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 is fluent in Spanish as a second language. When she is not at church she can be found biking, hiking, running, or putting green chile on things.
The Rev. Bob LaVallee
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.
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 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 Blake and they 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!