The Guild of Interim Religious Educators (GIRE)

At the 2009 LREDA Fall Con, a group of interim religious educators gathered informally in the lobby to dream about a support organization for the specialized field of interim religious education. Over the next several years, this group expanded and organized. In 2016, the Guild of Interim Religious Education became an official organization. During all of this time, our mission is clear: support of religious educators who have identified transition and change in their portfolio, provide continued education because learning never ends, and advocate for the valuable work of interim religious education. Today, the leadership exists with the Executive Team and the broader programmatic work of the Steering Team. You can learn more about the members of the Executive Team and Steering team below.

Executive Team

The executive team is responsible for overseeing the organization, handling legal and financial matters, and setting the mission and vision.

Michele Grove has been a religious education professional since 1988 and has served as a Unitarian Universalist religious educator since 2006. Currently she is the Interim Director of Religious Education at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Urbana-Champaigne in Illinois. Michele has served as an interim religious educator with congregations in Manassas, Virginia; Bethesda, Maryland, Stephens City, Virginia; and Cherry Hill, New Jersey. She was an interim religious education trainers for the UUA from 2008-2016. She has a Doctor of Ministry from the Wesley Theological Seminary, with a focus on Creative Ministry for Church Renewal in a Changing World and Church Transitions in the 21st Century.

Karen LoBracco is a Credentialed Religious Educator who began this career in 1996.  She served as settled Director of Religious Education for 2 congregations in suburban Atlanta, GA, as well volunteer service in the former Mid-South District.  In 2008 she moved back to NY State and until 2014 worked as Lifespan Faith Development Consultant for the former St. Lawrence and Ohio Meadville Districts.  Karen is currently employed by the Unitarian Universalist Church of Amherst (NY) as their Interim Director of Faith Development.  Previous Interim positions include congregations in Birmingham, AL and Kent, OH.

In addition to service with the Guild of Interim Religious Educators, Karen was Treasurer and Board member of the Liberal Religious Educators Association from June 2014 – November 2017.  Currently she serves as a member of the Central East Region’s Chalice Lighter Committee, and is active in community causes.  Karen lives in Brockport, NY with her husband Bernie and 2 cats.  She is the parent of 2 wonderful adult children and is blessed with a delightful granddaughter.

Deb Weiner is a trained interim religious educator and lifelong Unitarian Universalist focused on helping congregations in transition infuse health and vitality into their religious education programs and their congregational systems.  She is a candidate for the UUA’s Religious Education Credentialing Program (spring, 2018) and co-teaches the UUA’s Interim Religious Leader training.  She is the co-author of a book project, along with Michele Grove and Lily Rappaport, funded by the Liberal Religious Educators Association 21st-Century Fund and the UU Sunday School Society, called In Liminal Time:  Transitional Religious Leadership in Progressive Faith Communities. She is a co-founder of the Guild of Interim Religious Educators (GIRE) and (on the musical side) is the Moderator of the Unitarian Universalist Musicians Network (UUMN).

Prior to becoming a religious educator, Deb worked for the Unitarian Universalist Association for more than twenty years, in the fields of communication, marketing and outreach as well as congregational health and wellness.  Deb is a longtime resident of Lexington, MA along with her husband, Ben Soule, a licensed contractor and woodworker. They have two young adult children and, when not in UU congregations, can be found singing or performing on stage somewhere in the greater Boston area.  Deb blogs at morningstarsrising.wordpress.com .