If you’re curious about the ways our former District Staff are serving the new Region, here is our philosophy, as well as more detail about the areas of responsibility we each will take on. Our District Boards and the UUA’s Director of Congregational Life have reviewed it. Please contact any of us with your thoughts.

MidAmerica Field Staff are adopting the model of “deep generalist” for our staffing model.[1] Under this model, all co-funded staff members (that where UUA and region share expenses) will be able to provide the responses and services in most areas of congregational life. All staff will together take responsibility for supporting our congregations in engaging emerging trends and seeking justice. Our vision is that all co-funded staff of the region will share a common title, perhaps Congregational Life Consultant.

We can help you ask the right questions, and provide you with resources to help you move forward in congregational life.

Shared general level competency of co-funded staff. Each member of the co-funded staff will be expected to possess and keep current basic level competencies and share commitments of the team to preparing our congregations for the future:

  • General level congregational intervention and consulting capacity
  • Membership and Growth
  • Leadership
  • Faith Development Ministries
  • Future trends in such areas as technology, demography, and generational characteristics. [2]
  • Multigenerational Involvement
  • Finances, including stewardship and administration
  • Conflict Transformation
  • Transitions in professional leadership
  • Governance and Organizational Development
  • Multicultural competency
  • Congregational Justice Making (including intercultural competency)
  • Spiritual Growth
  • Staffing and Human Resources
  • Youth Programming
  • Young Adult and Campus Ministry Programming

Areas of specialization of co-funded staff. Each co-funded staff member also have deep areas of specialization in which they will both serve congregations and serve as national resources. As this change occurs, we expect representatives of national UUA staff team to participate in our team both in direct service to MidAmerica congregations and as support for our regional capacity:

  • Membership and Growth: Phil Lund, Dori Davenport Thexton
  • Leadership and Organizational Development: Nancy Combs-Morgan (YaYA specialization), Ian Evison, Lisa Presley, Dori Davenport Thexton
  • Faith Development Ministries (including Faith Formation 2020): Nancy Combs-Morgan, Phil Lund
  • Multigenerational Involvement: Nancy Combs-Morgan, Dori Davenport Thexton
  • Finances, including stewardship and administration: Ian Evison, Dori Davenport Thexton
  • Conflict Transformation: Ian Evison, Dori Davenport Thexton
  • Transitions in professional leadership: Lisa Presley
  • Governance: Ian Evison, Lisa Presley
  • Multicultural competency: Phil Lund, Lisa Presley
  • Congregational Justice Making: Nancy Combs-Morgan (YaYA specialization), Phil Lund
  • Spiritual Growth: Nancy Combs-Morgan (YaYA specialization), Phil Lund
  • Staffing and Human Resources: Ian Evison, Lisa Presley, Dori Davenport Thexton.
  • Youth Programming: Nancy Combs-Morgan, Dori Davenport Thexton
  • Young Adult and Campus Ministry Programming: Nancy Combs-Morgan, Dori Davenport Thexton

Co-funded Staff Members with their areas of specialization. Note: The larger team will include region-funded staff in such areas as administration and technology, consulting and volunteer staff with specialized skills and role, and national staff in such areas as stewardship assigned to specific regions.

nancy combs-morgan Nancy Combs-Morgan

  • Nancy Combs-Morgan has been immersed in Unitarian Universalist faith development for 15+ years, including 6 as a Director of Religious Education, and 9 years on UUA district and regional staff, as the Faith Development Director in Heartland District, and the MidAmerica Coordinator for Emerging Models in Youth and Young Adult Ministries. Throughout this progression she has remained passionate about the transformative impact of our faith for children, youth, and young adults. Her portfolio has been designed to look "up and out" at emerging models in youth and young adult ministry, including using a new lens looking at the role of social justice, pastoral care, comprehensive sexuality education, and small group ministry. She has worked closely as a regional liaison with our national Youth and Young Adult staff, and as part of a regional UUA team working with the national LREDA board. For at least three years Nancy has served as Dean and Co-Dean of our Youth Midwest Leadership School, a high point of her year. Outside of the realm of faith development, she radiates a love of music and movement. Her greatest joy is DJing for multigenerational events as "NCLight," and spending time with family and friends in her hometown of Lexington, KY.
  • Faith development; youth and young adult ministry; leadership, spiritual growth and social justice with emphasis on youth and young adults

rev sharon dittmar 2016Sharon Dittmar

  • Sharon served for 18 years as the Minister at First Unitarian Church of Cincinnati (Ohio) and one year as the Interim Minister at The Gathering at Northern Hills (Cincinnati, OH). She graduated from Harvard Divinity School in 1997. During her time in ministry Sharon served in many different roles: worship leader, head of staff, supervisor, blogger, capital campaign cheerleader, storyteller, financial strategizer, Board partner, pastoral care giver, community social justice leader, and conflict negotiator. She was active in the UU Ministers' Association, most recently serving as a Good Officer. In her work she focuses on mission and strategic partnerships inside and outside of the congregation. She is a recent graduate of Parker Palmer’s Center for Courage and Renewal Academy for Leaders, and applies his principles in her work.

