Meet our Ministers
Rev. Bill Sinkford, Senior Minister
Rev. Thomas Disrud, Associate Minister
Rev. Kate Lore, Minister of Social Justice
Mark Slegers, Minister of Music
Mary Gear, Intern Minister
Terri Burnor, Intern Minister
Recent Past Ministers
Meet our Staff.
Go to Staff Directory
Read bios of other staff members.
Read Rev. Sinkfords's weekly blog.
Hear or Read Recent Sermons.
The Rev. Dr. William G. Sinkford, Senior Minister, was called to First Church in 2010. He is the principal spiritual leader of the church as well as having overall management responsibility for its operation.
Bill, as he prefers to be called, is well known for his service as President of the Unitarian Universalist Association (2001-2009). His tenure was marked by strong public witness for social justice and support for marginalized communities, commitments he continues here in Portland.
Bill’s commitment to liberal religion dates to his teenage years, when he was an active member of the First Unitarian Church of Cincinnati, Ohio. He served as the president of Liberal Religious Youth, the continental Unitarian Universalist (UU) youth organization. He had a successful career in the corporate world and ran his own business in the housing field. In later years he returned to Cincinnati and served his home church as a lay leader until he answered the call to ministry in 1992.
After completing his Master of Divinity degree at Starr King School for the Ministry in 1995, Bill joined the UUA staff where he served until he was elected to the Presidency. Bill earned his B.A. from Harvard in 1968 and also holds honorary doctorates from Tufts University and Meadville/Lombard Theological School.
During his years of service to the denomination (“a seventeen year detour,” as he describes it), Bill never lost his goal of being a pastor to a congregation. “My service at First Church fulfills my calling to ministry. I am finally able to preach to congregants whose stories I know, whose children I’ve dedicated and whose elders I have memorialized.”
Bill was the first African American to lead any traditionally white denomination, and was named one of the ten most influential Black religious leaders in the US in both 2005 and 2006. He and his wife Maria have four adult children, and one grandchild, William Rider Sinkford, born in July 2008.
Hear Rev. Sinkford speak out on a variety of issues.
Read about his meeting with the Dalai Lama.
Read his statement at the outbreak of war.
Read his blog about the UU pilgrimage to Africa.
Read Bill’s thoughts on
Church, Community Leadership, Justice, Pastoral Care, and Worship
Rev. Thomas Disrud, Associate Minister
Rev. Thomas Disrud was called to serve as Associate Minister of Portland’s First Unitarian Church in 1995. In that position, he was principally the chief administrator of the church, responsible for supervising the staff and the wide variety of church programs and activities. He also oversees the pastoral care ministry, which includes working with a gifted team of lay ministers. Rev. Disrud is frequently called upon to officiate at rites of passage for members of the congregation, such as weddings and memorial services. He served as Acting Senior Minister from 2009-2010, and led the congregation as the search for a new senior minister was conducted.
Disrud hails from Wisconsin and was raised in the Lutheran tradition. He graduated from Marquette University with a B.A. degree in Journalism and Philosophy. His first career was as an editor at the Duluth, Minnesota, News-Tribune. During that time he became involved with union organizing and was an officer for the local Newspaper Guild. It was also during this chapter that he became a Unitarian Universalist and discerned a call to ministry.
Rev. Disrud is a graduate of Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, California. He received his Master of Divinity degree in 1995, and currently serves on the Board of Trustees at Starr King. He served as Chair of the Board from 2007-2011. Prior to that position, he served as the President of the school’s Graduates Association. In 2003 Rev. Disrud completed an intensive course of study in spiritual direction at the Mercy Center in Burlingame, California.
Rev. Kate Lore, Social Justice Minister
Rev. Lore has been serving First Unitarian Church since 1998. In addition to directing the Social Justice Program, she preaches, teaches, conducts weddings and memorial services, and is the primary public face of the church on matters of civic concern.
When asked to describe the vision of her ministry, she states: “My desire is nothing less than to bring a message of love and hope to the world. To do that, we must incorporate the Love deep within us and then learn how to express it in our day-to-day living. For when we walk, talk, and breathe our deepest beliefs, we are kind, compassionate and inspiring activists. Moreover, when we stay aligned with our spiritual aspirations, we learn the practice of humility and solidarity--knowing that we do not walk alone but are walking together with the Sacred. It is from this deep and interconnected place that we receive our strength.”
Rev. Lore serves as the President of the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Unitarian Universalist Minister's Association (UUMA) and is a Steering Committee member of the Albina Ministerial Alliance (AMA) Coalition for Justice & Police Reform. She is on the Jobs with Justice Worker's Rights Board and is involved in a number of interfaith and ecumenical justice efforts, including Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice, New Jim Crow Portland, Don't Shoot Pdx and Occupy Portland. Rev. Lore has received several community awards for her work, including the the 2014 Skanner Newspaper's "Drum Beat for Justice" Award, the 2013 NAACP Women’s Leadership Award, the 2013 Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon Award for Social Justice Leadership, and the 2012 Achievement Award from Portland's Coordinating Committee to End Homelessness.
