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About Dan Harper

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Professionally, I'm Associate Minister of Religious Education at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto, California (UUCPA). Palo Alto is in the heart of Silicon Valley, a few miles away from the headquarters of Google, Apple, and other Big Tech firms. As a suburban congregation, we try to address the unsustainable aspects of Silicon Valley life — we house people who are homeless each September and for six weeks in the winter; we promote ecological sustainability on our campus with onsite native plants gardens, solar panels, and rain barrels; perhaps most importantly, we raise our children and teens to make the world a better place.

Over the course of my career, my professional interests have included change management in congregations, helping congregations heal from previous clergy misconduct, congregational administration, religious education, size transitions in congregations. For professional qualifications and experience, please see my CV. I'm always available to officiate at rites of passage for members and friends of UUCPA, and may have limited availability for other religious liberals; please see the Rites of passage page for more information. I'm a white cisgender male using he-him pronouns; my cultural identity is New England Yankee who grew up speaking Eastern New England dialect (commonly but incorrectly called a "Boston accent").

I'm passionate about liberal religion, because I feel it offers deep spiritual resources for individuals, as well as a vision for "an earth made fair and all her people one." I'm passionate about liberal religious communities — our congregations — because they're great places to raise kids, because they offer respite from a troubled world and a vision of hope for the future, and because they allow us to combine our individual efforts for social justice into powerful collective action.

Five people with video equipment in an otherwise empty worship space. From let to right, a minister in a preaching robe at a pulpit; a person sitting in front of a tripod facing the minister; a person standing with their back to the camera; a tall person (Dan) standing at a tripod holding a videocamera; a person with headphones sitting at a table

With the livestreaming crew on March 15, 2020, the first Sunday of lockdown. I'm operating the camera, second from right; second from left, our back-up videographer used a cell phone to stream direct to Zoom. This photo was taken by the person running the audio board. During lockdown, we kept improving our video services: within a month I converted an unused classroom to a video studio for better audio quality, and within a year we returned to the main worship space using three cameras and improved audio. One of the bright spots of the pandemic was that I got to work with a team of talented lay people as we learned how to produce excellent online worship services.


I live with my partner of many years, Carol Steinfeld, who is a writer specializing in ecological pollution prevention issues, particularly water and wastewater. Carol and I live in San Mateo, California, an ethnically diverse city. We rent the former caretaker's cottage in a cemetery that dates back to 1885 — and yes, we've heard all the jokes about living next to a cemetery, like: "The neighbors must be quiet."

Before I became a minister, I worked as warehouse help, sculptor's apprentice, lumber salesperson, carpenter, clerk in a health food store, and director of religious education.

My non-professional interests include hiking and birding. I'm a certified California Naturalist, and volunteer with a weeklong ecojustice daycamp for kids. I do quite a bit of recreational reading and writing. I'm a Sacred Harp singer and, as COVID allows, help organize local singings.

Carol standing on a trail that leads through California coastal scrub, standing next to a tall flower with several large umbel-shaped blossoms

On a recent hike near San Mateo, Carol and I came across this five foot high Cow Parsnip (Heracleum maximum).