UUCB Worship Associates

Our wonderful Sunday worship services are created each week by a team consisting of our ministers, music-making staff and many dedicated volunteers. One way to join this team and contribute directly to the services in a deeply fulfilling way is by becoming a Worship Associate.

UUCB Worship Associates (WAs) are lay worship leaders. WAs serve for a 3-year term (with exceptions), meeting together with Rev. Michelle once per month, with each WA typically committing to a Sunday service about every 6-8 weeks.

The work involves focused attention and preparation for the week before “your” Sunday and then a key role in the worship service Sunday morning. UUCB is now offering a hybrid worship service — in-person plus live-stream. During the week preceding the service, you coordinate communication among members of your week’s worship team, including the audio/visual team, and prepare your own 5-6 Service Elements, such as the Welcome/Chalice Lighting. You may also opt to prepare a personal 3-5 minute Reflection, known as Sources of Our Faith, which shares with the congregation an aspect of your own journey that ties in with the worship theme of your Sunday. On Sunday mornings, your work includes a kind of stage-manager/M.C. role, where you help to prepare the Chancel and Sanctuary for hybrid worship, coordinate and support the various participants, and present your prepared Service Elements.

Worship Associates are also encouraged to contribute to the A/V process by volunteering on off-Sundays as a projector, monitor or slide creator, when and if we can.

In addition to our “Worship Sunday” duties, Worship Associates help to hold space for reflection about worship at UUCB. In collaboration with the minister, we discuss and consider aspects of our worship service, including process and liturgy. We discuss what is working or not working, any feedback from the congregation, how to be more welcoming and inclusive, and how we can continually “Widen the Circle” and include voices that currently are not often being heard in worship.

If you have been thinking you might be interested in this role – or if this is a new and intriguing possibility to you – please contact Rev. Michelle to talk more about it. There’s so much collective wisdom within our congregation! – it enriches us all to hear each other’s voice. In particular, we are interested in having folks from our underrepresented and marginalized communities serve in this role. Your voice is very much needed, so please come and join us. (You’re also more than welcome to contact any of the current or recent WAs to ask questions; please use our group email address below and feel free to direct your questions to anyone you choose.)

You do not have to be high-tech to apply. We are a team; we can help you and teach you — you will not be thrown to the wolves! In fact, in addition to the Worship Associates, we have wonderful and dedicated volunteers who help with the technical aspect of the worship.

If you are interested in contributing to UUCB worship through the work of the Worship Associate Committee, we hope you will contact Rev. Michelle, 301-675-5314.

Thanks very much for considering this, and warm regards from the Worship Associate team – (Please contact any one of us via this email address: worshipassociates@uucb.org).


Robin Cooper September 2022 –
Bill Brown (on leave) January 2021 –
Karen Elliott (Lead Worship Associate) August 2019 –
Virginia “Ginger” Frederick October 2022 –
Don Klose June 2021 –
Smiley Nelson September 2022 –
Sandy Portillo-Robins April 2022 –
Ann Riley September 2022
Jason Russell October 2021 –
Deborah Schmidt (Worship Associate Emerita) July 2019 –



Current Worship Associates (to be updated)

Karen Elliott

A long-time seeker, I’m grateful to have made my way to UUCB, where the multiple faith sources that mean so much to me are welcome. I’m inspired by UUCB’s commitment to covenant relations and social justice, and I hope to mature in my own capacity for connection while here. I’m thankful to be a WA!

I was raised in a Calvinist family that attended a Congregational church. In adulthood, I sought out the spiritual expressiveness and ceremony/ritual/symbols that had been absent in my youth. I immersed myself in devotional Hinduism via Bharatanatyam, a sacred dance-theater art, and lived in India. (Recently, my grown daughter traveled with me to Chennai to meet my dance teacher’s family and religious/artistic community.) During my middle adulthood, while married to a Zen priest, I trained in mindfulness Buddhist practices and then, later, mystical Sufism — two more Great Rivers. For 7 years, I’ve attended an African-American Pentecostal church in Oakland, where I experience freedom to sing, dance and pray to God from the heart. What a joy! In 2017, I came to UUCB — and discovered this remarkable community. I currently sing in the choir and co-facilitate Chalice Circles.