Rev. Lore is a graduate of University of California at Santa Cruz and Meadville Lombard School of Theology. She was ordained in 2007. Prior to that time, she served as First Unitarian's Director of Social Justice (1998-2007) and as the Director of Community Outreach for First United Methodist Church of Portland (1992-1998).
Mark Slegers, Minister of Music
Mark Slegers is now in his 35th year as Director/Minister of Music at First Unitarian Church. The church’s music program includes over 300-member musicians of all ages participating in some 11 musical ensembles. It is the largest music program in the Unitarian Universalist denomination.
Mr. Slegers received his undergraduate degree from Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon where he was recognized in May of 2007 as an outstanding graduate. He attended Union Theological Seminary, School of Sacred Music in New York City where he received the Master of Sacred Music degree. While in New York he sang and conducted in various New York churches. He has completed further study in conducting with Dr. Rodney Eichenberger and has also taught music in all levels of music education, including both Pacific University and Reed College.
Mr. Slegers was a commissioner/compiler for the Unitarian Universalist hymnbook, Singing the Living Tradition, published by Beacon Press. For the past nineteen years he has served as church music consultant to Unitarian Universalist congregations continent-wide.
Choirs from the church under Mr. Slegers’ direction toured Eastern Europe in 1990, the Seattle area in 1999 and Cuba in 2003. This unprecedented Cuba tour was captured in an award-winning documentary, “What We’re Asking for is Peace.” Mr. Slegers and his choirs were selected to provide choral music for Services of the Living Tradition at General Assemblies for the Unitarian Universalist Association in Spokane, WA and Calgary, Canada and Portland.
In March of 2006 Mr. Slegers’ Chamber Choir, featuring the finest singers at the Portland Unitarian Church, were selected to give a concert at the American Choral Directors Association’s NW Regional Convention. Later that year a touring choir from the Portland Unitarian Church under Mark Slegers’ direction returned to Eastern Europe for a reunion tour.
Terri Burnor, Intern Minister
Terri Burnor is serving as a full-time intern minister through June 2016. In the spring of 2015, she graduated from United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities in her home state of Minnesota. United is a Christian theological school committed to interfaith dialogue, and the choice for a number of Unitarian Universalists in the upper midwest. There, Terri was the 2015 recipient of the Feminist/Womanist Theology Award for outstanding work as a master’s of divinity student in women’s studies.
Before feeling her heart pulled toward ministry, Terri worked in marketing communications, primarily for technology companies. Although her career was satisfying, and continues to inform her new path, it did not feed her soul. She felt spiritually adrift and too removed from the pains of the world. She has long been active in reproductive rights and environmental issues, but ached for spiritual grounding in a community committed to justice. Terri’s life changed in 2007 when she became a Unitarian Universalist and a member of Unity Church-Unitarian in St. Paul, MN.
Terri is excited to help First Unitarian explore and expand its online ministry outreach in the areas of worship, pastoral care and adult education. She firmly believes online ministry is a cohesive part of ministry and not separate. It affirms that many people’s lives are integrated across virtual and physical worlds, and faith communities must be part of that blended culture.
While in Portland, Terri and her two dear dogs, Daisy and Benson, are living in an inner SE neighborhood. She looks forward to being able to bike commute—even during the winter! Terri’s supportive spouse of 20 years, Brian Swedeen, remains at home in St. Paul, but will visit often.
Rev. Alan G. Deale, Minister Emeritus
A series of short-term ministers served the congregation until 1970, when Dr. Alan Deale was called. During his tenure, which lasted until 1990, the demographics of the congregation changed, and there was a renewed emphasis on religious education. Reverend Marguerite Hessler Deale, Dr. Deale’s wife, was responsible for religious education for children and program development for adults.
During Dr. Deale’s tenure, the congregation purchased several buildings near the church, and First Unitarian continued to support Outside-In, a medical-social program begun in 1968 for homeless and disaffected youth.
Rev. Dr. Marilyn Sewell, Minister Emerita
Rev. Dr. Marilyn Sewell is the Minister Emerita of the First Unitarian Church of Portland, where she served for 17 years as senior minister before retiring in June 2009.
Marilyn is the editor of several anthologies, including two volumes of women's poetry on spiritual themes, Cries of the Spirit and Claiming the Spirit Within. She has recently published A Little Book on Forgiveness and A Little Book on Prayer, and continues to pursue her writing here in Portland. Marilyn is currently the subject of a full-length documentary film, Raw Faith. You can also listen to her radio program: www.rawfaithradio.com