Faith Development Staff

Faith Development Leadership Update

Your Interim Director of Faith Development Search Committee has concluded its work. We created a job description for an Interim Director, and advertised our position opening widely throughout Unitarian Universalism. We received several applications and interviewed two strong candidates.

In the end, we decided that it is best for the church to continue to have Abby Hannaford-Ricardi and Mandy Beal serve as our Acting Co-Directors of Faith Development through the end of June 2018. Abby and Mandy are willing to continue in this capacity. Abby is working half-time for the church, focusing on our children's program for 5th grade and younger students, and serving on the Wiogora council. Mandy is working full time, focusing on our 6th grade and older students, including both youth groups, and continuing her work in the area of Connections. I'm grateful to them for their leadership and their service to our church.

Our search committee also decided to recommend a consultant to help the church in our search process for a new Director of Faith Development. Kimberly Sweeney is a credentialed Religious Educator and independent consultant who worked for seven years as the Lead for Faith Formation and Safe Congregations on the UUA's New England Regional staff team. Before that she was the Director of Religious Education at the UU Congregation in Milford, NH. The Prudential Committee has authorized funding for us to work with Kim. She will provide support to the Director of Faith Development Search Committee and Faith Development Team this spring, and will be available to support us as our new Director begins in the fall. You can learn more about Kim and her consulting practice here:

Finally, I extend my gratitude to the three members of the Interim DFD Search Committee: Mary Frandsen, Lou Nadeau, and Sue Popinchalk. Their dedication to our church, and to our children and youth, is deep and wide. They were thoughtful, wise, and a pleasure to work with. Thank you all!


Rev. Sarah Stewart

Children’s Ministries Coordinator
Abigail Hannaford-Ricardi
Abby has been attending First Unitarian since 1996 and joined the staff in 2006. Known to many as “the creator of the bulletin boards,” Abby taught Sunday school for many years and was a long-time weekly newsletter volunteer in our church office.
Abby received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Clark University and then spent another three years there completing her Graduate Certificate in Gerontology. She was the manager of a craft studio, and is a former case administer for adults with intellectual disabilities. After earning her National Activities Director Certification she worked for 5 years as the Director of Activities at a psychiatric long term care facility. She next got an Associates Social Work License and spent two years as a nursing home social worker, before leaving to be a full time mom to her then very medically fragile child.
Abby is also active in the greater community, having worked 5 years as a hospital volunteer, 3 years as a volunteer crisis intervention /suicide prevention counselor and 19 years as a weekly public schools’ classroom volunteer. She serves on the Steering Committee for Worcester Community Connections Coalition which is dedicated to addressing poverty, educating and empowering parents, strengthening families and preventing child abuse. Abby is also a regional representative for the national organization Stop CMV dedicated to educating the public about cytomegalovirus, the number one cause of childhood disabilities in the U.S. and the world. A step-mother of 3, former special needs foster mother, and the adoptive mother of two remarkable young men, Abigail lives in Worcester with her husband Ken and son James. 

Youth and Connections Ministry Assistant 
Mandy Beal 

Mandy Beal graduated with honors from Andover Newton Theological School (ANTS) in 2016 and is a candidate for Unitarian Universalist ministry.  She has an extensive history working with children and youth in several UU congregations and other settings, including the Houston Children's Museum and the Godly Play Foundation.  
Mandy also has a Master of Sciences in Social Work focused on program planning and administration from the University of Texas at Austin. 

While at ANTS, Mandy served as Co-President of the UU student group and participated in weekly worship services, often providing musical accompaniment.   Mandy has a depth of experience working with youth, both as a young adult in her church in Austin, TX. and, more recently, as the Youth Coordinator at the Unitarian Universalist congregation in Newton, MA. 
In June 2017, Mandy will complete a two-year ministerial internship at the First Parish in Lincoln (MA).  While in Lincoln, she has led worship services, participated in creating a lay pastoral care program, and taught Adult Religious Education classes on a variety of social justice topics.
Mandy and her partner, Jesse, live in Hadley with a very large gray cat named Linus and a rambunctious puppy named Tonks.

Wiogora Director
Nan AK Gibbons

Our Wiogora Headmagister, Professor Veralyce Gibbons is also very engaged in the Muggle world. There, as Nan AK Gibbons, she spends her time building community & supporting emotional, educational & spiritual development with the Arts. Ms. Gibbons received both her BA in Music and Art and her M Ed degrees in Music from Lesley University. At Andover Newton Theological School, she also earned a Master of Theological studies degree in Worship and Arts with a strong emphasis in 
Pastoral Psychology.  She also completed a post graduate choral directing program at Butler University and a Drum Circle Facilitator program with Remo.

Nan AK Gibbons is the Sunday School Director at Wesley United Methodist church. She’s music director of the Band of Voices Community Chorus in Barre, Shir Joy Chorus in Westborough, the Joy Of Music Program Children’s Chorus, Worcester Taize, and Wesley Children’s Choir. She is teaching artist in residence at Nashoba Montessori School in Lancaster. She provides drum circles in social service settings, senior care facilities, churches and after school programs. As a composer, arranger and choral artist, she taught in the New York Metropolitan Opera Guild’s Urban Voices Choral Initiative for twelve years.  Ms. Gibbons also enjoys reading, research, painting, sculpture, writing, contra dancing, and is curious about nearly everything. She is especially drawn to multicultural, multigenerational collaborative work grounded in personal artistic, academic and spiritual practice.

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