The Rev. Dr. Gordon Butler "Bucky” McKeeman died on December 18th, 2013 at the age of 93.
Gordon was born in Lynn, MA, on September 12th,
1920 to William Neil and Lena Mabel (Goodridge) McKeeman. He graduated
from Lynn English High School in 1938, and from Salem State College,
with a B. S. in Education, in 1942.
went on to receive his Masters Degree in 1945 from the Universalist
School of Religion at Tufts University. In 1969, he earned an Honorary
Doctorate from Meadville Lombard Theological School.
to the Universalist ministry in 1945, Rev. McKeeman served All Souls
Universalist Church of Worcester, MA from 1944 - 1950, First Parish
Universalist Church of Stoughton, MA from 1950 - 1955, St. Paul’s Church
of Palmer, MA from 1955 - 1961, and the Unitarian Universalist Church
of Akron, OH from 1961 - 1983. In 1984, he was named Minister Emeritus
of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Akron, OH. In
1983, he accepted the invitation to serve as the President of Starr
King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, CA, and he did so faithfully
until 1988. His influence on the nature and shape of Unitarian
Universalist ministry endures.
McKeeman engaged civic life with zeal. He held various offices on the
Unity Community Council, served as a Board member for the Akron Rotary
Club, founded the Fair Housing Contact Service, and founded the Planned
Parenthood Association of Akron OH. He was also an adjunct faculty
member at the University of Akron, OH.
invested in and committed to the denomination, Rev. McKeeman served as
Vice President of the Massachusetts Universalist Convention, and
President of the Massachusetts Universalist Ministers’ Association.
Along with his wife, Phyllis, he served as Youth Leader at Ferry Beach.
Additionally, he was the President of the Ohio-Meadville District, Vice
President and President of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee,
and Vice Moderator of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Board of
Trustees. Additionally, he ran for Presidency of the Unitarian
Universalist Association. Rev. McKeeman
received the Angus H. MacLean Award from the Unitarian Universalist
Association in 1982, and was the Berry Street Conference Essayist in
1993. Together with his wife Phyllis, he was awarded the UUA
Distinguished Service Award in 1993.
McKeeman placed tremendous value on lay ministry. The Ohio Meadville
District’s Commissioned Lay Leader program is an outgrowth of his
grounding in Universalism and his understanding regarding the importance
of strong lay leadership and the need for leadership that emerges from
His unceasing commitment to Universalism led to his being a charter member of The Humiliati (the humble ones).
The group, formed in 1945, "stressed that human beings are impelled,
not compelled, by the power of God to fulfill the good potential of
their lives. The impulse toward wholeness in humanity is predisposed to
good, though it can be weakened or distorted by chaos and conflict.
Authentic worship keeps it alive and restores its integrity.” By the
time The Humiliati disbanded in 1954, Rev. McKeeman was elected as their
lifetime Abbot. During the last few years of his life, Rev. McKeeman
wistfully reflected upon being the last living member of The Humilati.
McKeeman belonged to the ministerial study group, The Fraters of the
Wayside Inn. The group was founded by Universalist ministers in 1903 and
succeeding the 1961 merger of Universalism and Unitarianism, expanded
to include individuals ordained in the Unitarian ministry as well as
those ordained in the new denomination. Rev. McKeeman advocated for the
election of women into the group; in 1989, The Fraters’ membership
expanded to include women. The Fraters of Wayside Inn was very important
to Rev. McKeeman, and into the last few years of his life he treasured
mementos and keepsakes he gathered during his years with the group.
Rev. McKeeman’s passion for ministry impacted innumerable lives. In the beloved meditation manual Out of the Ordinary: Meditations, he wrote:
a quality of relationship between and among
that beckons forth hidden possibilities.
Inviting people into deeper, more constant
more reverent relationship with the world
and with one another.
Carrying forward a long heritage of hope and
liberation that has dignified and informed
the human venture over many centuries.
Being present with, to, and for others
in their terrors and torments
in their grief, misery and pain.
Knowing that those feelings
are our feelings, too.
Celebrating the triumphs of the human spirit
the miracles of birth and life
the wonders of devotion and sacrifice.
Witnessing to life-enhancing values
speaking truth to power
standing for human dignity and equity
for compassion and aspiration.
Believing in life in the presence of death
struggling for human responsibility
against principalities and structures
that ignore humaneness and become
instruments of death.
It is all these and much, much more than all of
them, present in
It is speaking and living the highest we know
and living with the knowledge that it is
never as deep, or as wide
or a high as we wish.
Whenever there is a meeting
that summons us to our better selves, wherever
our lostness is found
our fragments are united
or our wounds begin healing
our spines stiffen and
our muscles grow strong for the task
There is ministry.
is survived by his loving wife of 69 years, Phyllis; sons, Bruce,
Glenn, and Randall; four grandchildren; and sister, Gloria King. Gordon
was preceded in death by his parents.
lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Unitarian
Universalist Service Committee or to the charity of donor's choice. To
share a special memory or condolence, please visit http://www.ranfranzandvinefh.com/obits/obituary.php?id=417633
are lovers, we say Yes to each other. Yes to life—to more and more of
life—to its brevity, its grief, its disappointments. To its
possibilities, its magnificence, its glory. We quarrel—because we
glimpse further possibilities, the non-sense—and wish to lay claim to
it. We remember death, and that life is brief, and that the time for
love is now and more is possible. One more step toward the holy. It is
to know the peace that passes understanding and that there is no
peace. It is to love others as they are, warts and all, and to believe
that more is possible, and to bespeak that wanting. It is to pray "Give
us this day our daily bread….” and to know that we do not live by bread
alone. It is to remember death, and to love life and to accept them
both as holy.”
The Reverend Gordon Butler "Bucky” McKeeman, Berry Street Lecture, 1993