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In memory of Charles W. Grady (1925-2017)

Posted By Administration, Monday, February 6, 2017
The Rev. Charles Wesley Grady, who died on January 19, 2017 at the age of 91.

Charles was born in Lima, OH on December 9, 1925 to mother Wealthy Dedrick Grady and father Charles C. Grady. He began working in commercial radio broadcasting at the age of 16, a career which he would pursue continuously for two decades, except for his two years serving as a Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Army Special Services, from 1944 to 1946. Charles attended the University of Cincinnati beginning in 1946, seeking a degree in German, but left early in order to focus on his broadcasting career.

In 1947 he married his beloved wife Claudine. The two were high school sweethearts, and Charles said in 1989 that although Claudine was blind from birth she “never allowed herself to be handicapped” and was a highly significant influence on his ministry. The couple became actively engaged in helping found a Unitarian fellowship in Lima, OH in 1955, which Charles believed marked the time when he began to consciously consider becoming a minister. After years of active church membership, Charles fully committed himself “to the service of values of lasting worth,” as he put it. He applied for ministerial fellowship with the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1963 and received a Masters of Divinity from Meadville Lombard Theological School in 1966.

Rev. Grady was ordained on November 6, 1966 by White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church in Mahtomedi, MN, where he would minister until 1969. In that year Rev. Grady was called to serve at First Parish Unitarian Universalists of Arlington, MA, where he dutifully ministered for over twenty years. At the time of his retirement in 1990, the congregation honored Rev. Grady as their Minister Emeritus. Though formally retired, Rev. Grady then accepted a call at the UU Fellowship of Hendersonville, NC; he served the congregation part-time until 1996, when the congregation was able to find a full-time minister and Rev. Grady began full retirement.

Rev. Grady dedicated much time and energy to the denomination. He served on several UUA boards and committees, including the Ministerial Fellowship Committee, the Council on Church and Staff Finances, the Universalist Historical Society, and others on the district level. While ministering in Arlington, MA Rev. Grady was a board member and secretary of the James Luther Adams Foundation. For many years he worked as a Field Education Supervisor for Harvard Divinity School. Rev. Grady also co-chaired the “Carnes for UUA President” campaign of 1977, and was a member of the Greenville Study Group.


Committed to the study of history and honoring his connection to the denomination’s cultural and philosophical heritage, Rev. Grady was a biographer of noted Transcendentalist and Unitarian Minister Frederic Henry Hedge. He contributed numerous articles on Hedge to Kairos, The UU Christian, Studies in the American Renaissance, and The Proceedings of the Unitarian Universalist Historical Society. Rev. Grady also authored Arlington's First Parish: A History, 1733-1990, published 2000, which the parish gifts to new members upon joining.

In his spare time Charles loved to sail; while living in Massachusetts he cruised up and down the New England coast. He and Claudine were also enthusiastic concert and playgoers, and books and records were a fixture of their home. Charles loved especially to read history, biography, novels, poetry, and drama, as well as non-technical writers in science and philosophy. Finally, he and Claudine loved to travel, visiting many countries around the world.

Reflecting on his ministry in the time leading up to his retirement, Rev. Grady had these lovely words to say:

Our churches are clearings in the wilderness of this time: places of refuge and sanctuary for the bruised and tired, and also places of healing and renewal. They are ‘workshops for common endeavor,’ as Kenneth Patton has said, and schools for learning and enlightenment, transmitters and celebrators of a heritage, tools for breaking down barriers and building new bridges.

Rev. Grady is survived by children Stephanie Grady and Michael Grady and their spouses, sister Marjorie Walker, five grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by wife Claudine.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Minnesota Orchestra, Planned Parenthood, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

A memorial service will take place at the UU Fellowship of Hendersonville, NC at 3:00pm on February 25, 2017; a celebration of life for family and friends is being planned in Minnesota for April, 2017; and Rev. Grady’s cremains—along with Claudine’s—will be placed in the Memorial Garden at First Parish UU of Arlington, MA in summer 2017.

Notes of condolence can be sent to Stephanie Grady at or at 8714 2nd Ave S., Bloomington, MN 55420.


