Unitarian Church to honor 23 years of service

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By Special to the Monitor

The Unitarian Church of Los Alamos will honor Director of Religious Education Joyce Zaugg, who is retiring after more than 23 years of service. Zaugg will be honored during worship services and with an appreciation luncheon Sunday.

Zaugg began work at the church in January 1986, leading the congregation’s Religious Education program for a small number of children. The program has since grown to more than 70 children taking part in Sunday school classes, youth groups, children’s worship and social activities.

Zaugg and her daughter, Irene Zaugg, also developed a Harry Potter-themed Vacation Church School program, which celebrates its sixth year this summer. The program, designed as a branch school of “Hogwarts,” the school for wizardry in the popular J. K. Rowling series of books and movies, is a weeklong program with a sleepover, based on learning about influential figures and ideas in Unitarian Universalism.

Congregational President Kersti Rock said, “Some people have jobs, others have careers. For the truly fortunate, there is very little distinction between work and joy. I think Joyce Zaugg is one of those fortunate few.”

When Zaugg began her position, she did not realize that religious education would become her calling. In 1989, she enrolled at the College of Santa Fe and earned a bachelor's degree in religious education. She later completed the Unitarian Universalist Association’s accreditation program, becoming a Credentialed Director of Religious Education in 2005.  She now mentors other religious educators as they go through the credentialing process.

Zaugg worked with four different ministers at the Unitarian Church, beginning with the Rev. Dr. Dale Arnink, who served the church for 24 years himself, interim Minister Rev. Elizabeth McMaster, the Rev. James Macomber and the current pastor, the Rev. John Cullinan, who has served the church since August 2007.

“It has been an immense pleasure to work with Joyce as our DRE these past two years and her presence has been a large part of what has made my transition into ministry here in Los Alamos so successful,” Cullinan said.

“I am so very grateful for the work she has done with the religious education program in our church and I am proud to have had her as a staff team member.”

Following Zaugg’s retirement at the end of May, an interim Director of Religious Education will serve the congregation for two years. The purpose of an interim is to help the church work toward a permanently settled religious educator with a “clean break” after the retirement of a well-loved, long-term staff member.  

Following the interim period, the church will conduct a national search for the permanent position.