Our Leaders and Structure

We are a self-governing and self-supporting congregation. Unitarian Universalism practices a form of church governance called "congregationalism" or "congregational polity." Each local congregation within Unitarian Universalism in the U.S. is independent, self-funded, and governed by its own members. We don't have a hierarchy of bishops (episcopal polity) or an assembly of congregational representatives that exercise authority over individual congregations (presbyterian polity). We are a member congregation of our Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), which equips congregations for health and vitality, supports and trains lay and professional leaders, and advances Unitarian Universalist values in the world.​


First Church in JP, UU is governed by an elected Standing Committee (our Board), by meetings of the whole congregation, and church bylaws. The Minister is hired and called by a vote of the congregation; other staff are hired by the Standing Committee and the Minister. The Standing Committee establishes other committees of the church. We also have a Trust that maintains our church endowment.

Once they officially join the church, members of the church can participate in church governance discussions and voting. After a year of membership, a person may serve as an elected officers (Standing Committee Member, Treasurer, Clerk, etc.).

The Standing Committee

The Standing Committee is a group of 7 elected church members whose role is to act as the governing body of the church. Members serve a 3 year term with a maximum of 2 terms. The committee also includes the Clerk and the Treasurer as ex officio voting members, and the Minister, a non-voting member.


Joy Falk, Co-Chair


Persis Yu, Co-Chair

Jack Wellman

Jack Wellman, Treasurer


Minda Sanchez Jariwala, Clerk

Jon Clardy


Dennis O'Brien

John Eckelman


Stephen Toropov

Members meet monthly from September through June to discuss church matters and bring proposals, such as the annual budget, before the Congregation for a vote. 


The Standing Committee members are active members of the church who have the general care, superintendency, and the control of all temporal affairs of the Church. In addition, each Standing Committee member acts as a liaison to one or more of the other church committees. If you have any questions, suggestions, or comments, please contact any of us.

The First Church Trust

The Church building and certain Church endowment funds are held in a Trust designed to ensure the long-term survival of this Church community in Jamaica Plain.  The Trustees of the Trust are all long-term members of the Church.  The Trust makes a yearly contribution to the Church’s operating budget which is consistent with recommended practices for charitable endowments. 

One of the Trust's principal responsibilities is the stewardship of the Church's endowment fund.  The Trust formulates an investment policy for that fund that accounts for both financial and social responsibilities.  In 2014 the Trust voted to divest the endowment of fossil fuel based assets, and immediately sold off all individual stock holdings in fossil fuel companies.


The current Trustees are Gerry Culver, Gwyn Helie, Kurt Hemr, Jom Michel and Tim Williamson and can be reached through the church office at office@firstchurchjp.org.

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Gerry Culver


Gwyn Helie

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Kurt Hemr

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Jom Michel

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Tim Williamson

Welcoming Committee

The Welcoming Committee strives to make the church a hospitable environment for all who enter. They are particularly focused on greeting and engaging folks who are ‘church shopping’ or are new to the church. The entire congregation is encouraged to join in creating an actively welcoming community. Contact Paul Miller at welcoming@firstchurchjp.org.


Religious Education

The Religious Education Committee is charged with overseeing the various Religious Education functions at First Church. These include nursery care for children up to 4 years of age during our weekly Church Service, and children's classes during worship on Sunday. The committee’s members are involved in various aspects of these activities and work in conjunction with the Director of Religious Education.


Ministerial Committee 

The Ministerial Committee provides support and feedback to Rev. Elizabeth's ministry to First Church in Jamaica Plain. They meet monthly with Rev. Elizabeth to identify and review issues, challenges, and areas for growth.  Members are:

Danielle Levac (chair)

Nancy Ahmadifar

Meg Howard

Margaret Suby

Stephen Toropov

Music Committee

The Music Committee provides support and feedback to the Music Director, and helps organize special musical events. Members are:

Thalia McMillion (chair) tmcmilliion @ gmail.com

Nancy Ahmadifar

Cynthia Bainton

Abby Krueger


Social Justice

Social Justice is a critical part of First Church including educational events, initiating/supporting outreach programs, and serving as social justice advocates. Our efforts include work on issues involving hunger, homelessness, civil rights and economic justice.  The First Church Food Pantry is open twice a month.  We are partners with Sojourner House (a family shelter) to help support their residents.   We partner with the JP Forum to offer programs on issues impacting our neighbors and larger community.  Members of the congregation offer leadership on each aspect of our social justice work.


Building Committee

The Building Committee meets regularly to address the physical needs of our beautiful, historic building. Volunteers work to provide a safe, clean and fully functioning space for all users of the building, to coordinate maintenance and repairs as required, and to assist the Standing Committee and Trust with major capital repairs.


Caring Committee

Coordinates support for members and friends in times of personal need or crisis, including the provision of meals, transportation, shopping, friendly visits and hugs.


Personnel Committee

The Personnel Committee provides guidance and recommendations to the Standing Committee on staff issues such as salary increases, job descriptions, and annual evaluations. The Committee also provides guidance to Church staff on issues related to working at First Church. We are involved in hiring new staff, including interviewing, and making recommendations to the Standing Committee for new hires.  We are available as a resource to support First Church in its effort to follow workplace laws and guidelines to ensure that First Church is a good employer of quality staff.

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Jack Wellman, Chair

Cathy Baisly

Tom Crawford

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Gerry Culver

Giulia Norton

John Eckleman

Finance Committee