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In memory of Carol I. Brody (1928-2016)

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, January 3, 2017
The Rev. Carol Irene Brody died on November 17, 2016 at the age of 88.

 Carol was born in Euclid, OH on April 20, 1928 to parents Louise and John, and grew up in Cleveland, OH. In 1950, she married Paul Brody, beginning a marriage that would last the next 65 years. Carol attended Otterbein University, and in 1975 began taking classes at Methodist Theological School in Ohio; she graduated with a Masters of Divinity in 1984.

 Her service as Director of Religious Education at the First UU Church of Columbus, OH began in 1965. Carol was a devoted teacher with a passion for liberal religious education, and she initiated the congregation’s sex education curriculum. On October 12, 1981 the congregation ordained Rev. Brody as their Minister of Religious Education. After faithfully serving her church for many years, Rev. Brody retired from the ministry in 1994, and in 1999 the congregation honored her as their Minister Emerita.

 Rev. Brody dedicated much time and energy to the denomination, and was ever a staunch supporter of civil rights and social justice. In the course of her ministry she served as the inaugural chair of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Women and Religion Committee, as well as District Consultant to the UUA’s Ohio-Meadville District from 1985 to 1994.

 In her spare time Carol enjoyed many varied interests, including art, dance, music, poetry, and travel. She also loved to spend time each day in her hubcap garden, and to appreciate the wildlife and natural beauty surrounding her beloved home in the hills. 

 Carol is survived by children Jill (Douglas Bryant), John (Kate), Jim (Kim), and Jane (Chris Jay); grandchildren Maggie Moskal (Brandon), Sam Brody, David Bryant, Matthew Bryant, Lindsie Katz, and Jeremy Katz; and great-grandchildren Lucy and John Paul Moskal.

 In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Planned Parenthood of Central Ohio (part of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio) and to Clintonville Beechwold Community Resources Center.

 A memorial service was held on December 3, 2016 at First Unitarian Universalist Church, 93 West Weisheimer Road, Columbus, OH 43214.

 Notes of condolence can be sent to John Brody at 1894 King Avenue, Columbus, OH 43212.


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In memory of Neil W. Gerdes (1943-2016)

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, November 23, 2016
The Rev. Dr. Neil Wayne Gerdes died on November 6, 2016 at the age of 73.

Neil was born in Moline, IL on October 19, 1943 to Della Bennett Ferguson Gerdes and John Edward Gerdes. He was a dedicated and accomplished scholar, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in History and English from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 1965 and a Bachelor of Sacred Theology from Harvard University in 1968. Neil then went on to earn a Master of Arts in Education and Religion from Columbia University in 1971, a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from the University of Chicago in 1974, and finally attained a Doctor of Ministry from the University of St. Mary of the Lake in 1994.

Rev. Gerdes began his ministry in 1973 as a theological educator at Meadville Lombard Theological Seminary, becoming Associate Professor of Bibliography and Dean of the Wiggin Library. He was ordained a UU minister on October 26, 1975 by the First and Second Church of Boston (now First Church of Boston)—the congregation where he had served as a student intern while attending Harvard. In 1980 Rev. Gerdes expanded his educational community ministry, accepting a professorship at the Chicago Theological Seminary and serving as the school’s Library Director. From the early ‘70s onward Rev. Gerdes was a member of the First Unitarian Society of Chicago, officially becoming an Affiliated Minister of the congregation in 2002. After 40 years of service as an educator and librarian, and having been honored as a Professor Emeritus of Meadville Lombard Theological School, Rev. Gerdes retired from the ministry in 2013.

In addition to his work as a theological educator, Rev. Gerdes was an active member of the UU Ministers’ Association, and served on the board of the First Unitarian Society of Chicago. He was also an officer of the Association of Chicago Theological Schools’ Library Council. Finally, Rev. Gerdes was present for the founding of Collegium—an association for ordained and lay liberal religious scholars—and served as its secretary-treasurer for 37 years.

Neil was a lover of the fine arts, especially classical music and the theater, and greatly enjoyed travelling across the country and the world. He treasured books and learning, once saying, “For me my most meaningful and profound learning has come from the pages of books, often guided by great teachers.” And he was devoted above all to his family and friends.

