Minister & Staff
Rev. Mandy Beal (she/her)
Rev. Mandy Beal was called as BUC’s Senior Minister/Executive in June 2018. She is a graduate of Andover Newton Theological School and trained for the ministry at First Parish in Lincoln, both in Massachusetts. Prior to that, she was a social worker specializing in the administration of workforce development programs. She has also held several Religious Education positions in UU congregations in Texas and Massachusetts.
Rev. Mandy has a deep love of high church and traditional liturgy, but is also committed to worship as a transformational experience. She’s really into the idea of worship that reaches the head, heart, and soul. She also believes in social justice as an essential component of Unitarian Universalism.
Rev. Mandy lives in Brighton, MI with her spouse, Mx. Jesse Beal (they/them), and their son Bowen (he/him). Jesse is the Director of the Spectrum Center at the University of Michigan. They have a cat and two dogs who mostly like each other.
Rev. Mandy is currently on parental leave welcoming the newest member of the Beal family. She will return to her duties full time in January 2024.
Sara Constantakis (she/her)
Director of Congregational Life
Sara Constantakis holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Michigan-Dearborn and a Master of Library and Information Science from Wayne State University. She worked in editorial production and product management for an educational publishing company (along with some experience in a public radio newsroom and a college library) before joining the BUC staff. Sara is passionate about equitable housing, climate justice, and reproductive freedom and enjoys exercise, the outdoors, and time with family and friends.
Sara has been a member of BUC since 2008 and has served as a Worship Associate, South Oakland Shelter volunteer leader, and on the social justice and plate collection committees. A staff member since 2018, she previously served as the Communications Coordinator. As Director of Congregational Life, she works to keep our Beloved Community informed and engaged by managing our communications program and working with other staff and lay leaders to create and implement programs that are fun, meaningful, and build relationships.
Joanne Copeland (she/her)
Joanne Copeland came to BUC at the suggestion of long-time member with whom she worked at the Hospice of Southeastern Michigan during its formative years. Joanne was a Nurse’s Aide and Home Health Aide and then worked as a Social Work Technician.
Joanne has been attending BUC since 1988, after traveling with the BUC Choir to Europe. As a member since 1991, she has volunteered in many areas, including South Oakland Shelter, Rummage, auctions, and the BUC Choir. She was the Income Bookkeeper from 1990-2007, then after a pause, returned in 2011 as Office Assistant which led to her present position as Bookkeeper. Some of her attributes which work well in her position include honesty, loyalty, dedication to the church, and being a true team player.
Outside of BUC, Joanne enjoys gardening, photography, her cat Arthur, and being with her family, especially the newest member, a grand-niece born in 2020. Joanne is looking forward to the growth of the church as we embark on a new and exciting year!
Jim Dean (he/him)
Jim Dean has been part of the team at BUC for over 12 years. During his time as maintenance technician, he has brought an incredible amount of knowledge and experience. Jim’s focus is on building repair and maintenance, including but certainly not limited to mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems. Recognized as a top-notch problem solver, he is the first to be contacted to troubleshoot or repair issues as they arise in our building or on our grounds.
Abha Dearing (she/her)
Co-Director of Music Ministry
Abha Dearing has been serving Birmingham Unitarian Church since 2002. As Co-Director of Music Ministry along with her husband Steven Dearing, Abha helps design worship with our Minister and congregants, ensuring that ours is a singing congregation. Abha sings lead with The Sound Messengers house band, conducts the BUC Chalice Choir for weekly Wednesday evening sanctuary rehearsals, and leads their presentations within the service. She helps train and encourage song leaders in the choir and congregation to foster more group singing, because everyone has a voice!
Abha also directs the Teen Choir and Kids Choir when there are occasions for youth to sing more formally. On occasion, the One-Hour Choirs or No-Fault Choirs can be a great way to wet your whistle and see if Choir is for you.
Additionally, Abha has performed around the world as half of The Dearing Concert Duo, won numerous awards for her performances and recordings, is trained in diverse music styles, and has been teaching school vocal and instrumental music for many years.
Steven Dearing (he/him)
Co-Director of Music Ministry
Classical guitarist Steven Dearing grew up in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. He began his classical guitar studies at the age of 21 after being primarily a self-taught electric guitarist. He quickly earned a Masters in Guitar Performance on a full scholarship from Wayne State University. He was an adjunct Professor and Guitar Instructor at the University of Windsor from 1995-2018. Steven has performed across the US and Canada and made his European debut as half of The Dearing Concert Duo. He performs as a solo guitarist, has been featured as guest soloist with orchestras in the US and Canada, is an accomplished chamber musician, and serves the metro Detroit community by teaching at his Farmington Hills studio.
Steven has been serving Birmingham Unitarian Church since 2011. As Co-Director of Music Ministry along with his wife Abha Dearing, Steven programs, arranges, performs as both band leader and soloist, sings, composes music, and is the Artistic Director of the Sound Bites concert series. He works with youth and adults at bringing music to a spiritual plane.
Valerie Phillips (she/her)
Valerie Phillips moved to metro Detroit in 2004 from her hometown of Waukesha, Wisconsin. She has been a member of BUC since 2018, and started on staff as Administrator in November 2019. She has an educational and working background in customer service, medical records, computer technology, information systems, and data analysis. Valerie brings to her job careful consideration, attention to detail, kindness, and a desire to find a balanced solution for all. Outside of BUC, Valerie enjoys spending time with her two children. She also enjoys listening to a variety of genres of music, playing board or card games, or finding a quiet connection with nature.
Shannon Snideman (she/they)
Director of Religious Education
Shannon Snideman grew up attending the Universalist Unitarian Church of Farmington and was a member of the District Youth Steering Community. Their passion for youth empowerment and leadership development led them to serve with a number of youth programs, including City Year (AmeriCorps) and Mystic Lake YMCA Camp. Equally passionate about science education, Shannon earned a degree in Integrated Science for Secondary Education at the University of Michigan-Dearborn and focused her work on informal education and museum studies. Her interests and expertise include astronomy, forensic science, and environmental science.
Shannon currently serves as the Director of Religious Education where they oversee the development of faith formation programming for children and youth. They partner with many of the BUC committees to help connect youth with service-learning and leadership opportunities. Shannon recognizes the power of uplifting youth voices to create positive change, and she is excited to help the Beloved BUC Community grow.
Kirk Tucker (he/him)
Kirk Tucker started at BUC in August 2019. He is responsible for daily janitorial tasks and grounds work and does a great job making sure that rooms are set up and ready for BUC services and events, as well as rentals. Kirk brings with him additional skills in minor building repair and maintenance. He is hard working, focused, and always eager to help.
David Uricek (he/him)
A member of the Detroit musical community for 30+ years, David Uricek brings his love of music and his talents for audio production together for worship services. He is the bass player for The Sound Messengers house band and BUC’s A/V Coordinator.
Mira Walker (she/her)
Pianist Mira Walker was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. She began piano study with her mother, Susan Walker, and continued early study with Mrs. Tatiana Kasman and Dr. Yakov Kasman. Mira completed her BA in Music with Dr. Kasman at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and her Master of Music with Prof. Norman Krieger at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music. She is currently pursuing her DMA at the University of Michigan under the instruction of Dr. Logan Skelton. Mira is a prizewinner in dozens of competitions and has performed internationally in solo and chamber programs and with orchestras such as the Alabama Symphony Orchestra and the National Ukrainian Symphony. Mira is committed to performing works by underrepresented composers, spreading her love of music through teaching students of all ages, and performing for diverse audiences.