Essays by Karen Elliott:

Awokening: Voting Rights

Deep Navigation: The Gifts We Carry

Sandy Portillo-RobinsProfile picture of Sandy Portillo-Robins

Born in San Francisco, I have lived in the Bay Area for most of my life. I grew up mostly Catholic in a Spanish speaking home; my parents were immigrants from Central America. Going to a Catholic high school opened my mind to other denominations and put me more in touch with my spiritual beliefs, making me question Catholicism. As an adult, I left religion for quite a while, but when I had children, I began my search for a liberal and welcoming spiritual community. We found a good fit with Unitarian Universalist Church in Walnut Creek and when we moved, we found the community of UUCB. This is my spiritual home and my daughters have grown up here. UUCB has helped them be the strong young women they are today. I have helped in the RE program both teaching and being on the committee. I currently belong to the POCC, the environmental justice committee, the nominating committee, the ministerial search committee and feel very honored to be a Worship Associate for this wonderful congregation.


Robin Cooper

I was born in Baltimore, MD, the youngest of five children. Though I wasn’t raised with any particular religion, I often went with friends’ families to an Episcopalian church in the area. When my wife and I got married, we happened to have a UU minister as our officiant. Once our daughter was born, we sought out a place for her to develop her spiritual beliefs. We came to UUCB and found such a wonderful community here. We discovered that this was a great place for us to explore our own spiritual beliefs as well. I’ve gotten involved in multiple aspects of church- teacher support for RE, parents’ discussion group, family ministry committee, family ministry search committees, several chalice circles, and most recently the nominating committee and worship associates. I also teach middle school science in Albany. In my free time I love gardening, reading, kayaking, and knitting.


Don Klose

I’ve been deeply involved in UUCB during three periods in my life. In the 1950’s in my teenage years, my parents brought us to the old Berkeley church on Dana and Bancroft. There, in the Youth Group Elliot Club and then as a young Cal student, I attended regularly and became devoted to the minister, Dr. Raymond Cope, whose influence led to my study of philosophy in my 20’s. Then turning to making a living, I pursued a career as a school psychologist and child therapist. In middle age I became active again, in the 1990’s, helped form the mental health committee and was a regular at Personal Theology, collaborating with Huston Smith in two series, one on evil and the other on the soul. As a senior, I returned to UUCB in 2016, to renew community after retirement and formed many meaningful connections and friendships in activities such as Personal Theology, Humanist Connections, the Bereavement Chalice Circle, the Freestone Committee, other church committees (Nominating, Sustainability, HIP, Stewardship, and Landscape), and recently becoming a Worship Associate. I have formed a tangible attachment to our Kensington campus grounds, enjoying its serenity and urban wildness while cutting, with other church volunteers, the dry grass each spring to make us more wildfire safe.


Smiley Nelson

Howdy, I am Smiley Nelson a native Californian born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. When I needed to find a new church, I looked around, and when I saw that UUCB had a fifty-member choir with a director who had a Ph.D. in music, I was jazzed. (And Popped, and Countryed, and Hiphopped…) Singing in the choir is a great pleasure, and it opened up many more opportunities to find spiritual paths. The Social Justice Committee is a group of beautiful folks who come from many different backgrounds and ethnicities and believe that we need to fight against Systemic Racism and other forms of prejudice and discrimination of marginalized people. My friends – of many colors – in the SJC are dedicated to making our world a better place to live. I’ve also had the pleasure of serving on the board and various other committees and finding pathways to my spiritual self. The most significant part of UUCB for me is the warmhearted, caring, and loving people. I have found a place to practice my empathy because I have been given so much empathy by my friends at UUCB. I have had soulful conversations that run the gamut from abdominally laughing to abdominally sobbing. The kinds of conversations that connect the soul!
I am thrilled to be on the Worship Committee because I can now communicate on the soulful level with more people at UUCB!



Deborah Schmidt (Worship Associate Emerita)

schmidt deborah

Brought up in Taos, New Mexico by parents who were open-minded seekers, Deborah was exposed to a rich variety of sacred practices, including Quakerism, Presbyterianism, Catholicism, and Pueblo earth-centered observances. A fascination with fairy tales, folk tales and mythology from around the world deepened her sense of the commonality of human wisdom. She learned early in life to translate religious terms into more inclusive, spirit-based language, so attending a UU service for the first time felt like coming home. She and her husband Daniel have been active members of UUCB since 2005. She is a poet and delights in bringing poetry to worship, recognizing that, with its imagery, emotionality, and concise yet multi-faceted nature, it has the power to teleport us to a place of heightened receptivity.


Poems by Deborah Schmidt:


And the Bright Air Shone

I Know This Rose Will Open

Sky Lanterns

The Goldfish