Rev. Dr. Lee Barker, president of Meadville Lombard Theological school and close friend of Neil, had this to say in his own tribute to Rev. Gerdes:

Neil was Unitarian Universalism’s librarian extraordinaire, having served on the faculty of Meadville for 40 years prior to his retirement in 2013. He was a wonderful mentor to students, a lover of books and information, a passionate spokesperson for tradition and academic protocol, an erudite conversationalist, a man of very goofy humor, and a champion for liberal theological education. He gave much to our school and our students and to our movement. The school has lost one of its giants.

Neil is survived by his four sisters: Marjorie Carpenter, Reta Morrissey, Marlene Saad, and Eleanor Lohf; his 18 nieces and nephews; and his many great-nieces and great-nephews.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Meadville Lombard Theological School.

Funeral services were held on Saturday, November 12, 2016 at Erie United Methodist Church, 811 8th St, Erie, IL 61250.

A public memorial service was held on Sunday, November 20, 2016 at the First Unitarian Church of Chicago, 5650 S. Woodlawn Ave, Chicago, IL 60637.

Notes of condolence can be sent to Marjorie Carpenter, 9520 Fuller Rd, Albany, IL 61230.

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In memory of Julie Denny-Hughes (1946-2016)

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, November 15, 2016
The Rev. Julie Denny-Hughes died on October 14, 2016 at the age of 70.

Julie was born on April 4, 1946 to Helen Pentzer Denny and Morris Duane Denny, and grew up in Bedford, IN, where she developed a love of humor and music. She received a Bachelor of Arts in American Literature from the University of Illinois in 1972, where she was on the Dean’s List. For the next twenty years she worked in the computer software industry as a technical writer and trainer, often as an independent consultant.

In 1978, Julie found Unitarian Universalism at the Unitarian Church of Princeton, NJ (now the UU Congregation of Princeton), where she became an active member and led the congregation’s first “Cakes for the Queen of Heaven” course. She later moved to Stratford, CT, and began her journey to become a minister while a member of the UU Church of Greater Bridgeport—the congregation that would later ordain her. Rev. Denny-Hughes earned a Master of Divinity from Meadville Lombard Theological School in 1995, where she conceived and co-created a public interfaith service to celebrate democratic elections in South America; at graduation she was awarded the school’s faculty award for Excellence in Religious Leadership.

After interning at the UU Fellowship of Raleigh, NC, Rev. Denny-Hughes was ordained to the ministry in 1995. First called to serve the UU Community Church of Glen Allen, VA, her four-year ministry there led the congregation to more than double in size. Rev. Denny-Hughes then returned to the Raleigh congregation, ministering there from 1999 until 2004. She later answered calls to serve Countryside Church UU of Palatine, IL, and the UU Church of Halifax, NS. Rev. Denny-Hughes retired from the ministry in 2011, after which she moved to Indianapolis, where she remained active in the community as a member of All Souls UU Church.

While serving in Virginia, Rev. Denny-Hughes served on the board of the Thomas Jefferson District (now the Southern District), and authored its long-term plan. She later coauthored a Unitarian Universalist Association task force report on clergy sexual misconduct. And throughout her ministry she remained committed to the causes of equality, human rights, women’s rights, and environmental justice.

Julie carried a lifelong love for joyous laughter, Scrabble, crossword puzzles, and arts of all kinds—especially music and reading. She also held great affection for her cats and all the other comforts of home. Most of all she treasured time spent with her family and friends, and believed that you ought to tell people you love them every time you see them—in words, a hug, and a kiss.

In their obituary for Julie, children Suzannah and Phillip said of their mother: “Julie had a heart of rare proportions, and with it she embraced family, friends, and strangers-who-would-be-friends warmly and openly, with a bright smile and lilting laughter that will long be remembered.”

And in her own words, from a sermon she delivered to her Glen Allen congregation:

It’s one of the mysteries of life to me that we can give at the same time we are receiving. And that we receive so much when we give. That happens at the level of the soul, I believe. Because at that level we are all connected in such a way that giving and receiving become the same thing.  They are part of the same sacred source of connection. Times of fear and uncertainty afford us those glimpses.

