Personal Biography

Visiting Bali in 2023.

I grew up in Southern California, where my immediate and extended families have lived since my great-grandfather (a printer) came down from Canada during the Great Depression and met my great-grandmother (a Christian Science practitioner) in Los Angeles. Church was a central part of our life growing up. My brother, sister, and I rarely missed either Wednesday or Sunday services at the Christian Science congregation we attended. At 16 years old I was the youngest person of my church to become a member, and the only youth to serve on its Board of Directors. From an early age, however, I was uncomfortable with how my family and community practiced religion. Simply, I never believed in the religion’s faith-healing promises or a personal God who is more available to some than others. I followed the faith principally because our church life also formed the core of my family’s social life. It was our community. Between church youth group, summer camps, and twice-weekly worship services that we almost never missed, religion touched every aspect of my life.

Leaving that faith, which had provided me a community for so long, was difficult, but when I discovered the Transcendentalists in a college course, I saw a direction in which to head. Happily, Cindy, my wife, was on board with this change and we began attending First Unitarian Church of St. Louis where we were nourished both intellectually and spiritually by what we discovered in Unitarian Universalism.

Cindy and I are still married, now in our 35th year together. Cindy has been a Montessori teacher for the past 20 years; before that she was a social worker. Our son, Jevin, has turned out to be a wonderful and caring person—a father, musician (like Dad) and fine cook (like Mom). He now works in Madison, Wisconsin, as a post-doc in metabolic sciences.

Ministry is my second career. My first was in publishing: as a printing press operator, web designer, digital technologies writer, journalist, and finally, editor. Before entering seminary in 2002, I was the managing editor for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists —a magazine that reports on peace, arms control, human rights, and global security issues. Nationally, I have served as president of the Central Midwest Minister’s Association, on the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Committee on Military Ministry, and on the Board of the Unitarian Universalist Trauma Response Ministry Team. I am the co-editor of the book Reverend X: How Generation X Ministers Are Shaping Unitarian Universalism, published by the Jenkins Lloyd Jones Press.

The Okinawa brass ensemble at All Soul’s Episcopal

My interests outside the ministry include music (trombone, guitar, and voice) and flying light airplanes. For more than 20 years I played with the Chicago-based, punk-rock inspired, transformational marching band Environmental Encroachment. I have also played “serious” music with the “Gateway to the West” Air National Guard Swing Band, the Solano Winds, and Japan’s Okinawa Community Band. Oh yes, and Benicia’s own Jazz Gorilla as well!

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A letter from Cindy…

Thank you for your interest in Bret’s ministry. As his wife and partner of 35 years, I have a unique perspective on his character. I believe that the qualities that make him a good husband also make him an excellent minister.  Bret is a gentle, passionate, compassionate and authentic person.  Although not especially tall, he is my gentle giant in the way he approaches people and in the presence he carries with him. If he had a motto it might be “to live and live deeply.” This has allowed him to make deep connections with people and further his passions in life. I am so grateful to share my life with Bret. There are our “big loves” we share (backpacking, listening to music and going to the theater, traveling in our camper), but we also enjoy the simple pleasures—bike riding, walks, watching favorite shows together. He is a person who has inspired me to challenge myself as he engages in life and is mindful of the things around him. Bret’s passions in life prior to seminary—music, connecting with people, writing, peace issues—added to his vision of ministry and spiritual awareness make him an excellent minister. I am confident that in the mutual sharing of gifts and stories, you will both learn from and be inspired by each other.