Rev. Ashley Horan, Executive Director
The Rev. Ashley Horan has served as MUUSJA’s Executive Director since 2014. A lifelong UU, Ashley’s call to ministry lies at the intersection of social justice and faith, and she works to nurture political grounding in spiritual communities and spiritual grounding in political communities.
Ashley has had a lifelong passion for social justice, beginning when she co-founded a student-led environmental group called Students Against Pollution (S.A.P.!) when she was in the second grade. Throughout the years, she has done work for reproductive, racial, economic, sexual, and gender justice, and many other issues. She is deeply committed to building movements for collective liberation, and the idea that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” She believes that by nurturing spiritual practice, theological reflection, and accountable partnerships with other organizations and activists working for social change and liberation, Unitarian Universalists can play an important role in the intersecting struggles for justice that face our world today.
In addition to her work with MUUSJA, Ashley also serves as the Curriculum Developer for Beloved Conversations: Meditations on Race and Ethnicity, a national small group ministry program aimed to help individuals and religious communities address and eradicate racism within and beyond the walls of the congregation. Outside of her paid work, she is involved with local, regional, and national organizing for justice in several ways, including her current role as the co-chair of the Board for Resource Generation. Ashley lives in Minneapolis with her partner, The Rev. Karen Hutt, and their two children, Zi (17) and Aspen (3).
Pastor Danny Givens, MUUSJA Statewide Organizer
Pastor Danny Givens, Jr. is the Senior Pastor of Above Every Name Ministries, a young cutting edge congregation in the Twin Cities that prides itself in being a “Church for the People.” As an advocate for Racial/Social Justice surrounding the systemic issues facing Black communities and other communities of color, Pastor Danny devotes much of his time and energy to the #BlackLivesMatterMpls movement in the role of Clergy Liaison.
Pastor Danny is one of the Founding Members of Black Clergy United for Change (BCUC), a collective of black clergy committed to the work of Racial Justice and Social Transformation in urban communities and abroad.
After receiving his B.A. in Christian Ministry from Bethel University in 2011, Pastor Danny completed a three-year residency as Interfaith Minister at Unity Church-Unitarian in St. Paul in 2016. There, Pastor Danny began to explore and deepen his convictions as an inclusive, aspiring interfaith leader through the co-facilitation of Beloved Conversations, an experiential curriculum that provides a space to re-form/re-fuse the brokenness of racism into new patterns of thought and behavior.
In addition to the litany of organizing strategies, actions, and non-violent demonstrations Pastor Danny has planned and led as a frontline activist, he has also brought both traditional and non-traditional faith leaders of diverse backgrounds to the table at the intersections of faith, race, and justice. Pastor Danny has provided racial justice consulting for Temple Israel of Minneapolis, Mt. Zion Temple of St. Paul, the Minnesota Rabbinical Association, St. John Neumann Catholic Church of Eagan. He has also created a praxis curriculum for faith leaders looking to deepen justice work from the pulpit and beyond. A native of the Rondo community in St. Paul, Pastor Danny now lives in Minneapolis with his wife, Natasha, and his son, Adonaiah.
Board of Directors
Taylor Putz, Board Co-Chair
Taylor Putz attends the First Universalist Church of Minneapolis and joined the MUUSJA board in 2014 as its youngest member. He works for Prepare + Prosper in St. Paul as the Communications and Engagement Manager. His journey for social justice began in Wisconsin where he worked for Drug Free Communities of Fond du Lac County to reduce the growing problem of substance abuse. He then went to work for a national grassroots organization, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. Taylor graduated with a BA in international studies from Marian University and studied abroad in Nicaragua.
Sherri Knuth, Board Co-Chair
Sherri Knuth attends Unity Church – Unitarian in St. Paul. She is inspired by the First and Fifth UU Principles: “The inherent worth and dignity of every person,” and “The use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.” Sherri is a member of the Restorative and Racial Justice Team at Unity Church and works as Government Relations and Membership Engagement Director for the Minnesota State Bar Association. Sherri previously worked at League of Women Voters Minnesota where she was a lobbyist and advocate for voting rights. She received a 2014 Public Leadership Award from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota for her work in ensuring that all citizens have access to voting. Sherri holds a Masters degree in Public Affairs from the Humphrey School and a law degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Jeff Snyder, Treasurer
After living in Rochester for 38 years, and attending First Universalist Unitarian Church of Rochester for the last seven of those years, Jeff and his wife Karen moved to Minneapolis in June of 2014. While at First UU, Jeff served as a member and chair of the Finance Committee and was on the Board of Directors serving as Treasurer at the time of his departure. Jeff and Karen are new members of First Universalist Church where Jeff is now a member of the Community Investment Team. Jeff’s primary interest in the social justice arena is in the area of environmental justice. He is currently retired and plans to stay that way after a long career with IBM as an engineer and project manager. Jeff and Karen have an adult daughter and son living in Los Angels and Minneapolis respectively.
