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Our Staff

Kate Goka, Director of Religious Education for Children

IMG 0585Kate Goka joins the UUSM staff as an educator, an activist for social justice, and a mom of three! She is  excited to take on the position of Director of Religious Education for Children at UUSM. She is a third  generation Unitarian Universalist. Her sisters and Kate grew up in the Sunnyvale Unitarian Fellowship,  and when her mom was a kid, she and her family were part of a congregation in Maryland. She currently lives in Brisbane with her wife and three kids. She has worked in Social Justice Education for nearly two decades as a teacher, high school administrator, and beginning teacher coach. She has always considered it a beautiful gift to have been raised in this faith. "The freedom to shape my own spirituality is core to who I am: It gives me deep confidence in my ability to think and decide for myself."

She takes this opportunity to heart, knowing that it is a privilege and honor to serve the children and families of this congregation as we build community, explore our beliefs, and make meaning of the world for ourselves. She moves into this work with the sincere hope that the program will be a welcoming place where all kids feel seen and respected for who they are.

Contact Kate at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

 

Heather Sawyers, Director of Religious Education for Youth Ministry

Heather Profile PicHeather comes to UUSM with a lifelong connection with Unitarian Universalism. She has a strong background as a UU religious educator and was awarded the Jenella Hanson award for excellence in her field in 2014 by the UUA. She has over a decade of experience in religious education and a passion for building teen programs that extend beyond local church walls. Heather has served as the president of the Pacific Central Chapter of the Liberal Religious Educators Association. Heather is deeply drawn toward guiding Unitarian Universalists and growing the UU faith.  

Heather’s UU roots were established early by her grandfather, Ken Gjemre, who served as a motivating force that guided her as a child with a deep love for Unitarian Universalist values. Ken founded Half Price Books to provide all students with affordable access to educational resources and traveled around the world championing human rights. She is supported by her family who shares our UU common values and including husband, Craig, and her three grown children Kayla, a recent UCSC Ecology graduate, Corinne, a Biology student, and Cole, a recent high school graduate studying to be firefighter/paramedic. Heather’s life purpose is to help guide young people to be the change in the world and make a difference in a positive UU way.  

Contact Heather at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Joel Chapman, Music Director

Joel headshotJoel is a bass-baritone, choral conductor, and songwriter. He brings to UUSM a lifelong passion for choral music, experience in both educational and professional musical settings, an open mind, and a driving philosophy that any musical group should “prioritize community, growth, and education over perfection.”

Joel studied classical piano for 14 years, but shifted his focus to vocal performance and conducting in college. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music from Stanford University, where he conducted musical groups having extremely high vocal ability and skill level, including Fleet Street (an all-male original comedy a cappella group), the Stanford Chamber Chorale, and a number of pop-up ensembles. While subsequently studying for his Master’s Degree in Music Technology at Stanford, Joel served as music director at Christ Episcopal Church in Los Altos, leading a small choir and helping to foster a dynamic and exciting music environment.

Joel currently works with the Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir as an assistant conductor and accompanist, and teaches Bar and Bat Mitzvah students the melodies used to chant from the Torah. He also sings professionally with two San Francisco ensembles – Volti and Endersnight, specializing in contemporary and Renaissance music, respectively. As a choral composer, he has a new piece debuting this spring with San Francisco’s Fog City Singers; and as a writer for musical theater, he is one of five co-creators developing a new musical called “Gravity,” recently seen at the TheatreWorks New Works Festival in Palo Alto.

Joel’s musical passions merge classical technique, musical theater storytelling, and jazz harmony, and he is interested in how the genres can inform one another. “I constantly think about ways to apply elements of one genre to benefit another,” he says. “The classically trained sing very healthfully, but those in musical theater sure can deliver a story. How can we merge the two? How can one style learn from the other?” Having grown up in Reconstructionist Judaism and later incorporating the extensive and beautiful choral church music tradition into his life, Joel values pluralism in both belief and music. “That is why I am excited about the UU philosophy, which encourages believers and non-believers alike to come together and enjoy community. It opens up many doors for what might be impactful and relevant through choral music and allows everyone to be inspired by the music itself. As someone devoting his life to being an artist, that is extremely meaningful to me.”

Check out Joel’s weekly YouTube show, #OneTakeWednesdays, to get a sense of his talent, humor, personality, and viewpoints.

Contact Joel at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Karyn Collins, Office Manager

KarynMany of you already know Karyn as an active member of the UUSM Congregation. You may have seen her serving as a Worship Associate, singing with her husband Shaun in worship services, organizing our annual auction or singing in our choir. She’s also a member of our Capital Campaign Team. Her latest passion is triathlons and fundraising for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation to help them find a cure for inflammatory Bowel Diseases; Her sister-in- law suffers from this “hidden/silent” disease. Now we welcome her into a new position as a member of our staff.

In this position, Karyn hopes to put her process improvement and project management skills to work to simplify how UUSM communicates with and supports our members in this crazy world. With community and connections, we care and then commit to make a difference for ourselves, our community and our world.

Contact Karyn at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (650) 342-5946.

 Connie Spearing, Connections Coordinator

Connie - smallMany of you already know Connie as an active member of the UUSM Congregation. You may have seen her serving as a Worship Associate, or organizing for social justice or singing in choir. You have probably chatted at Coffee Hour or been welcomed by her at a Newcomers’ Event. Now we welcome her into a new position as a member of our staff.

In this position Connie hopes to provide a bridge from visitor to active friend to involved member. She will work to improve both internal and external communications which highlight opportunities for connection and service. The leaders of small groups will have an extra assistant for recruiting new members, and volunteers will find a staff person available on Sunday mornings. Look for connection opportunity tables at coffee hour and plan on talking with Connie about your creative ideas for including more people in UUSM activities. Together we transform ourselves and our world. 

Contact Connie at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.