Our Minister and Staff
Contract Minister: Reverend Ruth Vann Lillian
Rev. Ruth was born in Birmingham in the late 60’s to Lillian Foscue Vann, a journalist with the Birmingham Post-Herald, and David J. Vann, a mediating attorney during the Civil Rights Movement who was later elected mayor of Birmingham. Her younger brother, Michael, was adopted from Vietnam. Her religious upbringing included input from United Methodist, Episcopalian, Christian Scientist, Jewish, and Roman Catholic sources.
Ruth felt a call to ministry at 16, and after receiving her B.A. in English from Birmingham-Southern College, her M.A. Ed. in marriage and family counseling from the University of Alabama in Birmingham, and her M.Div. at the Iliff School of Theology, she was ordained in the United Methodist Church in 1994. Following eleven years of parish ministry, she went on leave to care full-time for her two sons, the younger having Cerebral Palsy. During this time, she and her husband, William Malone, found their way to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham. During her fourteen years there, Ruth has served in many leadership positions, the most recent being Interim Dir. of Religious Education.
From age 16 when she and a friend were threatened in the street by gay bashers armed with baseball bats, Ruth has felt called to justice work and advocacy as an ally of the LGBTQ community. She worked as a counseling intern with Birmingham AIDS Outreach in the late 1980’s, and later served as Director of Communities of Faith for Full Inclusion, an organization sponsored by the U.U. Fellowship of Montgomery. She also served as an adult facilitator for Birmingham Area Gay Straight Lesbian Youth before it merged with Magic City Acceptance Center.
Ruth’s husband, Bill Malone, retired in 2017 from his I.T. work with UAB to take over care of their younger son allowing Ruth to pursue ministerial credentials with the UUA. She is received Preliminary Fellowship in December of 2018.
Ruth defines her personal theology this way: “I am a liberal skeptical pantheist Christian Unitarian Universalist with humanist and Earth-center sympathies. Christianity is foundational for my spiritual development and the teachings of Rabbi Jesus and the narratives and the wisdom from the Hebrew and Christian Testaments are an important part of my personal free and responsible search for truth and meaning. I am also informed by my continued learning from other traditions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Paganism, and Humanism. Predictably these various sources inspire my preaching and teaching, worship design, and pastoral care.
Music Director: Dr. Kenneth McGuire
Kenneth Michael McGuire is Associate Professor in the School of Music at the University of Alabama where he teaches courses in piano improvisation, songwriting and music education. He earned degrees from Syracuse University, and the State Universities of New York at Fredonia and Binghamton. Prior to his appointment at Alabama, McGuire taught music in New York public schools and worked extensively as a songwriter, arranger, performer, and producer of audio recordings and music videos.
McGuire’s composition and performing interests are diverse and his efforts include both solo and collaborative productions. Items from his catalog are published by Cabin 5 and are distributed by Livingston Records. His teaching approach encourages students to examine their preferences and craft personal, original art.
Dr. McGuire’s other scholarly activities include numerous research presentations, workshops, articles, and conferences on music education. His articles are published in Journal of Research in Music Education, Journal of Music Therapy, International Journal for Mathematics Teaching and Learning, Southeastern Journal of Research in Music Education, Music Educators Journal, and Teaching Music. He has served the National Association for Music Education, Alabama Music Educators Association, Alabama State Education Department, and locally situated arts and arts advocacy groups in multiple leadership roles.
Administrative Assistant: Selena Woodruff
Selena was born in Berlin, Germany to Debbie Walsh-Heymann, a native Canadian, and Roger Heymann, a native German. When she was 8 months old, they moved to Stuttgart, Germany with Mercedes. In 1996, when Selena was 5, Mercedes opened it’s plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and the family immigrated to the United States. What was supposed to be a 3 year stay, turned into growing up in Tuscaloosa when her parents divorced a year after moving to Tuscaloosa and Selena and her sister, Alissa, stayed in America with their mother.
In 2000, Roger moved back to Stuttgart. Selena spent her summers touring Europe with her father including Venice, Italy; Pisa, Italy; Croatia; Barcelona, Spain; and Austria. She also spent a lot of time visiting her mother’s family in Canada.
In 2009, Selena graduated from Northridge High School in Tuscaloosa, Al. She attended the University of Alabama for 2 years, but was unable to finish her degree.
When she was 18, her mother, Debbie, applied for American Citizenship and, as Alissa was under 18, they both got it, giving Alissa tri-citizenship. Selena is still working with the German Government to get her tri-citizenship.
In December of 2011, Selena gave birth to her oldest daughter, Nora Lynn. She married Nora’s father, Air Force Staff Sargent Mark Woodruff, two years later on May 18, 2013 and moved to Minot AFB, North Dakota. In November of 2014, the couple welcomed their youngest daughter, Maya Jane to the family.
Due to struggles with depression, Selena moved back to Tuscaloosa in Fall of 2017 with her children, dog, and two cats.
Selena joined UUCT at age 12 and started working in the nursery at age 16. When she was 21 she took the job as Administrative Assistant for the first time, leaving the position to move to ND. When she came back in 2017, the previous DRE had just left, and she applied to the join Administrative Assistant/Coordinator of Religious Education Position. She defines her religious views as “Who knows? Just be the best you possible. It’ll either work out or it won’t.” Selena is a strong advocate for equal rights for all and revamping the immigration system from the broken mess it is currently.