First Unitarian phone: (515) 244-8603


Rev. Mark Stringer
Senior Minister

Ext. 102  •  >> Rev. Stringer, called to ministry at First Unitarian in May, 2001, began serving the following August. Under the supervision of the Board of Trustees, Mark serves as the executive for our congregation. He supervises all lead staff, works with the Celebrant Team to lead religious services, and convenes the Council for Congregational Ministries. In addition to his ministry with our church, Mark takes an active leadership role in local and regional organizations devoted to building community and promoting social justice. He is a graduate of Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago.

Rev. Erin Gingrich
Associate Minister of Social Justice

Ext. 121  •  >> Rev. Gingrich began serving full-time in this ministry position in August of 2014. She organizes, nurtures, and focuses our ministries of justice within and outside of the church, including the Social Justice Council and related church initiatives, and AMOS (interfaith community organizing). She also assists with Soul Matters and religious services. Erin is a graduate of Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago.

Rev. Brian Eslinger
Affiliated Community Minister

The Rev. Dr. Brian Eslinger is an affiliated Community Minister with First Unitarian Church of Des Moines.  He has served as the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Ames and currently teaches at Iowa State University, and as adjunct faculty at Meadville Lombard, the UU Theological School associated with the University of Chicago.

Religious Education

Tracy Beck
Director of Religious Education

Ext. 104  •  >> Tracy Beck has served as the full-time Director of Religious Education since 2009 and oversees children and family ministries as well as religious education programming for preschool to adults at First Unitarian Church of Des Moines. This includes a Coming of Age program for middle school youth, Our Whole Lives for upper elementary and middle school youth, high school youth group and adult religious education programming, including Wellspring and Soul Matters.

Megan Irey
RE Assistant

Ext. 119  •  >> As a 20/hour week Religious Education Assistant, Megan supports the Director of Religious Education and RE volunteers by maintaining records, scheduling and communicating with volunteers, assembling lessons, and maintaining classrooms and supplies.


Laura Berardi
Membership Coordinator

Ext. 103  •  >> As Membership Coordinator for 20 hours/week, Laura oversees the welcoming of visitors and guests, connecting them to areas of church life that match their interests. Laura is also responsible for new member classes and membership ceremonies as well as gathering feedback from new members and others. She is also the staff liaison for affinity groups.

Terry Lambert
Caring Ministrty Coordinator

(515) 657-7672  •  >> Terry joined the church staff as Caring Ministry Coordinator in 2013. She oversees and coordinates systems by which the pastoral needs of members who ask for help can be met. Terry’s position is 10 hours/week.


Karen Kraemer
Director of Choirs

Karen has a long history of music leadership in this congregation (including as director of the Bell Ave. Chimes, the Channing Chimes, and the Flames Youth Choir). Karen served as our Interim Choir Director from February – September 2016, when the position was made permanent. Karen leads the UU Adult Choir, Bell Ave. Chimes and Channing Chimes, and supervises the Director of Children’s Choirs and the Piano Accompanist.

Denise Forney
Children's Choir Director

Denise joined First Unitarian staff in October 2016 as the Children’s Choir Director. The Sparks Choir and Chalice Choir gather on Wednesday evenings to practice, and perform in Sunday services several times a year.

Bruce Martin

A member of the church since 1969, Bruce began as the church pianist, playing for services, in 2000.

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Administrative Staff

Deborah Dessert, CPA
Director of FInance & Administration

Ext. 101  •  >> Deb joined the staff of First Unitarian in January 2009 in this 33 hour/week position. The DFA is a member of the Management Team and serves as a staff support to the Board of Trustees, the Board’s Financial Oversight Committee, the Endowment Fund Investment and Disbursements Committee, the Annual Stewardship Drive Committee, and the Grounds Council. Deb serves as the Chief Operating Officer with the primary portfolio of accounting, budgeting and finance, building and grounds, human resources, communications, technology, and office operations.

Jane White
Office Assistant

Ext. 107  •  >> Jane joined the First Unitarian staff in November of 2010 in this 16 hour/week position. Jane is responsible for space/calendar reservations, the Order of Service, entering information in the data base and preparing mailings.

Abby Chungath
Communications Coordinator

Ext. 117  •  >> Abby joined the staff in May of 2011. She is responsible for the Intercom Weekly email, web site updates, posting the service video and audio podcasts, social media posts, creating the Annual Report and bi-annual Programming brochures, as well as various other print communication pieces for the church. The Communication Coordinator position is 14 hours/week.

Connie Price

Ext. 106  •  >> Connie joined the staff of First Unitarian in December 2006. Connie’s responsibilities include maintaining records of pledges and contributions, deposits, payroll, and accounts payable as well as many reporting functions related to these areas. Connie’s position is currently 14 hours/week.