan Peck

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.

Mia Noren

Director of Religious Education, Credentialed

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).

Laira Magnusson

Director of Congregational Life

Laira joined the staff of First Unitarian in January 2015, and has since served as the Church Administrator, Communications Coordinator, and Director of Membership & Communications. In March 2022, she moved into the new Director of Congregational Life role. Laira's work helps those new to our community get involved and truly find their church home at First Unitarian, and helps coordinate the members and programs in the ongoing (and ever-changing) life of the church, developing new connection and leadership opportunities for all. Laira received her BA in Fine Arts from the University of New Mexico in 1997 with an emphasis on theatre. She is married to church member Iris Magnusson and they have three delightful children: Shane, Puck, and Loki.

Bryan Hackett

Director of Finance

Bryan Hackett was born in Albuquerque and raised in the East Mountains. He has a background in religious nonprofit work and is a licensed CPA. Bryan has four adult children and two young grandchildren, and currently lives in the mountains north of Edgewood.

Alana Rodriguez

Religious Education & Youth Programs Coordinator

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 has three children: Alex, Alyssa and Mariah and is a proud and doting grandmother to Alyssa's son, Blake.

Miguel Perez

Director of Facilities

New Mexico is Miguel’s chosen home after having grown up in New York State and living there until he retired from government work in Buffalo NY. Coming to NM was a quality- of-life choice after years of coping with Buffalo snowstorms. As our part-time Director of Facilities, Miguel’s primary role is keeping on top of all aspects of maintaining our physical plant and remaining within budget for all upgrades and repairs that need to be done to keep our buildings and campus in safe working order. By being “in the business” for 35 years, Miguel has made friends and found ways to maximize the quality of essential repairs while minimizing the cost. What personally nourishes Miguel is spending time outdoors and enjoying his family that includes his wife, 10-year-old daughter, and two grown sons.

Jules Wilson

Event & Rental Coordinator

Jules Wilson was first hired as a Facility Host in June 2022 and has since moved to the Event and Rental Coordinator. She is from Lompoc, CA and has moved all over Texas, finally settling in Albuquerque in 2015. She has been a UU member since 2016. Jules received her Bachelor's of Science in Mass Communications specializing in Advertising and Public Relations in 2012. She has a background working with non-profits and government contractors. Jules is married and has two adorable children, Nikki and Rory, that you will no doubt see with her around the office. When not working, Jules is a homeschooling mom and relaxes at home with her four cats: Twilight, Felix, Poppy, and Sage.

Alyssa Ammerman

Church Administrator

Alyssa was born and raised in Albuquerque. She is a UNM graduate, and has been working and volunteering with nonprofits since 2017. Alyssa enjoys traveling around NM, trying new foods, and dancing ballet folklorico, and is very excited to be a part of the First Unitarian community!

Rick Held

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.

Thomas Jarrell

Audio Visual Manager

Thomas Jarrell is an Instructional Design Consultant with over two decades of experience making information accessible to curious people. He specializes in video production, content creation, AVLS systems, and team management. A native of Las Vegas, Nevada, Thomas has lived and worked all over the world, from Honolulu to Tokyo. He relocated to Rio Rancho with his family in 2021, where he works in green energy. Thomas is a proud husband and father of two. His hobbies include gaming, astronomy, and creating music.