Rev. Denny-Hughes is survived by her daughter Suzannah Wilson Overholt (Tony); son Phillip Earl Wilson Jr. (Suzanne); grandchildren Max Overholt, Elise Overholt, Helen Overholt, Meghan Wilson, and Melanie Wilson; brother Marc Denny (Mayme Jo) and sister Marian "Susie" Rumsey (Guy); and several nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by her parents Morris Duane "Beanie" Denny and Helen Olive Pentzer Denny, and by her brother John L. Denny.

A memorial service was held on Saturday, October 22, 2016 at the First Christian Church, 1101 15th St., Bedford, IN 47421.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Alzheimer’s Association.

Notes of condolence can be sent to Suzannah Overholt, 635 E. 84th St., Indianapolis, IN 46240.

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In memory of Harold L Hawkins (1920-2016)

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, November 9, 2016
The Rev. Harold Leighton Hawkins died on August 29, 2016 at the age of 96.

 Harold was born in Charlotte, NC on June 17, 1920 to Annie Mae Lay and Joseph Franklin Hawkins. He received a Bachelor of Science in Sociology from Wake Forest College in 1942, then attained a Bachelor of Divinity from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1945, as well as later graduating from the Clinical Pastoral Care Program at Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem, NC and the School of Alcohol Studies at Yale University.

The Rev. Hawkins was ordained a Southern Baptist minister in 1944 by the Crescent Hill Baptist Church of Louisville, KY. After serving as a Navy chaplain for fifteen months and heading a homeless outreach program for a year, he became a hospital chaplain—a vocation he followed for over 40 years. During his 15 years serving a hospital in Alexandria, LA, Rev. Hawkins first found Unitarian Universalism at the UU Fellowship of Alexandria, and in 1967 he formally joined the Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge, LA. In 1974 he moved to Tallahassee, FL to chaplain for Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, where he would serve for 26 years. Rev. Hawkins’ interest in the denomination continued to grow, and in 1991 he decided to apply to become a UU minister, and was accepted. While a member of the UU Church of Tallahassee, he simultaneously ministered to two other Florida congregations: the UU Fellowship of Bay County in Panama City, and the UU Fellowship of the Emerald Coast in Valparaiso—the latter of which elected him their Minister Emeritus upon his retirement in 2000.

During his time with the UU Fellowship of Alexandria, he founded and led a discussion group entitled the Tuesday Night Class. This religiously diverse group, dedicated to the free sharing of ideas, met for 12 years in the home of a Jewish doctor—a close friend of Rev. Hawkins. Throughout his ministry, a continued source of inspiration for Rev. Hawkins was the concept of “freethinkers”: those who use reason to seek philosophical and religious truth outside the bounds of orthodoxy and dogma. At the UU Church of Tallahassee, Rev. Hawkins later founded a new group based the books Christianity without God by Lloyd Geering and Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism by Susan Jacoby. Called the Freethinkers Forum, this group is committed to reason and seeking the truth, and it continues to meet at the UUCT to this day. Later in life, Rev. Hawkins joined the Freedom from Religion Foundation of Madison, WI.

Rev. Hawkins devoted much of his time and energy toward helping the communities and congregations to whom he ministered, but in his spare time he enjoyed fishing, playing golf, tending his vegetable garden, and chopping wood for his stove. Later in life, it was his great joy to spend time with his beloved grandchildren—passing on lessons, telling stories, or just playing on the floor.

As his family wrote in their obituary for Harold, published in the Tallahassee Democrat:

His life began in the depths of the Great Depression when just surviving was a great challenge. His life spanned decades of great change and great social challenges. He moved from the Southern Baptist Church to the Unitarian Universalist Association but his message of adhering to Christian values, brotherly love, and equality for all were unshakable. To say he touched a few lives would be an understatement. The life story of Reverend Hawkins would make a mighty fine sermon.

Rev. Hawkins is survived by his six children: Donald R. Hawkins, Margaret Elaine Cox, James Alan Hawkins, Carolyn Blome, Harold Frederick Hawkins, and Joseph B. Hawkins; eleven grandchildren; and three great grandchildren. He was predeceased by his wife Margaret Anne Johnson.

