The Rev. Dr. Marjorie Newlin Leaming died peacefully at her home in Santa Paula, California, on March 19, 2010. She was 95 years old. Rev. Leaming was born on January 22, 1915, to Leo and Zillah (Stevens) Newlin in Hutsonville, Illinois. She graduated from Hutsonville High School in 1932 and Wabash Brown’s College of Commerce in Terre Haute, Indiana in 1936. She attended the University of Tulsa, Oklahoma, from 1946-1948 and the University of Chicago Divinity School from 1948-1951, receiving her Master of Arts in Religious Education in 1956. Rev. Leaming earned her Bachelor of Divinity Degree in 1967 from the Meadville Lombard Theological School at the University of Chicago.
Reverend Leaming was ordained at the Unitarian Community Church in Santa Monica in 1967 where she served as Minister of Education from 1966 to 1968. In 1969 she was called to the Universalist Unitarian Church of Santa Paula, California, and served until her retirement in 1985 when the congregation named her Minister Emerita. In the same year she was honored with a Doctor of Divinity degree from Meadville Lombard School of Divinity. Prior to her ordination, she served as Religious Education Director at Oaklandon Universalist Church and All Souls Unitarian Church both in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Rev. Leaming served on the Executive Committee of the UU Ministers’ Association and as its West Coast Conference President. She was vice president of the Meadville Lombard Alumni Association and in the 1960’s, served on the Midwestern UU Conference. She was a member of many community organizations that reflected her interest in and concern for civil rights, social justice, peace, and especially the status of women in the ministry. In 1974 she was a founding member of the Unitarian Universalist Ministerial Sisterhood and took an active leadership role until the early 1990s.
When the UU Women's Federation surveyed the status of women in UU ministry in 1974, just 40 of 750 ministers were women and only 5 had pulpits of their own. Rev. Leaming was one of these. According to her friend and colleague, Carolyn Price, "Marjorie was one of a kind. Her fierce commitment to the UU ministry and to seeing that the worth of women clergy was recognized demanded every bit of her brilliant mind and fiery spirit. To this day, the women who comprise more than half of our current UU professional ministry owe Marjorie and her generation of UU women clergy, as well as the men who stood by their sides, a debt of gratitude.”
Memorial contributions may be made to the Marjorie Newlin Leaming Scholarship, Meadville Lombard Theological School, 5701 South Woodlawn Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60637 or the Marjorie Newlin Leaming Capital Fund, Universalist Unitarian Church, 740 Main Street, Santa Paula, California 93060-2736.
Rev. Leaming is survived by two nieces, Mary Lucile Clifton Schultz of Dana Point, CA, and Marjorie May Clifton of Sherman Oaks, CA; three grandnieces; and one grandnephew. Letters of condolence may be sent to Mary Schultz, 11 Porto Cervo, Dana Point, CA 92629.
A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. on May 1, 2010 at the Universalist Unitarian Church of Santa Paula, 740 East Main Street, Santa Paula, CA 93060-2736. The Reverends Carolyn Price, Audrey Vincent, and Bets Wienecke will officiate.