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In Memory of . . . Frederick E. Gillis (1940-2013)

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, August 07, 2013

The Rev. Frederick Ellsworth Gillis died on July 14, 2013 at the age of 72. Rev. Gillis was born in Cambridge, MA on December 12, 1940 to Amy (Mann) and Raymond Gillis. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science from Tufts University in 1962. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Sacred Theology from Harvard Divinity School in 1965.

Rev. Gillis was ordained at the Channing Unitarian Church in Rockland, MA on April 24, 1966 where he also served as its minister from 1965-1969. He went on to serve as minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada from 1969-1977; and the Westminster Unitarian Church of East Greenwich, RI from 1977-2003. He then served as interim minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Rutland, VT from 2003-2004; and the Peterborough Unitarian Universalist Church of Peterborough, NH from 2005-2006. He was honored with the title of Minister Emeritus of the Westminster Unitarian Church of East Greenwich, RI in 2003. Rev. Gillis officially retired from ministry in 2006.

Rev. Gillis faithfully served both his denomination and his community. He served as Chair of the Fair Housing and Human Rights Association in Rockland, MA from 1966-1967; and as a board member (1971-1973) and then as the Vice President (1972-1973) of the Metro Area Family Planning Association in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He also served on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Unitarian Council from 1974-1977; and was an active (and founding) member of the Unitarian Universalist liturgical group, the Congregation of Abraxas from 1975-1988. From 1978-1982, Rev. Gillis served on the UUA Commission on Common Worship; as well the Board (1979-1982), Vice President (1979), and President (1980-1983) of the Memorial Society of Rhode Island. Later, he was elected Treasurer (1968), Vice President (1986-1988), and President (1988-1989) of the Ballou Channing Chapter of the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association (UUMA); and served on the Executive Board of the UUMA at large from 1989-1991.

With a passion for music – especially organs and organ music – he designed and built his own organ, and helped to design and build the organ at the Westminster Church in East Greenwich, RI. He loved the outdoors and could often be found hiking, kayaking and bird watching on camping trips with his family in Newark Pond, VT.

Rev. Gillis was a 42-year member (as well as a "saint”) of the Greenfield Group: the oldest Unitarian Universalist study group in North America.

Rev. Gillis is survived by his wife, Judy Stewart Gillis; former wife, Kate Gillis; son Andrew Gillis and wife, Karen; son Duncan Gillis and wife, Vanessa; stepdaughter, Tracy Terry and husband, Marc; stepdaughter, Gillian Edeus and husband, Leif; stepdaughter, Erin Stewart and husband, Jeff; and grandchildren, Meghan, Bailey, Fiona, Lizzie, Caroline, Maddy, Matthew, Cate, Philip, and Henry.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, September 14 at 2:00 p.m. at the Westminster Unitarian Church, 119 Kenyon Ave., East Greenwich, RI 02818.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the UUA Living Tradition Fund, P.O. Box 843154, Boston, MA, 02284; or to Lewy Body Research, MGH Development Office, Attn: Shawn Fitzgibbons, 165 Cambridge St., Suite 600, Boston, MA.

Notes of condolence may be sent to Judy Gillis at 6 Wildemere Terrace, Concord, NH 03301; or via email at

May the Love which overcomes all differences,

which heals all wounds,

which puts to flight all fears,

which reconciles all who are separated,

be in us and among us

now and always.

- The Rev. Frederick E. Gills

Reading #694, Singing the Living Tradition

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