LREDA Board of Trustees

The mission of the LREDA Board of Trustees is to serve our membership. A fully volunteer board, we:

SUPPORT the professional development of our membership;

ADVOCATE for professional religious educators in congregations and in alliance with our professional colleagues and the UUA; and

SUSTAIN our organization through responsible fiscal stewardship, and creative, visionary leadership.

Contact us at

President: Mx Katharine Childs

Term: July 2023 - June 2026

Katharine uses they / them pronouns

Katharine is a UU Religious Educator, storyteller, and curriculum writer. They serve Unitarian Universalism on the traditional territory of the Kanien’keha:ka people as the Director of Religious Explorations at the Unitarian Church of Montreal in Montreal, QC. They are a former chair of CUURE (Canadian UU Religious Educators), and the former continental conference planning chair for LREDA. A graduate of Montreal’s Concordia University Theatre program, Katharine is an accomplished storyteller and writer of social justice fairy tales. Their stories have been shared and told in over a dozen UU congregations internationally.

An enthusiastic cyclist, amateur singer, and all-around lovable weirdo, Katharine annually churns out a half dozen pairs of hand knit socks in meetings and conferences, a tally that has only increased since all their work went online.

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Vice President: Kathy Smith, CRE

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Term: July 2024 - June 2027

Kathy uses she / her pronouns

Kathy has been a professional religious educator since 2007. She currently serves as Director of Family Ministries for the Unitarian Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She previously served as Director of Religious Education for congregations in Fort Worth and Plano, Texas, and as Coordinator of Youth Activities for the Joseph Priestley District.

She has served as president of the Southwest LREDA chapter, a LREDA good officer, and a member of the Music Leadership Certification Committee (the equivalent of the RECC for UU musicians). She has also served on the Youth Caucus staff at General Assembly, the right relations/conflict & covenant team for General Assembly, and the community relations team for LREDA Fall Con.

Currently, she is an OWL trainer and facilitator. She is also the author or co-author of several curricula (most recently, Building a Better World: What Role Will YOU Play? with Rev. Craig Schwalenberg, Ellery Churchmouse Sacred Play for All Ages with religious educator Jen Shattuck, Games to Build Community, and Lego ValUUes). In her free time, she is an amateur musician and an avid board-gamer. She lives with her partner and a large fuzzy black cat, and loves the food and the festivals in Southern Louisiana.

Treasurer: Mary Kroener-Ekstrand, PhD

Term: July 2023 - June 2026

Mary uses she / her pronouns

Mary Kroener-Ekstrand, PhD has been a UU religious educator since 2009. She currently serves as Director of Religious Education at the UU Congregation at Willamette Falls in Oregon City, OR. Her work history also includes stints as a middle school Social Studies and English teacher, a service learning coordinator, a university teacher educator, and a museum educator. Mary has pursued a variety of professional development opportunities in the field of religious education including coursework at Starr King School for the Ministry, district and regional trainings, and Renaissance Modules. She is passionate about UU faith development and feels called to the work of helping people of all ages to understand, articulate, and act on their beliefs in order to transform lives and communities.

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Secretary: Tim Atkins, CRE

Term: July 2022 - June 2025

Tim uses he / him pronouns

Tim serves as the Director of Lifespan Religious Exploration for the First Unitarian Church in Oklahoma City. He has previously served as the Director of Lifespan Religious Education at Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church in Bethesda, MD and the Morristown (NJ) Unitarian Fellowship. He currently serves on the UUA Nominating Committee and has previously served as a UUA Trustee, the Church of the Larger Fellowship as their Director of Social Media, and as a youth advisor and Religious Education teacher at his former home congregation in Atlanta. 

He spends his spare time writing, playing board games, trying to change the world, and attempting to reason with his cats Teddy and Dorothea.

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At Large, Continental Events: Courtney McKenny

Term: July 2022 - June 2025

Courtney uses she / her pronouns

Courtney  is a lifelong UU, who grew up attending the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Springfield, MO. She graduated from Truman State University with a Bachelors of Art in History. Courtney has previously served for over 10 years as the Director of Religious Education at the UU Fellowship of Montgomery. Currently she is the Director of Lifespan Faith Development for the Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham. Previously, she has served on the UUA Appointments Committee, the Mid South District Religious Education Committee, as well as the Southeast Chapter of the Liberal Religious Educators Association as vice president and then president. She is also an Our Whole Lives Facilitator - Junior and Senior High.

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At Large, Leadership Development: Amanda Esko

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Term: July 2024 - June 2027

Amanda uses she / her pronouns

Amanda brings over 20 years of dedicated experience as a Unitarian Universalist to her role as a Religious Educator, beginning her professional journey in 2017. Currently, she holds the position of Director of Religious Education at the First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City. Prior to her work in religious education, Amanda contributed her talents to the field of education as both a teacher and administrator in public schools.

Deeply engaged in her professional community, Amanda has played an active role within MDD LREDA, having recently served on their board. Her commitment to continuous growth is evident through her participation in various training opportunities facilitated by LREDA and Renaissance modules, reflecting her passion for ongoing professional development.

A staunch advocate for Unitarian Universalism, Amanda firmly believes in the transformative power of faith development in people's lives. Beyond her professional commitments, Amanda finds joy and fulfillment in diverse creative pursuits, including gardening, artistry, storytelling, and music. She resides in Salt Lake City with her husband, two children, and three beloved canine companions.

At Large, Professional Support: Lauren Strauss, CRE

Term: July 2022 - June 2023

Lauren uses she / her pronouns

Lauren  has served as a religious educator at the First Parish of Watertown for 11 years. She first discovered her love of UU Religious Education as a youth advisor, RE teacher, and children’s choir director at the First Parish in Framingham, where she volunteered for many years before answering the call to serve the UU faith as a DRE.

Lauren’s previous job experience was in education. She taught in high schools for the Deaf, in residential treatment programs, and at a Reggio Emilio-inspired preschool. For most of her time in education she was a sex ed and English teacher. She is fluent in American Sign Language, is a creator and crafter, and brings all her prior experience to her Religious Education work. From handcrafted Spirit Play boxes containing needle-felted and knitted creatures to original stories and creative lesson plans, Lauren finds a lot of joy in weaving all her skills into one calling.

Lauren believes that the Unitarian Universalist faith is what the world needs. The loving, expansive theology of Unitarian Universalism beckons us all to sit at the table and learn deeply from one another, and Lauren is a little humbled by being a small part of the system that allows it to get to the people who need it.



 She is committed with all her heart to ensuring that Unitarian Universalism lives up to its theology in welcoming ALL people, and pushing UUs forward in the path of admitting our shortcomings in welcoming and serving BIPOC, Trans, Nonbinary, and Queer folk, people with disabilities, and others holding oppressed minority identities. Her work begins first and foremost right in her own heart and soul.