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In memory of Orlanda R. Brugnola (1946-2016)

Posted By Michelle Pederson, Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Updated: Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Rev. Dr. Orlanda Brugnola died on February 24, 2016 at the age of 69.


Orlanda was born on April 1, 1946 to Anthony Brugnola and Kathrine Schwellenbach. She received a Bachelor of Arts from The University of California, Berkeley in 1966, and a Master of Divinity from Starr King School for the Ministry in 1979. She earned certification in mediation and conflict resolution, and in art therapy, and was registered as an art therapist by the American Expressive Therapy Association in 1989. In 1998, Orlanda received a Master of Fine Art in Painting from the City University of New York, and in 2014, a Doctor of Ministry from New York Theological Seminary.


Rev. Brugnola was ordained to the ministry in 1979 by the First Unitarian Church of Berkeley, CA. She served for over thirty years as a community minister. She was employed as a Unitarian Universalist Chaplain at Columbia University from 1988 to 2011; Chaplain for the Arts at Columbia University from 1989 to 1996; and Unitarian Universalist Chaplain at Union Theological Seminary from 2009 to 2011.  From 1981 to 2016, she worked as an Adjunct Assistant Professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice (City University of New York), and taught Philosophy and Eastern and Western Religions. Through John Jay, she taught philosophy at both Rikers Island and a New York residential drug treatment program. Additionally, Orlanda spent several years teaching ministerial formation and conflict resolution courses for students at Skidmore College, Union Theological Seminary, and Meadville Lombard Theological School.


Rev. Brugnola was called to serve as assistant minister to the First Unitarian Congregation Society of Brooklyn, NY in 1981. Between 1981 and 2009, she was affiliated with and held a variety of ministerial positions at First Unitarian Church of Brooklyn. She was voted Chaplain Emerita of First Unitarian Brooklyn in 2009. She went on to hold interim ministries at the UU Fellowship of Poughkeepsie, NY from 2009 to 2011; the UU Congregation of Hudson Valley, NY from 2011 to 2012; and the UU Congregation of Queens, NY from 2013 to 2014. In 2013, she was named Affiliate Minister to the Community Church of New York, and in 2014, she was named Interim Church Administrator. She held both positions until her death.


Rev. Brugnola worked tirelessly to dismantle racism and oppression within the world. From 1991 to 2016, she sat on the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Metro New York District Anti-Racism and Diversity Committee (formally the Racial Concerns Committee), and from 1997 to 2016 she served as an active Board Member of the Clinton Association for a Renewed Environment, an organization that seeks to create affordable housing in New York City.  She served as co-vice president of Diverse, Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries (DRUUMM) from 2013 to 2015. Committed to the betterment of the denomination, Orlanda served on the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Commission on Appraisal from 2003 to 2009, and the UUA Board of Review from 2013 to 2016.


Orlanda was a strong supporter of interfaith dialogue and interreligious peace. She planned many conferences and programs to encourage such dialogue, including the Parliament of the World’s Religions. She served as President of the Institute for the Study of Genocide for nineteen years; and was a longtime supporter of both the International Association of Liberal Religious Women and the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF).  She sat on the board of the IARF U.S. Chapter, and organized workshops for the International IARF Congress.


A talented studio artist, Orlanda exhibited photographs, paintings, drawings and sculpture in New York, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts.  She created art for most of her life, and her works were displayed in many group shows and over nine solo shows.  Orlanda had over twenty years of curatorial experience. Her aptitude and passion for the arts led her to spend over twenty years serving on the Board of Directors of the American Festival of Microtonal Music, and six years serving as President of the Society for the Arts, Religion and Contemporary Culture.


Orlanda was honored throughout her life for her many contributions to the ministry, academia, social justice, and the arts. She was elected fellow of the Society for the Arts and Religion & Contemporary Culture in 1993, and she was elected as the Artist-in-Residence for the Henry Street Settlement in 1999-2000 and 2001-2002. John Jay College of Criminal Justice awarded Orlanda with a Performance Award for Teaching Faculty in 1999; and a recognition for twenty five years of teaching at the college in 2006. She received a recognition of outstanding service from the International Association for Religious Freedom, U.S, Chapter, in 2006, and was the recipient of the Caribbean America Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc., Business Visionary Award in 2008.


To Orlanda, dear friend Rev. Dr. Hope Johnson writes:


My Friend, you became one of my Teachers, and then became one of my Students, while still being one of my Mentors, and of course always my Colleague. You became one of my Sisters. (And did I remember to say Teacher???)  It was really complicated, but nothing was ever easy, or simple, or uncomplicated with you Orlanda: Minister, Shaman, Chaplain, Family....


Of Orlanda, dear friend Dr. Janice Marie Johnson writes:


Our world lost a bright light, one whose deeds spoke of a generosity of spirit that knew no bounds. Orlanda has been a source not only of inspiration, but indeed of transformation. A woman of many gifts, she had an extraordinary understanding of the complexity of the human condition.


She defined and demanded excellence. Her gentle yet sharp eyes and her patient yet unyielding ears were meant to bring confidence and surety. Orlanda hoped to shepherd us to our best selves.


Her commitment to persons of all ages, from all walks of life and -- of diverse abilities -- touched us in ways that we are just beginning to comprehend. We recognized the generosity of spirit, joy, love, and hope that she gave those with whom she came in contact. She embraced life and she would want us to do likewise. Orlanda will live on through the many hearts and minds whose lives she touched. Our lives will reflect her legacy.


A memorial service will be held on Sunday, April 17, 2016 at 3:30 pm at The Community Church of New York Unitarian Universalist.


Notes of condolences can be sent In Care Of Rev. Bruce Southworth, The Community Church of New York Unitarian Universalist, 40 East 35th Street New York, NY 10016.


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