The UUMA Board and staff offer our condolences to the family and colleagues of the Rev. Gregory “Greg” James Martin, who died on February 12, 2017 at the age of 58.
Greg was born on April 15, 1958 to parents Jim and Eleanor. He grew up in rural Southwestern Michigan, where he began his “life-long love affair with the woods, forests, lakes, rivers, farms, towns and cities of the Great Lakes State,” as he put it. When he would later reflect upon his spiritual journey toward Unitarian Universalism, he declared that his first step came at the age of thirteen when among his mother’s books he discovered his “companion and guide for life”—Walden by Henry David Thoreau.
Raised in the United Methodist Church, Greg had sensed by his senior year of high school that he would answer a call to ministry. He attended Taylor University in Upland, IN, majoring in political science and receiving a Bachelor of Arts in 1980. Greg then spent some time interning on Capitol Hill before attending Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC, from which he received his Master of Divinity in 1984.
Rev. Martin became a Deacon of the United Methodist Church in June of 1982 and was ordained an Elder in 1987. After completing a “life changing” internship in campus ministry at Virginia Tech, Rev. Martin felt a strong calling to return to his Michigan roots. Over the next 28 years of his Methodist ministry he served a variety of congregations—from rural, to small town, to urban—and became especially noted for his work in higher education communities.
By 2010, however, Rev. Martin began to feel restless, no longer fully at home in his faith tradition. At the urging of his friend the Rev. Jay Leach, he began to pursue a call towards Unitarian Universalist ministry. In 2013 Rev. Martin joined the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Southwest Michigan as a Consulting Minister. Finally, on August 1, 2015, Rev. Martin answered the call to serve at the Miami Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Dayton, OH. He ministered to the congregation for a year and half, serving with passion, wisdom, and joy.
Greg also had a full and active life outside of his ministry. A dedicated father who delighted in keeping his home filled with song, dance, games, and cookies, Greg came out to his family when his daughters were grown. His primary leisure activities were reading, writing poetry, weight-training, and cycling; he completed many long bike rides over the years, including a coast-to-coast ride when he was seventeen. Greg also enjoyed art and architecture, and held a lifelong interest in politics—being a strong advocate for LGBTQ rights, environmentalism, and the labor union movement. Finally, he belonged to the Henry David Thoreau Society, which challenges its members and all people to “live a deliberate, considered life.”
Indeed, Greg once reflected that “… there seems to be no higher calling than helping people explore the mystery and wonder at the source of our existence, guiding us to be fully integrated into the life and rhythms of the planet of which we are a part.”
Rev. Martin is survived by daughters Katherine and Alexis, parents Jim and Eleanor, and former wife the Rev. Dr. Jennifer Browne.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Miami Valley UU Fellowship and the American Civil Liberties Union.
A memorial service took place on Saturday, February 18, 2017 at Miami Valley UU Fellowship, 8690 Yankee St (Washington Township), Dayton, OH 45458; a second service was held on Sunday, February 20, 2017 at Pokagon United Methodist Church, 31393 Kansas St, Dowagiac, MI 49047.
Notes of condolence can be sent to Katherine Martin-Browne at 5200 S. Ellis Ave, Apt 601, Chicago, IL 60615, or at firstname.lastname@example.org; to Alexis Martin-Browne at 5386 Pershing Ave, Apt 508, St. Louis, MO 63112, or at email@example.com; and to Jim and Eleanor Martin at 30485 Pokagon Highway, Dowagiac, MI 49047.