 A celebration of life service conducted by son Joe was held on Saturday, October 1, 2016 at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tallahassee, 2810 N Meridian Rd, Tallahassee, FL 32312.

 In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to UUCT/Freethinkers Forum Fund and mailed to UUCT, 2810 N Meridian Road, Tallahassee, FL 32312.

Notes of condolence may be sent to Joe B. Hawkins at 217 Rhoden Cove Rd, Tallahassee, FL 32312.


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In memory of Spencer Lavan (1937-2016)

Posted By Administration, Monday, October 17, 2016

The Rev. Dr. Spencer Lavan died on September 29, 2016 in Brunswick, Maine at the age of 78.

Spencer was born on December 31, 1937 to Fay and Peter Lavan in New York City. He received a Bachelor of Arts in English from Tufts University in 1959, a Bachelor of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School in 1962, and two degrees from McGill University: a Master of Arts in Islamic Studies in 1965 and a Ph.D. in Comparative Religions in 1970.


Rev. Dr. Lavan’s full and varied ministry led him to serve both parishes and communities, as well as to a lifelong career in academia. He was ordained to the ministry in 1962 by the Unitarian Church in Charleston, SC, and he was called to minister there from 1962 to 1964. For two years he served as associate minister to the Unitarian Church of Montreal; at the same time, he served as Minister to Students at McGill University while also completing graduate studies there. Soon afterwards Rev. Dr. Lavan began his academic work, first serving Northeastern University for two years and then Tufts University for a decade. In 1978 he returned to active ministry, serving the First Parish in Lexington, MA as its interim minister, and later served the Maine Humanities Council as its community minister. In 1982 he organized and then chaired the Department of Humanities at the University of New England until 1988. From 1988 to 1996 Rev. Dr. Lavan served as President and Dean of Meadville Lombard Theological School. He retired from the ministry in 2000.


Rev. Dr. Lavan received three honorary degrees: from the Protestant Theological Institute of Cluj/Kolosvar, Romania, the school preparing Hungarian speaking Unitarian Ministers for pulpits in Transylvania; from Meadville Lombard Theological School; and from the University of New England. From 1984 through 1988 he was editor of the Journal of Medical Humanities and Bio-Ethics, and was later a founder of Collegium: Liberal Religious Studies.


Rev. Dr. Lavan performed extensive service on behalf of the denomination. He was a member of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Pamphlet Commission, and later served as President of the Unitarian Universalist Historical Society and co-editor of the Dictionary of Unitarian Universalist Biography. Rev. Dr. Lavan also served on the board of Meadville Lombard Theological School, and was a member and later president of the Melcher Book Award Committee. In 2003, he was awarded the UUA's Award for Distinguished Service to the Cause of Unitarian Universalism.


Rev. Dr. Lavan authored two books based on his study of religion, including Unitarians and India: A Study in Encounter and Response, published in 1991. He had a passion for teaching; he enjoyed travelling—for work and with his family—as well as spending time at home with his students and friends; and he loved classical music, sailing in Casco Bay, and playing the piano.


Lee Barker, president of Meadville Lombard Theological School, said that in addition to Rev. Dr. Lavan’s many contributions to the institution he and his wife Susan “took a personal interest in each of their students, creating a hospitality that drew the entire Meadville Lombard community together... [The school] and all of Unitarian Universalism have lost a great leader.”


He is survived by his wife of 55 years Susan Lavan; his children Jonathan, Daniel (Deborah Berger), Timothy (Cindy), and Joanna; his grandchildren Charlie, Peter, Anna, Isaac, Lucia, and Malcolm; and his brother Lawrence.


His family plans to hold a private memorial service on a date to be determined, and Meadville Lombard Theological School is planning a public memorial service for January 2017.


In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Meadville Lombard Theological School.


Notes of condolence may be sent to Susan Lavan at 11 Cascos Way, Harpswell, ME 04079.

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In memory of Mark H. Edmiston-Lange (1952-2016)

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Rev. Mark H. Edmiston-Lange died on September 21, 2016 at the age of 64.


