Meet Our Staff
Program Ministry Staff
Cindy Mueller, Interim Lead Minister
Rev. Cindy Mueller became our Interim Lead Minister on March 19, 2019, following the retirement of Rev. Norma Rae Hunt. Cindy is an ordained UCC minister with a wealth of experience and training in serving as an intentional interim minister. She has served more than a dozen churches, in all but two cases as an interim minister. Over the course of more than three decades in ministry she has acquired significant training in interim ministry, Appreciative Inquiry, and other leadership approaches. She’s been an active participant in the denomination, most recently serving as the Moderator of the Minnesota Conference UCC. The search team was impressed by Cindy’s high energy, her commitment to maintaining the momentum of our church’s revitalization efforts, and her stated values of justice, environmental consciousness, LGBTQ advocacy, programmatic excellence, creative worship, and outreach to marginalized populations. There is clearly significant overlap between Cindy’s values and recent areas of focus for our congregation.
Clare Gromoll, Associate Minister
Rev. Clare Gromoll became Associate Minister at St. Paul’s UCC in August 2014 after serving the congregation for several years as seminary intern and Student Pastor. She is a graduate of United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. Before discerning a call to ordained ministry, Clare worked in year-round outdoor ministry and as a bilingual elementary school teacher. At St. Paul’s UCC, Clare partners with the Ministry of Faith Formation to support faith vitality for people of all ages and with the Ministry of Belonging & Community to extend radical hospitality and foster deepening relationships. She collaborates with the Lead Minister to lead worship, develop lay leadership, and support overall congregational life. Beyond church, Clare enjoys playing and laughing with her children, daily walks, yoga, reading fiction, and taking in live music.
Judith Melander, Director of Music
Geoff Olson, Organist
Geoff Olson has been the Organist at St. Paul's UCC since 1986. He has been a church organist since he was a teenager and has served several churches in that capacity. After retiring from a career as a city planner several years ago, Geoff has gone back to school to complete a degree in organ performance at the University of Minnesota. He enjoys playing at St. Paul's because of the UCC heritage, the friendly congregation, their appreciation for good music, a fine organ, and a beautiful worship space. Geoff notes that "I have been here long enough now that I'm playing at the weddings of young people who I remember being baptized at the church." In addition to playing the organ, Geoff plays racquetball regularly and enjoys time with his wife, friends, and family.
Hannah Campbell Gustafson, Faith Formation Leader, summer 2019
Hannah is heading up our Faith Formation programs for all ages and assisting with worship during Rev. Clare Gromoll's sabattical. Hannah loves snail mail, baking, and novels. She and her partner share their home with a standard poodle puppy and their 10-month-old daughter. Hannah got her BA from Carleton College and then spent time doing two different UCC-affiliated volunteer corps programs in Washington DC and Seattle, which helped create a real passion for advocacy around homelessness and the work of stomping out stigma around mental health. She received both Master of Divinity and Master of Social Work degrees from the University of Chicago and is nearing the end of her authorized ministry discernment process in the Wisconsin Conference of the UCC. Hannah works part-time weekday hours as Outreach Coordinator at Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis.
Emma Horner, Explorers Team Leader
Emma joined our staff in the fall of 2018. As an Explorers Team Leader, she manages interactive childcare for infants and toddlers on Sunday mornings. Emma graduated from Mankato State University with a degree in special education/academic behavioral specialist. She then taught at Families Together, a therapeutic preschool designed for children who come from poverty and trauma. Recently completing a master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE), Emma is in her second year as an ECSE teacher for Roseville public schools. When not teaching or taking care of children, she enjoys spending time with family and friends.
Stephanie Vitale, Explorers Team Leader
Stephanie joined us in July 2019. A native New Yorker, she moved to Minneapolis in 2015. She is studying for her Masters in Special Education: Autism Spectrum Disorders and plans to graduate in 2021. In addition to her work here, Stephanie is an assistant toddler teacher at a child care center in Saint Paul. She loves to sing, dance, and teach. I am looking forward to working at St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, where I can grow my faith and spread it to young children.
Administration and Support Staff
Eric Nelson, Church Office Administrator
Eric joined the staff in 2013. Outside his day job, he is an actor, working with various theatre companies in and around the Twin Cities. From 1989 to 2009, he served as a minister in UCC churches in Connecticut and Minnesota before moving to London for three years of preparation in physical theatre. His pastimes include playing with his grandsons, drawing and painting, going to movies and plays, and baseball.
Lorin Velikonja, Administrative Assistant
Lorin joined us as Administrative Assistant in April 2018. Her previous positions include parish administration at an Episcopal church; office management for television producers, architects, and engineers, the banking industry, a university library, and an entertainment venue; proofreading and layout for a large map publisher; and selling books. Originally from the Chicago area, Lorin lives in Saint Paul with her partner and two cats. Their two sons, now 25 and 27, also live in the Twin Cities. Lorin has frequently been a “host mom” to high-school-age international exchange students. She also enjoys traveling. Lorin is a voracious reader, a dilettante artist, a devoted coffee drinker, and a night owl. She lives on a block that is famous for their Halloween celebration.
Jeff Palmer, Business Manager
Jeff Palmer joined the staff in 2014. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota and United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. Jeff’s career has ranged from working for the United States Secret Service during the Carter administration, to teaching in a public school setting, to serving United Church of Christ congregations in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota. Jeff enjoys tinkering on the family homestead near Buffalo and raising Golden Retriever pups. He and his partner have two grown children, the older of whom is a student at William Mitchell College of Law across Summit Avenue from St. Paul’s UCC.
Jennie Kratzer, Accountant
Jennie joined the staff in 2012. She's been an accountant for a varietry of organizations, including several nonprofits. She lives with her little black cat Dora in Northeast Minneapolis. Her daughters and two of her grandchildren still live in the Twin Cities area.
Roger Brown, Custodian and Church Chef
Roger Brown joined the staff of St. Paul's UCC several years ago and has supported our ministry in several ways. He has been a chef for over 30 years. "We're lucky to have Roger's culinary talents in service of our ministry programs," a longtime member has written. "Those of us who have enjoyed Roger's artisan bread, State Fair award-winning jam, and regular great food on Wednesday evenings know a good chef when we taste his food." Prior to St. Paul's UCC, Roger worked all over the Upper Midwest and Western states. Roger likes working here at St. Paul's UCC with the congregation as well as the St. Paul's Childhood Center staff. He also enjoys reading, music, biking, skiing, and hiking.
Todd Armstrong, Building Technician
Todd joined the staff at St. Paul's UCC in 2015. He has years of experience handling custodial responsibilities and working with building mechanical systems. Todd counts woodworking and playing cello among his hobbies. He is single and lives in Saint Paul with his cats Milo, Philo, Jacob, and Henry.