My Story

I was born Roger Bertsch in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1962. My father was in a family business which he left shortly after I was born to pursue his true calling: teaching choral music in a junior high and eventually in a senior high as well. My mom was a nurse who took a time-out from nursing during the years of my and my four siblings’ childhood to run our household.

One of the most significant aspects of my childhood was my religious upbringing in the Fountain Street Church. Fountain Street Church is a liberal, non-denominational church which had around 2,000 members when I was a kid. During high school, I was president of the youth group and worked as a custodian at the church. Church was the center of our family life and the center of my social life in high school.

I left Grand Rapids in 1981 for Bowdoin College in Brunswick, ME. One of the key experiences of my life was studying abroad in Sri Lanka, where I studied Buddhism and Hinduism. This experience tapped into my early Sunday School exposure to world religions, and it fueled my passion to learn about other religions.

Jaffna and the Jaffna Peninsula, Sri Lanka | Audley Travel

One day in Sri Lanka, I was walking in the little courtyard between the refugee camp where I was living and the temple with a guy who translated for me. We ran into the temple priest and stopped to chat. At some point, seemingly out of the blue, the priest grabbed my hands, looked deeply into my eyes and said something. The translation: “I sense the soul of a priest in you.” No, I thought, my plan was to study religion, not do religion! Right! Right? 

Thus began a series of doubts, questions, tentative steps forward and backward and forward again until I was ordained seven years later. That moment in the space between the refugee camp and the temple was an important marker on the journey toward my call to ministry.  

Amy Holzhausen and I got married September 1988. We met when I arrived at the University of Chicago Divinity School three years earlier—she was a third year Disciples of Christ ministry student. We combined our names when we got married: Bertsch + Holzhausen = Bertschausen. Marrying Amy is the best thing I’ve ever done.

We lived in Columbus, Indiana, during our first year of marriage. I worked full-time as a chaplain at a drug and alcohol treatment center and quarter-time as the first minister of the UU Fellowship of Bartholomew County (now UU Congregation of Columbus, IN).

In May 1990, I was ordained as a UU minister by the Nantucket church. In October 1990, I became the minister of the Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Appleton, Wisconsin.

I was the first settled minister in the history of the Fox Valley UU Fellowship. The Fellowship had a a hundred members when I arrived. Amy and I planned to be in Appleton for five to seven years. Then it would be her career’s turn.

Through mutual decision, the five to seven years stretched into a few months short of twenty-five years. The hundred members grew into a congregation of 700 members. Amy and I both like the Midwest (she also grew up in Michigan) and found Appleton overall to be a good place to live. Amy found meaningful work as a hospital, hospice, and nursing home chaplain and then for ten years as the Executive Director of the Samaritan Counseling Center, a nonprofit, full-service mental health agency that specializes in integrating spirituality.

Laughing after a service

In 2014, with both of our kids in college or graduate school, Amy accepted the position of Executive Director of Care and Counseling in St. Louis, Missouri. I followed Amy to St. Louis nine months later.

I spent my first year in St. Louis focusing on settling our household and part-time work as a church governance consultant through Unity Consulting, a consulting business of Unity Church-Unitarian in St. Paul, MN. 

In May 2016, I became Executive Director of the Unitarian Universalist Partner Church Council (UUPCC). I had developed a passion for our global U/U faith through the Fox Valley UU Fellowship’s partnerships in Transylvania and the Philippines. This work has both deepened and widened my UU faith as I have interacted with Unitarians/Universalists from around the world.

In early 2020, I found myself increasingly missing the broad range of parish ministry. I also had found an area of my consulting work that particularly captured my interest: ministerial transition. This led me to feel called to the work of transitional ministry. In spite of the onset of the pandemic, I left the UUPCC and became the Interim Minister of First Unitarian Society of Madison, Wisconsin, a congregation of a little more than 1,000 members.

My family with our son, Ian, at his law school graduation (2018)

The focal point of Amy’s and my life together is our family. My roles as husband, father and now grandfather are the most important in my life.

Our daughter Hattie and her husband Rev. Nic Cable live in Columbus, IN. Hattie is an attorney with Indiana’s Child Protective Services. Nic is the minister of the UU Congregation of Columbus, IN (the congregation I served in 1988-89!). Amy and I joyfully became grandparents on New Year’s Day 2019 when Holiday was born, with us supporting Hattie and Nic through labor and delivery. Second granddaughter Cedar arrived in March 2022. Our son Ian is a litigation attorney in Albuquerque where his significant other Dr. Kari Rezac is a resident at the University of New Mexico Hospital.