About the UUCC Staff
Rev. James C. (Jay) Leach
(704) 366-8623, ext. 6032
Jay Leach was called as Senior Minister to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte in 2003. He offers spiritual leadership and pastoral presence to the congregation and in the larger community. He also functions as Chief of Staff managing the programming of the congregation through his leadership of the UUCC’s Coordinating Team.
Ordained in 1987, Jay is a ministerial transfer to Unitarian Universalism. He came to Charlotte from the San Francisco Bay Area where he was the Consulting Minister of the UU Fellowship of North Bay in Napa, CA.
Jay Leach was born and raised in Greenville, SC. A third-generation alumnus of Furman University, he graduated with a major in philosophy in 1982. His seminary studies took him to Rüschlikon, Switzerland; Louisville, KY; and Wake Forest, NC. His extensive continuing education includes studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, the College of Preachers at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and Austin Presbyterian Seminary in Austin, TX. He is now a member of the Henry David Thoreau Society and a participant in the Society’s annual gathering. Jay completed his second Master of Divinity degree at the Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, CA, where he also taught preaching and worked in the area of new student recruitment.
In a ministerial career spanning more than two decades, he has served congregations in Charlotte, New Orleans, Houston and Napa. Among his many community activities, he served on the Board of Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans and the Board of Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston, worked as a clergy counselor at a hospice for people with HIV/AIDS, and helped initiate the work of a Corporate Responsibility Committee for a major Catholic healthcare system.
Jay is a Class XXVII graduate of Leadership Charlotte. He currently co-chair of the Clergy Advisory Committee for Mecklenburg Ministries, is a part of the leadership team of the newly-forming Interfaith Clergy Network, and on the Charlotte Mecklenburg School Superintendent’s Interfaith Council. He also serves as president of the Senior Ministers of Large UU Congregations.
Jay has a deep personal and spiritual interest in poetry, a passion that is often reflected in our services. He is a scholar of the life and writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, an affinity that also frequently informs the content of our services. An on-again, off-again runner (he has completed two marathons) he enjoys baseball and most other sports as a spectator, hiking, travel, photography and music of all kinds.
Jay’s partner, the Rev. Melissa A. Mummert, is also an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister. She is a 2003 graduate of the Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley and is an Affiliated Community Minister of the UUCC. She is on the staff of Changed Choices where she works with incarcerated women and women in transition from incarceration . Her work as a documentary filmmaker includes A Perversion of Justice and Life Without. She is also a singer/songwriter.
Melissa and Jay are the proud parents of a daughter—Emerson Anne “Annie” Leach—who was born in 2006.
Director of Religious Education
(704) 366-8623, ext. 6034
As Director of Religious Education for Children and Youth, Kathleen works closely with the CYRE Management and Activities Teams to run a program of faith development for almost 250 children and youth. This includes the development of goals, curriculum development and approval, recruitment of and support for over 200 volunteers, management of a youth program with multiple components, and oversight of all administrative functions involved in running the program.
Kathleen grew up the daughter of a career Army officer, living around the U.S. and in South Korea. She graduated from Furman University and completed course work toward a Masters in Public Administration from the College of Charleston. She moved to Charlotte in 1980. After working for several governmental agencies, she "retired" to stay home with her three children and to devote her spare time to volunteer work, most notably, the Sierra Club. She was hired as Director of Religious Education at UUCC in 1992. She has served in leadership positions with both the Thomas Jefferson District RE Committee and the Liberal Religious Education Association, her professional organization. She stays involved in the Charlotte community, including a current position on the Board of Mecklenburg Ministries.
Kathleen’s favorite responsibility in her role as DRE is to officiate at the annual Senior Baccalaureate service. She’s the one beaming in the front row, holding back tears of pride each and every year as another group of UU youth move out into the world.
(704) 366-8623, ext. 6039
As Membership Coordinator, Kelly works with the Membership Team to help visitors feel welcomed and learn more about our congregation. She helps to guide prospective members through the joining process and assists current members in finding ways to use their talents and skills to make positive contributions to our congregation. She welcomes your questions, feedback and participation.
Contact Kelly with questions like:
- What should I expect when I visit?
- How do I become a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte?
- What volunteer opportunities are available?
- How can I get more involved in this community?
Kelly was born and raised in Buffalo, where she became Unitarian Universalist as a young adult. She has a BA in Organizational Communication from Queens University of Charlotte and many years of customer service and management experience.
Director of Music
(704) 366-8623, ext. 6037
John Herrick, our Director of Music, oversees all aspects of the music program, including staff management and selection of music and musicians for Sunday services and special musical events. He is responsible for the program’s vitality and growth and continuing relevance in our active UU faith community.
John joined the staff of UUCC in August 2007. Prior to his move to Charlotte, he served as the music director for the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia, the music director for the First African Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia and the organist/choir director for the Falls of Schuylkill Presbyterian Church. He has degrees from West Chester and Temple Universities in Pennsylvania, with additional studies at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ. John was credentialed as a music leader by the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) in the spring of 2011.