ian07 Ian Evison

  • Ian is a UU minister who has served in a variety of ministries, including parish ministry, theological education, a research project at the University of Chicago in Family and Religion, and service at the Alban Institute as Director of Research. Current passions include future trends in American religious life, new frontiers of organizational development. He also has a geeky interest in change strategies and denominational structures. To keep sane he cooks, gardens, frequents farmers’ markets, and makes large quantities of compost. Ian and his wife, Leah, split their time between Chicago and St. Paul.
  • Leadership; conflict transformation; staffing and human resources; finances; stewardship; congregations of the future; denominational structures.

phil 8-06lighter-116x153 Phil Lund

  • Phil is a Unitarian Universalist minister, husband, and wannabe GeekDad. A 2002 graduate of Meadville Lombard Theological School (where he teaches a class on Digital/Spiritual Literacy), his interests include parenting, comparative religion, InterSpirituality, digital ministry, interfaith relations, social media, and more. On the denominational level, he has been a team member on both the Leap of Faith pilot project and Congregations & Beyond initiative. He lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota with his wife, Julia, his son, Henry David, and their cat, Chloë.
  • Growth; spiritual growth; social justice; faith development; multicultural competency; social media and ministry.

Rev. Lisa Presley Lisa Presley

  • Lisa is a life-long Unitarian Universalist who has served in our ministry for over 20 years as parish minister, interim minister, and district staff. She has also worked as a police chaplain, and serves our movement as the Chair of the UUA’s Committee on Military Ministry and as a member of the UU Trauma Response Ministry team. She has expertise in crisis response, and she will be overseeing the financial structure for MidAmerica. She lives in Michigan with her partner and their cat.
  • Professional transitions; multicultural competency; staffing; organization development; governance; regional financial administration

Dori2011 sm Dori Davenport Thexton

  • Dori has worked in Unitarian Universalist settings for 29 years, serving 2 congregations before joining the UUA field staff in 1998. She has participated in two national growth campaigns, worked with several continental youth and young adult task forces and served on the national LREDA board. Growing Unitarian Universalism has long been one of her passions. She is especially interested in the ministry of hospitality, as well as nurturing healthy, multigenerational faith communities and retaining the young people who grow up in our congregations. Dori enjoys being a grandma to five and teaching them to cook. She and her husband Arthur divide their time between Madison and Milwaukee, WI.
  • Membership and growth; multigenerational; finances; staff/HR; youth and young adult ministry; leadership; conflict transformation; hospitality

Congregational leaders should feel free to reach out to any MidAmerica staff member with their questions or concerns. If you already have a relationship with one of us, feel free to start there, knowing that we may refer you to another member when that is wise. For those who don’t already have relationships with us, then the following people are the initial contact persons:

For Central MidWest District congregations: Dori Thexton

For Heartland District congregations: Lisa Presley

For Prairie Star congregations: Phil Lund

Additional roles for co-funded staff. In addition to the above roles staff will also:

Represent the team as liaison with groups within and beyond the region.

Take internal programmatic and administrative roles within the regional programmatic and administrative structure.

Final Note: Co-funded staff of the MidAmerica Region are employees of the UUA. Lead responsibility for such matters as job titles, job descriptions, and compensation lies with the UUA Department for Congregational Life and the Department of Human Resources.

We welcome your comments. Please contact any of us with your thoughts.
Nancy Combs Morgan at [email protected]
Sharon Dittmar at [email protected]
Ian Evison at [email protected]
Phil Lund at [email protected]
Lisa Presley at [email protected]
Dori Davenport Thexton at [email protected]


[1] Andrew Sobel defines a deep generalist as “someone who has a core expertise onto which he or she layers knowledge of related and sometimes unrelated fields.” This is the ability to put narrower technical expertise into the service of an organization adapting to complex realities by integrating many differing and even competing perspectives and areas of expertise.