Mark was born on January 12, 1952, to Barbara Rudd Lange and Samuel Charles Lange. He grew up in Newburgh, NY, and knew even as a teenager that he wanted to become a Unitarian Universalist minister. He graduated from Marlboro College in 1973 with a Bachelor of Arts in Religion, and went on to receive a Master of Divinity from Andover Newton Theological School in 1978.


Rev. Edmiston-Lange was ordained to the ministry in 1978 by the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Berks County, PA, and served that congregation for the next six years. He was then called to serve as minister to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Akron, OH from 1984 to 1993. It was in 1993 that Mark married his beloved wife Becky. Rev. Edmiston-Lange then served for two years as interim minister to the Williamsburg Unitarian Universalists of Williamsburg, VA. In 1995 he started Jubilee Project, a short-lived rock-and-roll Unitarian Universalist congregation in the Washington, D.C. area.  Afterwards he served as interim minister to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Rockville, MD. Finally, he and Becky accepted a call to serve as co-ministers to the Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church in Houston, TX, where Mark passionately served from 1999 until his death.


Rev. Edmiston-Lange dedicated much of his time to Unitarian Universalism, and served the denomination and the larger community in various capacities. He served as a Ministerial Settlement Representative while at Akron and on the board of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio.  A highlight of his life was participating in 1989 in the 108 mile Via Crucis March protesting U.S. policies in Central America with his daughter, Kara, who turned 12 on the march. He served on the Board of Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston, and chaired its Interfaith Relations Task Force. Rev. Edmiston-Lange was instrumental in founding the Texas UU Justice Ministry, and served on the steering committee of UU Voice for Justice—an organization dedicated to spreading the UU message throughout the Houston area. In 2008 he became the Vice-President of the Unitarian Universalist Ministers’ Association’s Southwest Chapter, and then served as its President from 2009 to 2011.


Mark’s hobbies included hiking, gardening, birding, white water canoeing, home remodeling, and dancing—all of which he shared with his beloved Becky.

Rev. Edmiston-Lange was also an avid scholar of evolutionary psychology and neurobiology, believing that when human beings understand themselves as evolutionary creatures bound by the same laws of nature as the rest of the universe, only then will they be able to live in harmony with one another and with the earth.


Tim Brennan, Treasurer and CFO of the UUA, said of Rev. Edmiston-Lange, “Mark represented the UUA at many corporate annual meetings when we had shareholder resolutions on the proxy. Many of these were at oil and gas companies. He was always ready to say ‘Yes,’ and stood for our values in venues that were not always sympathetic. A real loss.”


Elliot Gershenson, President Emeritus of Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston, called Rev. Edmiston-Lange “a warrior for social justice and a personal hero.” 


Rev. Edmiston-Lange is survived by his wife Rev. Dr. Becky Edmiston-Lange, his daughter Kara Honthumb, his son Aaron Lange, his brothers Guy (Sallie) and Russell (Allyne), and his nephews Tom and Nathaniel.


A memorial service was held on Saturday October 8, at 2:00pm, at Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church, 1900 Bering Drive, Houston, TX 77057.


In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Emerson Unitarian Universalist ChurchInterfaith Ministries for Greater Houston, and Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast.


Notes of condolence can be sent to Rev. Dr. Becky Edmiston-Lange at 10619 Tupper Lake Dr, Houston, TX 77042.

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In Memory of Jan Evans-Tiller (1931-2016)

Posted By Administration, Friday, September 30, 2016

The Rev. Jan Evans-Tiller died on September 20, 2016 at the age of 85.


Jan was born on August 20, 1931 to Alfred R. and Alma W. Lowe, growing up in the Herkimer area of upstate New York. She was the valedictorian of Herkimer High School’s class of 1949, and went on to graduate from the University of Rochester in 1953 with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature.


Rev. Evans-Tiller was ordained by the Birmingham Unitarian Church of Bloomfield Hills, MI as its Minister of Religious Education on May 31, 1987. But her career as a religious educator began long before then. She served as the Director of Religious Education for the First Unitarian Church of Rochester, NY from 1966 to 1973. Rev. Evans-Tiller then served as the Director of Religious Education for the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Syracuse, NY from 1978 to 1982, at which time she entered ministerial fellowship with the Unitarian Universalist Association. After moving to Michigan, she served the Birmingham Unitarian Church from 1987 to 1989. Later Rev. Evans-Tiller served the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Detroit as its acting Director of Religious Education until 1996, when she retired from the ministry.