John is an adjunct faculty member at nearby Wingate University and teaches piano at Southern Park Music School. He was the guest conductor for Charlotte’s One Voice Chorus at the 2008 GALA (Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses) International Conference in Miami, Florida, and he served on the Board of the Unitarian Universalist Musicians Network as Treasurer from 2009 to 2010.
Adult Programming Coordinator
(704) 366-8623. ext. 6036
After working in the education field for most of her professional life, Martha Kniseley was thrilled to join the staff in December of 2013. As Adult Programming Coordinator, she provides leadership for the Community Building Team, the Congregational Care Team, and the Adult Religious Education/Spiritual Development Team. She is grateful for the many volunteers who are committed to serving in these areas and making a real difference in the lives of our members.
Martha grew up in the Oak Ridge, Tennessee Unitarian Church. She moved to Charlotte in 1978 and immediately joined the UUCC. Her two children attended the CYRE program and benefited greatly from the Our Whole Lives and Coming of Age programs while in their teens. Martha is married to her partner of eight years, Tim Songer. Together they enjoy gardening, hiking, reading novels, and kayaking.
Interim Director of Administration
(704) 366-8623, ext. 6031
In his role as the Interim Director of Administration, Doug oversees the business operations of the congregation including finance, stewardship, facility management, communications, personnel and general operations. He also serves as the church’s primary liaison with the Open Door School. Doug is a North Carolina native who grew up in Asheboro and Salisbury. He comes to the UUCC with a background in business management, architecture and construction, and writing. Graduating from business school in 1991, he sought adventure on the frontiers of capitalism and spent most of the 1990s in former Czechoslovakia. He has two children, Katka and David, who have only recently left the nest. Katka has been active in the church’s CYRE program.
(704) 366-8623, ext. 6030
Our Office Administrator, Alesia has been with the UUCC since 2005. Her duties include being editor of Voices, preparer of the order of service, coordinator of facility use, and keeper of keys. Her work also includes serving as the answer/help desk for the church and doing some finance work as well.
Alesia is from Augusta, Georgia and holds a BA degree in Sociology from Augusta State University and a MS in Human Resource Management from the University of Maryland University College. Alesia is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.
Part-time Administrative Assistant
(704) 366-8623, ext. 6033
Belinda Parry became a member of the UUCC in 2009 and joined the UUCC staff as Administrative Assistant in 2011. Her responsibilities include, but are far from limited to, providing support for the Children and Youth Religious Education program & teachers (a complicated role, which requires the frequent use of markers and craft glue), bookkeeping, and organizational/administrative tasks for UUCC staff members. She also edits and posts the Sunday Sermon podcasts.
Prior to joining the UUCC staff, Belinda was an active member of the CYRE Team, the visioning body of the CYRE program. She has been a UUCC Follies cast member since 2009 and part of the writing & production team since 2010.
Belinda has lived in Charlotte since 1993 and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy from UNC - Charlotte. She has 2 daughters in the CYRE program and children’s choir.
Children's Choir Director
“Inspiring, uplifting and fulfilling…” is how Donna describes her job as Children’s Choir Director at the UU Church of Charlotte. Through singing she promotes children’s self-esteem, confidence and an enjoyment of music to last a lifetime. Before coming to UUCC Donna was Music Director at the Community Church UU in Chapel Hill for ten years. After moving back to her birthplace, Charlotte, she taught at Open Door School at which music plays a big part in the curriculum. She received a Bachelor’s in Music from UNC-Chapel Hill and has been the Executive Administrator of the UU Musicians Network for nine years. She lives with her beloved husband, Jim Alexander, Pancake the cat, and Bela the African grey parrot.
Scott Whitesell, our Accompanist, assists John Herrick with music for the choir as well as performs in John's absence. He joined the UUCC staff in January 2010.
Scott holds a Bachelor of Music Degree in Music Education from the highly renowned UNC-Greensboro School of Music, and has certification to teach music to ages K-12. He is also fully certified to teach Musikgarten to children ages birth - 9. While at UNC-Greensboro, Scott was the winner of the National Association of Teachers of Singing's top prize for each year he was enrolled as a voice major. Scott has performed leading roles in Don Giovanni, Gianni Schicchi, La Boheme and Sweeney Todd as well as several other opera and musical theatre performances. While studying voice, he was accompanist for several graduate and undergraduate music majors at UNC-Greensboro as well as for community theatre productions and other venues.
From 1995-2005, Scott was a member of the Bel Canto Company, a professional chorus that is based in the Triad area of North Carolina. He was also music assistant for touring artists such as James Galway, Mandy Patinkin, Barry Manilow, Itzhak Perlman, Emanuel Ax, and Yo-Yo Ma. He has recorded two CDs of piano and vocal music featuring his compositions and arrangements.
He has recently completed building a music recording studio, where he records as well as teaches. He is also head judge for several local talent competitions. In addition to his varied music interests, Scott enjoys earth sciences, gardening, and Tarot reading. He lives in Charlotte with his partner, Tim Maness.