The Rev. Donald “Don” William McKinney died on October 1, 2017 at the age of 90.
Don was born on June 9, 1927 in Manchester, NH to parents Victoria R. and William L. McKinney. In part because his father was himself a Unitarian minister, Don grew up very active in the church. He participated in religious education and youth groups at the First Congregational Society, Unitarian of Bridgewater, MA (now First Parish Bridgewater Unitarian Universalist Church)—where he would later be ordained. Don served in the U.S. Army for a year after high school, then attended Harvard College on the G.I. Bill, graduating in 1949 with a Bachelor of Arts in Social Relations. Don then earned his Bachelor of Sacred Theology from Harvard Divinity School in 1952.
Rev. McKinney was ordained on June 8, 1952 by the Bridgewater congregation. He first served as Assistant Minister at the First Unitarian Congregational Society in Brooklyn, NY from 1952 to 1957, during which time he married his beloved wife Julie. In 1957 he became the senior minister of the Brooklyn congregation. Don ministered to his church for almost 40 years, ever a strong advocate for civil rights and responsible action. Upon his retirement in 1992, the First Unitarian Congregational Society in Brooklyn named Rev. McKinney their Minister Emeritus.
In addition to his parish ministry, Rev. McKinney was very active in denominational and community organizations. He served for a time as President of the Middle Atlantic States Branch of the Unitarian Ministers’ Association. Additionally he was a member of the UUA’s Budget Committee and UN Advisory Committee, and of the UU Service Committee. Rev. McKinney also chaired his district’s Committee on Social Responsibility, and in 1965 chaired the Skinner Sermon Award Committee.
Don served as president of Concern for Dying, a right-to-die organization which he was instrumental in creating. He also sat for a time on the Planned Parenthood Committee of Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Board of New York’s Civil Liberties Union, the board of Brooklyn Heights Youth Center, and the advisory board of the Urban League of Brooklyn. Finally he served on the long range planning committee and board of Long Island’s Southold Free Library, and later was a member of the resident health committee at Peconic Landing.
In his spare time, Don loved to travel and to attend the theatre. He also enjoyed gardening, as well as watching TV news—especially on MSNBC. And he would often visit friends and neighbors in the health center at Peconic Landing.
Writing in 1966, 14 years into his ministry at the Brooklyn church, Rev. McKinney offered the following reflection on their shared endeavor:
Minister and congregation together accept it to be their task to raise and probe life’s deepest questions, to be reinforced in cherished traditions and shared convictions, to face and wrestle with unpleasant and difficult realities in themselves and the larger community… [T]he liberal church must sound the rallying call for free minds, open inquiry, responsible action, and in all ways possible nurture individual human dignity.
He is survived by his wife of over 60 years Julie L. McKinney, children Bruce B. McKinney and Barbara McKinney Sow, and grandchildren Omar and Adama Sow.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the First Unitarian Congregational Society in Brooklyn, 48 Monroe Place, Brooklyn, NY 11201 and to First Universalist Church of Southold, P.O. Box 221, Southold, NY 11971.
A memorial service will take place at 3pm on Sunday, November 12, 2017 at the First Unitarian Congregational Society in Brooklyn, NY (address above); another was held on October 28, 2017 at Jamesport Meeting House, 1590 Main Rd., Laurel, NY 11948.
Notes of condolence can be sent to Julie McKinney at 1500 Brecknock Rd. Apt 302, Greenport, NY, 11944.