Rev. Evans-Tiller also shared her gift for religious education through her denominational service. While living in Rochester, she served the UUA’s St. Lawrence District as a Religious Education Consultant from 1973 to 1978. Additionally, she served the UUA as a module designer for the religious education Renaissance Program, and in 1990 authored the youth curriculum textbookAround the Church Around the Year: Unitarian Universalism for Children – Kindergarten to Grade 2.


Jan was also an avid reader, and—for as long as she was able—took immense joy from the time spent in her garden.


Daughter Katherine feels that no one quotation can sum up her mother, believing that the memory of Jan will be unique to everyone who had the pleasure of knowing her.


Jan is survived by her daughter Katherine Rugh. She was predeceased by her husband, John Evans; her son, John Rugh; and her sister, Elinor Kieffer.


In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association.


Notes of condolence can be sent to Katherine Rugh, 102 Milton Ave, Syracuse, NY 13204.


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In Memory of Suzanne M. Marsh (1960-2016)

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Rev. Suzanne M. Marsh died on June 24, 2016 at the age of 55.


Suzanne was born on October 25, 1960 to Betty and Neil Marsh. She grew up in Laurel, Maryland, graduating from Laurel High School in 1978. She received a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from University of Baltimore in December, 1985, became a Certified Public Accountant, and launched into a long and successful career spanning over 20 years with the firms Deloitte & Touche, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and Ernst & Young.


In the early 2000’s, Suzanne felt a calling towards ministry. She began seminary while still holding her Senior Manager position at Ernst & Young and while helping to establish the Santa Theresa Music and Arts Association, where she held the positions of Treasurer and later of President. Suzanne graduated with a Master of Divinity from Pacific School of Religion in 2007.


Rev. Marsh was ordained to the ministry on December 6, 2009 by the First Unitarian Church of San Jose. She first served as the associate minister to the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg, PA from 2009 to 2011. After leaving Harrisburg she travelled to Idaho, where for a year she served as the minister to both the Magic Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Twin Falls, ID and to the Pocatello Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Pocatello, ID. Finally Rev. Marsh was called to serve as the minister to the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Desert in Rancho Mirage, CA from 2012 until her death.


Rev. Marsh was a pastor and an activist, holding numerous volunteer positions before and after becoming a minister. After finding her “spiritual home” at the Allen Avenue Unitarian Universalist Church of Portland, ME she chaired the congregation’s Social Action Committee. While serving in Pennsylvania, she actively supported cancer survivors and the movement to end gun violence. And after returning to California, she performed abundant service on behalf of living wage advocacy, positive race relations, and interfaith fellowship.


Suzanne's hobbies included a strong interest in genealogy, and she completed extensive research into the Braley and Marsh lines. Suzanne's other interests included travel, having visited all 50 states, most of the national parks, and many European countries. Suzanne was also an avid reader and a lover of music.


To quote David W. Orr, as Suzanne once did: "The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind.”


She is survived by her partner and spouse of nearly 40 years, Nancy Pless, and by their son, Stephen Marsh; Nancy’s children, Robert, Nancy, and David Pless; her mother, Betty Gersh; her sister, Debbie Michaud, and her brothers, Milton Law, Michael Law, and Geoffrey Marsh; her brother-in-law, Bill Michaud, and her sisters-in-law Sandra Law and Julie Law; her nieces Brandel, Hayley, and Emily, and her nephew Michael; Nancy’s grandchildren, Paul, Brian, Mary, Erin, Emily, Brennan, and Carter; her grandnieces Neve, Paige, and Wynter; and her family-by-choice Sandy Wright, John Fairbanks, Sam and Liza Wright-Fairbanks, along with many extended family members, dear friends, colleagues and congregants. Suzanne was predeceased by her father, Neil Marsh, and by her step-father, Bob Gersh.


On July 31, 2016, family gathered at sister Debbie’s in Friendship, ME to remember Suzanne. A Celebration of Life was held on August 27, 2016 at the UU Church of the Desert in Rancho Mirage, CA led by Rev. Lindi Ramsden, Suzanne’s former minister. 


