The seven-member Search Committee was elected by the congregation in April 2016 to lead the search for a new settled minister. Meet the Search Committee below and learn about their roles and responsibilities on the committee.

kevin-oconnorKevin O’Connor – Chair

Kevin is a 19-year member of UUSS. He served UUSS as past president and member of the Board of Trustees, prior co-chair of the Stewardship Committee, prior chair of the Social Action Committee and as a past member of the Nominating Committee and the Minister’s Congregation Committee. He loves the inspiration he gets from our congregation to live the “Seven Principles”. He also loves the fellowship and the Society’s commitment to social action. His gifts of organizational experience as a prior executive director of a local non-profit organization and experience as a therapist at a community counseling center should help the Ministerial Search Committee in its search for the next UUSS minister.





betsy-bitnerBetsy Bitner – packet editor, website coordinator

Betsy is a 20-year member of UUSS. She has served UUSS in multiple capacities including Board of Trustees, Stewardship Committee, Interim Transition Team, Committee on Ministry and teaching RE. She has been advisor to the Coming of Age program, participated in small group ministry, and been involved in Revels and Cupid’s Cabaret both as a writer and performer. She loves the sense of community provided by our Society. She is inspired by the energy and input from many members of the Society for the greater good and is proud to be a part of a congregation that puts its UU values into action. She is glad her children have been able to experience these same values in an environment that is accepting and supportive. As a writer and former attorney, her gifts of strong communication skills together with good organizational skills and an open mind would allow her to approach the ministerial search duties with what is best for the congregation as a whole.

eric-dahlEric Dahl – reference checker

Eric is an 8-year member of UUSS. He has served UUSS by being a member of the Policy Committee, Mission Statement Committee, Social Action Council, and RE parent volunteer. He also has been active with Revels and as a Family Greeter with UUSS-BUGS. He loves the kind and caring community that UUSS is and its shared commitment to Social Justice, RE and spiritual curiosity. His special gifts of thoughtful listening, orientation to detail and consensus building would add value to the deliberations of the Ministerial Search Committee.




gary-feinlandGary Feinland – survey coordinator

Gary is a 16-year member of UUSS. He has extensive experience serving UUSS by being a Worship Associate, OWL facilitator, Covenant Circles facilitator, and Wellspring facilitator. He has been a member of the Social Action Council, Schenectady CROP Walk and the Green Sanctuary Committee. He loves the community at UUSS due to its love, support and deep connections and the unexpected joy it brings to him and his family. He loves our journey of increasing spirituality through Wellspring. His gifts of being open and able to listen to the desires and needs of the congregation, along with his facilitation skill, will help the Ministerial Search Committee navigate the differences in opinions in its search for a new minister.


melissa-mackinnonMelissa MacKinnon – arranger

Melissa is a 14-year member of UUSS. She has served UUSS by being Director of Religious Education 2008-2015, with prior stints as teacher for RE and member of the RE Council. She loves the positive energy and dedication to social justice and ecological awareness at UUSS. She also loves the deliberate work of the society in cultivating community for all ages in our activities, including worship services. Her gifts of multiple perspectives from being an active member, congregant, and staff would help bring the Ministerial Search Committee a sense of where UUSS fits in the larger UU world and the entire church community.




mike-maclauryMike MacLaury – Treasurer, communications coordinator

Mike is a 16-year member of UUSS. He has served UUSS in multiple capacities including Finance Committee chair, Wellspring facilitator, and member of multiple groups including Caring Team, Fire-side Chat Team, Nominating Committee, Memorial Committee, Stewardship Committee and UUSS-BUGS. He loves that UUSS is a community with roots in both Christian and jewish traditions, but with strong Earth-centered, Buddhist and Humanist influences. He loves that we acknowledge and relish our secular and spiritual natures. His gifts of analytical problem solving, good listening skills, along with his goals of creating a safe space for others to share their opinions and work together, should help the Ministerial Search Committee in its search for someone who can help our church members grow in community, compassion and love.


trish-williamstrish williams – secretary

trish is an 8-year member of UUSS. She has been on the Membership Committee since soon after joining, including a term as Chair, and served one term on the Nominating Committee. She loves many things about our Society, including: the open-mindedness and the willingness of this congregation to be engaged with the community; the variety of interests and diversity of faiths; the many ways UU attracts members, including ways to get involved and learning opportunities; that we give away entire offerings to community organizations; and the democratic way of making decisions. Her gifts include an interest in moral development and ethics, management skills such as listening, collaboration, personality assessment, the ability to distinguish between facts and fluff, and an interest in diversity, the black UU movement, and its effect on our faith.



The work of the Search Committee is a team effort. Below is a description of each member’s primary role and responsibilities.

Kevin O’ConnorCommittee Chair

Kevin is responsible for the care and feeding of our search committee and for holding the vision. He converse the meetings, sets the agenda, and is the primary communicator with the Board of Trustees and our Ministerial Settlement Rep.

Betsy BitnerPacket Editor, Website Coordinator

Betsy is responsible for compiling the information required by the UUA that comprises the Congregational Record. She will develop a Congregational Packet that presents a fair and attractive picture of our congregation. In addition, she updates our website information, both for the congregation and for prospective ministers.

Eric DahlReference Checker

Eric is responsible for charting the information the committee wants about each candidate and for devising ways to communicate this information to the committee.

Gary FeinlandSurvey Coordinator

Gary is responsible for devising and implementing a congregational survey aimed at getting at the wants, needs and desires of our congregation in a way that gives an opportunity for all voices to be heard. He also works with Margret to set up and coordinate cottage meetings.

Melissa MacKinnonArranger

Melissa arranges all of the details for search events. She sets up preaching dates in area churches for pre-candidates and sees that everyone has all the information they need. She also looks to the care and comfort of the pre-candidates (and later the candidate) from the moment they arrive until they leave. Who will meet them? Where will they stay? Where and when will they eat? Who will drive them where? What will a tour include? No detail is too small to influence  a candidate’s first impression of the congregation! Melissa also communicates with prospective candidates, keeping them informed of the committee’s process.

Mike MacLauryTreasurer, Communications Coordinator

Mike creates our budget, keeps track of expenses and makes sure committee members account for expenses and are reimbursed in a timely manner. He reports to the Finance Committee, but in such a way as to keep the identities of prospective ministers confidential. Mike also writes the weekly updates that appear in Circuits, keeping the congregation informed about the committee’s progress.

trish williamsSecretary

trish keeps detailed notes and minutes of our weekly committee meetings.