A positive path for spiritual living


Unity of the Valley Spiritual Center – Leadership History

  • Rev. Laurie Brandt, Minister, February 2017 through the Present
  • August 2015 through February 1, 2017 ~ Transitional Period
  • Barbara Crist, L.U.T., Spiritual Leader, August 2014 through July 2015
  • Rev. Sher McNeal, Transitional Minister, November 2013 through May 2014
  • Rev. Audrey Peterson, Founding Minister, February 1990 through October 2013


Rev. Laurie Brandt, Minister, February 2017 through the Present

During our transition period, Rev. Laurie Brandt spoke eight times as a guest speaker. Although she was leading another Unity center, she lives very near Unity of the Valley, and finally we asked if she wanted to apply for our ministerial position. Upon much reflection, she did, and the rest (they say) is history. She jumped right in and has already presided over a new members' dinner, attended her first Board meeting, and given messages. We look forward to new activities and classes and to growing our Center with her help!


Unity of the Valley, August 2015 through February of 2017

From the fall of 2015 through spring of 2016, Unity of the Valley undertook a program developed by Unity Worldwide Ministries for congregations in transition between ministers. Rev. Marty Newman, Unity Consultant for the Great Lakes Region, led our Center in this process designed to strengthen our community and prepare us for new leadership.

The program involved:

  • Training for the Board of Trustees
  • Studying the book I of the Storm to help us deal harmoniously with conflict
  • Honoring Our Past and Creating Our Future
  • Clarifying and rewriting if necessary our Vision, Mission, and Core Values
  • Identifying our “sacred cows” and eliminating those that no longer seem right for us
  • Preparing our Search Team for the ministerial search

We had a service coordinator and a team that hired Sunday speakers and workshop leaders. We were fortunate to obtain many inspiring speakers (including Rev. Laurie Brandt, who eventually became our new minister).

During this period, we were also fortunate to continue to have an excellent music director, a choir, a youth program director and teachers, sound, slide, and camera volunteers, platform leaders, two prayer chaplain directors and four additional prayer chaplains, plus greeters and ushers. Along with these stalwarts, we had, and still have, a hospitality coordinator and other mainstay volunteers (e.g., kitchen, social, bookstore, building maintenance . . .).

Our Many Paths Bookstore and Gifts had a stellar manager who also led our interior design team in updating our building. Our bookstore was redesigned, and the manager stepped down at the end of this period, passing her duties to another excellent volunteer. A communications coordinator/office administrator continued to be in charge of the office and handled our communications, and we also had a bookkeeper and a webmaster, who continue in those roles as of February 2017.

Our Board, which carried a lot of water during this period, consisted of people with years of experience in Unity who represented various aspects of the organization.

In short, our Center continued to hum along, and we had much to offer our new minister/spiritual leader when she took the position in February of 2017.


Barbara Crist, L.U.T., Spiritual Leader, August 2014 through July 2015

Barbara Crist began attending Unity of the Valley in 1994 and became a member in 1996. Throughout the years, she volunteered in many positions, including Uniteen leader, Y.O.U. sponsor, and Platform Assistant for Sunday services. From 2007 to 2011, she served as the Prayer Chaplain Director and became a Licensed Unity Teacher (L.U.T.) in 2009.

Her husband John Crist was also an active member. He served on the Board for many years and volunteered on the sound and slide teams. Her sons Ben and Nick grew up in Unity and were involved in Unity youth groups.

In June and July 2014, Barbara led Sunday services for Unity of the Valley, and then in August of 2014, she accepted the position of Spiritual Leader and served in that capacity until August of 2015.


Rev. Sher McNeal, Transitional Minister, November 2013 through May 2014 

Rev. Sher McNeal was a transitional minister for Unity of the Valley from November, 2013 through May, 2014.

With 10 years’ experience as a minister, Rev. Sher was ordained by the Centers for Spiritual Living in the same New Thought tradition as Unity. She spent five years at Unity Minneapolis—two years as a staff minister and volunteer coordinator, and three as executive director. Previously, she had been senior minister at Concordia Church in Rhode Island. She holds a Masters in Divinity, a Masters in Psychology, and an MBA.

Rev. Sher led us through the difficult period of transition after our founding minister retired after 23 years. She helped us take a hard look at ourselves and make necessary structural changes.


Rev. Audrey Peterson, Founding Minister, February 1990 through October 2013

Written by Audrey, October 27, 2013

Unity of the Valley began on February 19, 1990, as an outreach of Unity South Church. It was a dream in someone’s heart to have a Unity ministry south of the river. That someone was my mentor and dear friend, Rev. Phil Laporte. He handed the dream to me and it began to take form with the help of dedicated people, some of whom are still with us today.

Our first meeting took place in the back of a local restaurant. From there, we moved to the lower level of a bank on Nicollet Ave. and County Rd 42. After that, it was Children’s World Learning Center behind Cobblestone Court. Burnsville City Hall was next, with windows and a view, but storage was almost non-existent so supplies had to be carried in from our cars. At that point, we decided it was time to find a place of our own and one was found in Apple Valley on Galaxie Ave. This storefront space was delightful, but the rent went up considerably and we decided to move on. Next was an office/warehouse space on East Hwy. 13 and County Rd. 11. It was a good place for us, but the desire remained for a place that would really be our own. In March of 2001, we purchased this building [4011 W. Hwy 13] and proceeded almost immediately to adapt it to our needs. Walls came down and new spaces were revealed. Classrooms were made for children and adults, and gradually it took on a new look--that of a spiritual center. And it began to feel like home.

It’s been 23 years since we began. As a spiritual family, we have worked together, prayed together, and have found joy in just being with one another. I am so proud of our center and all we have accomplished, but there is much more to be done.  I truly feel we are on the threshold of a new chapter in the life of this ministry. I encourage you to renew your commitment to your spiritual home. It’s time to recreate the vibrant energy we had when we began this journey together. You can do it-- I have the utmost faith in you that you will help further the dream.

As I take leave of you, I would like to say a huge thank you to our dedicated Board of Trustees who have set the high consciousness of peace, love, and prosperity for our spiritual home.

Many thanks also to:

  • Our Prayer Chaplain Ministry and the co-directors, Jeff Scheffler and Peggy Henrikson, for their prayers and the loving service they give.
  • The leaders of our youth: Pam Carlson, Jennifer Stevens, Katherine Belisle, and all their assistants
  • Elle Allen, our Office Administrator/Communications Coordinator, who is also in training to become a Licensed Unity Teacher
  • Kathy Meister, our competent Bookkeeper/Accountant
  • Jimmy Steffen, our Music Director, who continues to bless us with his remarkable talent and energy
  • The Joyful Singers who make us happy with their songs
  • Bookstore Managers Mike Ameli and Jean Blazek and their efficient helpers
  • All the team leaders and team members. What you do is priceless. Your energies make our center a success!

Time and space limit my thank you’s, but I want you all to know how grateful I am for all the work that goes on here, visibly and behind the scenes. I give thanks for you, everyone.

This has been an incredible journey we have taken together. From the very beginning, we have followed the guidance of Spirit. I encourage you to keep doing that and then be open to all the wonders that await you.

In Love and Unity,