About Us

About Us2018-10-17T23:40:50+00:00
Spiritual Community

Welcome!

At Unitarian Universalist Church West we invite you to come as you are and leave inspired.

This community of diverse, compassionate, and inquisitive souls is a supportive spiritual community in which:

  • Individual beliefs are respected and celebrated
  • Spiritual and intellectual growth are encouraged
  • The interdependent web of life is respected
  • Children and adults explore all the world’s religions
  • People from many different life paths worship, work, play, share and learn together.

Whether you’re looking for a community to raise your children with open minds, or seeking fun with a spiritual community, or hoping for a group of committed social justice advocates, or simply in need of a place to go for soul-stirring worship, we are excited to meet you where you are, and see how we can all learn and grow together.

Join us in exploring life’s deepest questions in a spiritually diverse, supportive, and challenging community. Get in touch by Contacting Us!

What We Do

We put our Unitarian Universalist faith into action through projects that serve human needs and by addressing important issues like racism, homophobia, and the environment. Adults, teens and children work together to help make the world a more just, peaceful, and sustainable place.

img_0426-copyCongregation members get to know each other and build community through fellowship groups, learning groups, and spiritual practice groups. Adult classes and events also allow people to share their unique gifts and interests, while build lasting connections.

73363b0f-8348-4b20-a28d-5267897d5708Our Religious Education program guides children and youth as they explore many kinds of truth and meaning. At the core of the program is a deep respect for each child’s curiosity and understanding, and opportunities to learn to care for one another, for others, and for the earth.
In worship, we sing and reflect, and hear music, stories, and wise words from diverse sources both sacred and secular. We learn and laugh together as we address life’s puzzles, unpack the issues of the day and share inspiration to help move the world towards justice.

Church Members Say…

My church friends were a tremendous emotional support for me during a hard time and it was so great to know I would always have a place to go where I would be accepted no matter what.

Betsy Gomoll

I firmly believe that you cannot develop your faith in isolation. We need community. We need to be able to discuss and challenge our beliefs. We need to tap into the wealth of knowledge and experience that is out there. UUCW offers all of this in a safe and caring environment.

Eric Hoaglund

This congregation makes me a better person. It keeps me from being lazy about my values and about working toward making changes in things that I think need changing. I come as I am, and I really do leave inspired by all the efforts of so many different people here.

Kathy Schwei

Ministers and Staff

The Rev. Suzelle Lynch
The Rev. Suzelle LynchSenior Minister
The Rev. Suzelle Lynch came to UU Church West as Minister in 2003. She earned her Master of Divinity degree from Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, CA, and was ordained in 1995. She served as minister to the Kitsap UU Fellowship in Bremerton, Washington from 1995-2003, and prior to ministry worked as a marketing and public relations professional. Suzelle is a near-lifelong UU from Michigan who spent 22 years in Colorado, California, Washington and Texas before coming to UUCW. She loves our congregation and its people and finds our blend of spirituality and social action meaningful, life-changing and fun. Bremerton, Washington for eight years.
Kimberlee Tomczak Carlson
Kimberlee Tomczak CarlsonIntern Minister
Kimberlee Tomczak Carlson is a Master of Divinity student at Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago, and UUCW’s half-time intern minister through May, 2019. She graduated from University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with both a B.F.A. in ceramics and an education degree. Kimberlee was an Art Educator in Whitewater, Wisconsin for fifteen years and a staff member of the Central Midwest District of the Unitarian Universalist Association for eight years, specializing in youth and young adult programs. She also served as Program Director for the Unitarian Universalist Church of Rockford, IL. She is married to the Rev. Erik David Carlson who serves Bradford Community Church UU in Kenosha.
Vicki Banville
Vicki BanvilleChurch Administrator
Vicki Banville joined the staff at UUCW in 2012. She holds a master’s degree in Training and Development from the University of Wisconsin-Stout. Prior to serving UUCW, Vicki worked in management for Goodwill of North Central Wisconsin and Goodwill of Southeastern Wisconsin. Vicki was born in Waukesha, and after spending 10 years in northern Wisconsin was glad to move closer to her family. She is grateful for the caring people of UUCW and loves working for an amazing religion that shares her values.
Marsha Thrall
Marsha ThrallReligious Education Coordinator
Marsha Thrall joined the staff as UUCW’s new Religious Education Coordinator in the summer of 2018. She has a Master of Theological Studies (MTS) degree from Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois and a B.A. degree in Theology/Philosophy from Mount Mary University. In addition, she is working on a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Religion, Ethics and Social Sciences at Chicago Theological Seminary. She served as Director of Children’s and Youth Church for St. Matthew CME Church in Milwaukee for two years and worked in that program for several years prior to becoming the director.
Brianna Laux Kocis
Brianna Laux KocisCommunity Builder
Brianna Laux Kocis is the newest staff member, joining UUCW in October 2018 as the new Community Builder. Brianna’s mission is to help UUCW members and visitors connect with one another, get involved in church life, and access the resources we offer.
Brianna is originally from Madison where she grew up at the First Unitarian Society, making her way through the religious education program and working in the nursery. Her BA is in International Studies with a focus on culture from UW-Madison, and she has worked with youth at a community center and an elementary school in Madison. She and her husband moved to Milwaukee recently to make it easier for Brianna to pursue her Master’s in Social Work at UWM.
Kelly Bognar
Kelly BognarPublications Coordinator
Kelly Bognar has been with UUCW since 2005. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in Communication. As Publications Coordinator, Kelly is responsible for the UUCW newsletter, E-news, social media posts, and printed church publications. She also provides support for UUCW’s Religious Education Program. Prior to UUCW, Kelly worked in Milwaukee and Chicago creating computer graphics for audio/visual service companies.
Jennifer Nicolosi
Jennifer NicolosiLead Music Director
Jennifer Nicolosi began serving UUCW in 2014. She has a Master of Music degree in Collaborative Piano from UW-Milwaukee, a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Collaborative Piano from UW-Milwaukee, and a Bachelor of the Arts degree in Voice from UW-Milwaukee. As Lead Music Director, Jennifer is responsible for the overall music program, including children’s choirs, worship band, special music scheduling, operations and planning. Prior to serving UUCW she was a Lecturer in music at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha. Jennifer loves working with all the talented musicians at UUCW and finding a time to showcase their gifts.
Ruben Piirainen
Ruben PiirainenMusic Director
Ruben Piirainen has served at UUCW since 2003. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree in piano performance from the Lawrence University Conservatory of Music and a Master of Music degree in piano performance from Bowling Green State University. Ruben is also a pianist with the Florentine Opera Company in Milwaukee and he also works with many other professional performing arts organizations throughout the region. He directs UUCW’s Adult Choir and enjoys the enthusiasm of this fine group of singers and the congregation’s love of diverse music.
Mamie Gardner
Mamie GardnerAdministrative Assistant
Mamie Garner joined our staff in August 2018 as our Administrative Assistant. Before coming to UUCW, she worked as a Legal Assistant for Gray & Associates L.L.P. for 12 years, and as an Administrative Assistant for Tamarack Waldorf High School for 2 years. She lives in Menomonee Falls, WI with her husband and dog.
Miles Bognar
Miles BognarCampus Specialist and Sound Technician
Miles joined the UUCW staff in 2014 as a Sound Technician. In 2017 he expanded his responsibilities and became the Campus Specialist. He is currently enrolled in the Tool and Die Program at Waukesha County Technical College.