Gail Bishop has been a member of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Rochester for 25 years, having served as a past president of the congregation as well as in other leadership capacities. At First UU she currently is Chair of the Social Justice Council, a member of the Finance and Stewardship Committees, member of the Disability Task Force and serves on one of the church Hospitality Teams. She is an advocate for the disabled, serving for the past eight years on the Board of Directors of PossAbilties, an organization that creates opportunities for children and adults to contribute and connect with the Rochester community. Her family consists of one husband, two daughters and three Westie dogs! When not serving for causes on the ground she is in the air as an instrument rated, private pilot. “At altitude,” she says, “there are no differences – we all appear the same!”
Judy Foster has been a member of the St. Cloud Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (SCUUF) since 1979, having served in numerous leadership positions, including two terms as president of the Executive Board. Now retired as an English professor at St. Cloud State University, she is active in the community, currently serving on the St. Cloud Area Regional Human Rights Commission. At SCUUF she serves as newsletter editor and chairs the Community Garden and Technology committees. Her current social justice focus is justice for ex-offenders, a joint project with Spirit of Life Unitarian Universalist Church in St. Cloud.
Judy Goebel lives in Minneapolis where she is a long time member of First Universalist Church. She has served that congregation on the Board of Trustees, as vice president and secretary. She has served on a series of Faith in Action strategic guidance committees tasked with discerning methodology for managing shared justice work. She has been active in environmental action work within the congregation. Retired from a career in information technology and in the software industry, she now works as a fiber artist and teaches a variety of adult classes in fiber techniques and Android through community education and the Weavers’ Guild of Minneapolis. She also works with African immigrant women who have a background in hand spinning in their native countries to transition their work to materials and techniques available here in the US. Judy is married and has three adult daughters, two granddaughters and two rescued pug dogs.
Ren is a recent transplant from the rural MN prairie to the big city of Minneapolis. They bring the perspective of an energized UU queer millennial, filled with a passion for process, and a history of local and international social service and social action. Ren attended the University of MN – Morris, where they studied Political Science and Environmental Studies with a focus on food systems. In the transition of post-college life, they found the Unitarian Universalist Church of Minnetonka, where they currently serve on the Worship Arts Ministry, and as the Social Justice Ministry facilitator. In their work life, Ren is a Food Rescue Specialist with the local food bank Second Harvest Heartland. When not rescuing food or doing justice work, Ren is an animal lover-video gamer-hobbyist painter-traveler who spends time with their wife and home zoo (two mutt rescue dogs and two rescue cats, snake, crested geckos, fish, housemate and housemate’s cat).
Lia is a longtime member of Unity Church-Unitarian in St. Paul and has served in a number of capacities there from Board Trustee to Worship Associate to member of the Sunday Welcome Team. She works in the arts as administrator and practitioner. She and her husband, Matt Brown, reside in the Little Bohemia neighborhood of St. Paul at Casa Grande. While they adore winters—hockey and shoveling—they look forward to summers on the S/V Kitty Lou on Lake Superior.
Rev. Luke Stevens-Royer
Rev. Luke Stevens-Royer serves as Assistant Minister at White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church in Mahtomedi, MN, after serving as Coordinator of Youth and Campus Ministries at Unity Church – Unitarian in St. Paul for three years, and as Intern Minister at First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis. He is a native of southern Minnesota, and a graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College and United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. He and his wife Jenna, and their daughter Louisa, live in St. Paul’s East side.
Rev. Laura Thompson
Rev. Laura Thompson has served as the minister at Minnesota Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Bloomington, MN since September 2016. Previously she served as Ministerial Intern & Campus Minister to UU Church of Davis (CA), as Chaplain Resident at United Hospital in St. Paul, as a Summer Ministerial for MUUSJA and as a Ministerial Intern to First Unitarian Society in Minneapolis. She holds an MDiv from United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. Laura makes her home in St. Paul with her wife, Emily and their dog, Pip. She is passionate about anti-racism work, economic justice and LGBTQ rights.