In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to one of the organizations Rev. Suzanne supported: the Unitarian Universalist Justice Ministry of CA at, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention


Notes of condolence may be sent to the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Desert, 72425 Via Vail, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270.


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In memory of Samuel A. Wright (1919-2016)

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Rev. Samuel Anthony Wright, died on June 24, 2016 at the age of 97.


Sam Jr was born on June 13, 1919 to Samuel Anthony Wright and Margaret Neilson Wright. He received a Bachelor of Science from the University of New Mexico in 1944, a Master of Divinity from Starr King School for the Ministry in 1949, as well as completing graduate work at the Pacific School of Religion and post-graduate work the University of California, Berkeley.


Rev. Wright’s ministry was a lifelong journey, one that took him all across the United States. He was ordained in 1950 by the Unitarian Church of Stockton, CA (now the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Stockton), where he was called to serve as minister from 1949 to 1952. He went on to serve as the minister to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Marin, CA for seven years—the longest ministry in the congregation’s history. After finding his wilderness home in Alaska, he ministered to the Anchorage Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Anchorage from 1970 to 1974. His travels through the ‘80s and early ‘90s led him to serve as interim minister to the First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Antonio, TX; to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Long Beach, CA; to the Hope Unitarian Church in Tulsa, OK; back to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Marin, where he was elected by the congregation as Minister Emeritus; to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto, CA; and to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno, CA. Finally he was called to minister to the Sierra Foothills Unitarian Universalists in Auburn, CA from 1994 to 1995, and served as interim minister to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Northern Nevada in Reno from 1998 to 1999.


Rev. Wright also carried out an array of denominational service work, including but not limited to the following. He was first called into service in 1952 as the Executive Director of American Unitarian Youth, Inc., and then in 1953 he became the first Executive Director of Liberal Religious Youth—an organization created by the merger of the American Unitarian Youth and the Universalist Youth Fellowship; in the context of this merger he wrote the song “We Would Be One,” now #318 in the UU hymnal. He later served on the Executive Boards of both the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association and of Starr King School for the Ministry. While at Starr King, he was the Director of In-Service Training from 1961 to 1969 and he served as Acting President from 1965 to 1966. Additionally, he held the offices of President of the Unitarian Universalist Pacific Coast Council, Regional Vice President of the Unitarian Fellowship for Social Justice, President of the San Francisco Bay Area Welfare Planning Federation, and President of the Marin County Council of Community Services, CA.


Rev. Wright pursued a lifelong interest in the ecology of plants and people, which led him in the mid ‘60s to study the trees and the native communities of northern Alaska. During a sabbatical year he and his second wife, Billie, built and lived in an isolated log cabin; they named the home Koviashuvik, after the Inuit word meaning ‘time and place of joy in the present moment.’ Sam was superb at hunting and fishing, activities that his wife Donna Lee said he might have called “direct religious experience” as opposed to simple hobbies. He and Donna returned to the cabin every summer for the last 25 years to enjoy the peaceful contemplation of nature and the world. Rev. Wright authored two books about his time in the Alaskan wilderness: Edge of Tomorrow: An Arctic Year and Koviashuvik: Time and Place of Joy. He later published The Way It Was: Letters to Unborn Posterity—a collection of letters to future generations reflecting on the century in which he lived and posing questions to the next.


In Sam’s own words from Edge of Tomorrow:

The great world has set me in


Set me adrift,

          and I move as a weed in

          the river.

The arch of the sky

          and mightiness of storms

          encompass me.

And I am left

           trembling with joy.


He is survived by his wife, Donna Lee; his four children, Patricia, Rev. Chip, Roberta, and Bill; his two step-children; his seven grandchildren; and his three great-grandchildren.


A thanks-giving for the life of Rev. Wright will be held in Alaska on September 3, 2016, as well as a memorial service in Arizona later this year.


In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to help maintain Rev. Wright’s Arctic wilderness home Koviashuvik and sent to Rev. Chip Wright, 1705 Sarkesian Dr., Petaluma, CA 94954.


Notes of condolence may be sent to Donna Lee, PO Box 1315, Sonoita, AZ 85637.



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