What Unitarian Universalists Believe

Our faith tradition is diverse and inclusive.  Historically, we grew from the union of two radical Christian groups: the Universalists, who organized in 1793, and the Unitarians, who organized in 1825. Those two joined together in 1961 to become the Unitarian Universalist Association.

What Unitarian Universalists believe today, however, is not limited to the Christianity of our ancestors.  We hold our beliefs as individuals, and have no shared creed.  Our congregations include people of many beliefs.  We do have a shared covenant — the Unitarian Universalist Principles, listed below – which guide our way of being religious together.

We Unitarian Universalists think for ourselves and reflect together on important questions:

Unitarian Universalists have many ways of naming what is sacred. Some believe in a God; some don’t believe in a God. Some believe in a sacred force at work in the world, and call it “love,” “mystery,” “source of all” or “spirit of life.” We are thousands of individuals of all ages, each influenced by our cultures and life experiences to understand “the ground of our being” in our own way. Unitarian Universalists are agnostic, theist, atheist, and everything in between.

We join together not because we have a shared concept of the divine. Rather we gather knowing that life is richer in community than when we go it alone. We gather to know and be known, to comfort and be comforted, to celebrate the mystery that binds us, each to all. Learn more.

We are inspired by beauty, truth, love, and compassion that knows no bounds. We are inspired by elders, by children, by courageous people, by community. By nature, science, the universe, and the creativity at work in the world. By the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, the Tao Te Ching, by ancient wisdom. We are inspired by literature and poetry, artists and authors. As Unitarian Universalists, life is a constant source of inspiration, calling us to live with greater depth, connection, and compassion. Learn more.
Two of the big questions religions have sought to answer over the years are: “Why does life exist as we know it?” and “What happens after we die?” Unitarian Universalism won’t promise you ironclad answers to these questions. But we will promise you a community of learning and support to explore what matters most.

Unitarian Universalist views about life after death are informed by both science and spiritual traditions. Many of us live with the assumption that life does not continue after death, and many of us hold it as an open question, wondering if our minds will have any awareness when we are no longer living. Few of us believe in divine judgment after death. It’s in our religious DNA: the Universalist side of our tradition broke with mainstream Christianity by rejecting the idea of eternal damnation.

We companion dying people and their loved ones through the sad journey of saying goodbye, and the long journey of grief, and our ministers create personalized services that mourn and celebrate the unique individual who has died. Learn more.

Because we hold our beliefs as individuals, we have within our congregation a rich diversity of opinion and belief about prayer and many other religious matters. Some of us pray and some of us don’t. Many who do pray do so because prayer helps them reach out and know they are not alone in sorrow or confusion or gratitude. Few believe that God waits to hear and fulfill personal prayers. As one of our ministers said, “I pray not necessarily because prayer changes things. But praying changes me, and helps me find the courage and strength to work for the changes I think need to happen in the world. Learn more.
Unitarianism and Universalism both have roots in the Protestant Christian tradition, where the Bible is the sacred text, but today we look to additional sources for religious and moral inspiration. We celebrate the spiritual insights of the world’s religions, recognizing wisdom in many scriptures.

When we read scripture in worship, whether it is the Bible, the Dhammapada, or the Tao Te-Ching, we interpret it as a product of its time and its place. There is wisdom there, and there are inspiring stories, but scripture cannot be interpreted narrowly or oppressively. But in our tradition, scripture is never the only word, or the final word, because we trust in the human capacity to use reason and draw conclusions about religion. Influenced by experience, culture, and community, each of us ultimately chooses what is sacred to us. Learn more.

The Unitarian Universalist Principles

Unitarian Universalist congregations covenant to affirm and promote these seven principles:

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part

We live out these Principles within a living tradition of wisdom and spirituality that draws from sources as diverse as science, poetry, scripture, and personal experience:

  • Direct experience of transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life
  • Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love
  • Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life
  • Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves
  • Humanist teachings which counsel us to focus on this life and how to ethically treat others, to heed the guidance of reason and science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit
  • Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature

These principles and sources of faith are foundational to our religious community.