Rev. Mark Ward has been lead minister since 2004. UUCA was his first settlement after graduating from Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago, IL, including an internship at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, WI. He is fed by hiking, gardening – just about anything in the outdoors – and music, theater and poetry. Before ministry, he spent 25 years as a reporter, editor and editorial writer in Charleston, WV, and Milwaukee, WI. Before that he had bachelor’s and master’s degrees in philosophy. He is married and the father of three grown daughters and two granddaughters.
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister
Minister@UUAsheville.org, 828-254-6001 x203
Rev. Claudia Jimenez has served as UUCA’s Minister of Faith Development since 2018. Prior to her ordination, Rev. Jimenez served as Director of Religious Education at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Vero Beach, Florida from 2001 to 2018. She has 10 years of teaching experience in middle school science and in elementary schools in Colombia, Brazil, Canada, and Florida. While in Vero Beach, she also was elected for two terms to the Indian River County School Board from 2008 to 2016. She is a certified Religious Educator through the Liberal Religious Educator’s Association and is a trained Our Whole Lives (OWL) Facilitator and a certified sexuality educator. She is married and has two adult daughters.
Rev. Claudia Jimenez, Minister of Faith Development
FaithDev@uuasheville.org 828-254-6001 x202
In addition to serving as Music Director for UUCA, Dr. Leslie Downs is active as both a solo and a collaborative pianist. He has performed in solo, lieder, chamber, and choral concerts throughout the United States and in Canada. He has also served as music director for regional musical theatre productions. For 16 years he worked as a freelance pianist/teacher/vocal coach in New York City and was principal accompanist for the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus for six seasons. Dr. Downs holds degrees from Centenary College of Louisiana, Yale University, and the University of Oklahoma. He enjoys hiking, movies, theater, and murder mysteries.
Dr. Leslie Downs, Music Director
Music@UUAsheville.org, 828-254-6001 x216
Kim is a San Diego native and life-long UU. She grew up attending First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego and was a member of Summit Unitarian Universalist Fellowship prior to moving to Asheville and beginning her work at UUCA. Kim has lived on both coasts and is now happy to call the mountains her home. She enjoys cooking, reading, exploring Asheville and the surrounding areas, and tending to her pack of 3 dogs and 3 cats.
Kim Collins, Religious Education Coordinator
LREC@UUAsheville.org, 828-254-6001 x210
Jen is the Lifespan Religious Education Assistant. She revels in the energy of a group kids bonding, having fun, growing, and learning together. She is honored to be part of a nurturing and enriching RE program. Jen has two instructions for you: read your RE Weekly eNews (it’s the best way to get informed!) and reach out to someone you want to meet! Getting connected and being involved is sooooooo gratifying and beneficial. Being a nature lover, Jen likes to be outdoors to hike, run, soak in the sun. She also loves the chance to curl up with a good book, to make and eat a good soup, get competitive on family game night, or hear and watch the high school marching band perform. She also loves chocolate and listening to The Moth podcast.
Jen Johnson, Religious Education Coordinator
LREAsst@UUAsheville.org, 828-254-6001 x205
Linda has been UUCA’s Director of Administration since 2011, much to her surprise. In previous periods of her life she earned her BA and MA from Allegheny College and her Ph.D. from Kent State University. She has worked as a junior high science teacher, a civil engineering assistant, a technical writer, and a training manager along with several stints as director of religious education in three UU congregations. Since marrying Jim Smith in 2001, she’s learned that she enjoys having new adventures, fine dining and economics. Linda became a Certified Church Administrator in 2016 through The Church Network.
Dr. Linda Topp, Director of Administration
Administration@UUAsheville.org, 828-254-6001 x201
North Carolina native, Tish Murphy, grew up on the NC coast and first moved to Asheville in the 1970’s. After many wonderful stops working at resorts around the country, she returned to western NC in the 1993 with her husband, Leon and now resides in Madison County. Tish is a Certified Blue Ridge Naturalist and a Master Gardener. In addition to her love of the outdoors, cooking and the exploration of new cuisines keeps her busy in her spare time. Tish has worked for UUCA since February 2011.
Tish Murphy, Database Coordinator and Office Manager
Information@UUAsheville.org, 828-254-6001 x200
Venny Zachritz moved to Asheville in January 2016 from Cumberland, MD with the idea that she would be living the easy, relaxing life of retirement. But, alas, she found out that she was terribly bored and driving her poor husband crazy with the “honey-do” list. So fortunately for her the job as Connections Coordinator came to her attention and here she is. Venny loves to garden, educate and interact with people so this job was a perfect fit for her (except for gardening, she gets to educate and interact with the good folks at UUCA). Come and talk with Venny if you want to volunteer at UUCA and she will connect you with the program that fits your talents.
Venny Zachritz, Connections Coordinator
Connect@UUAsheville.org, 828-254-6001 x219