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By 1970, Leon, along with Inge and their children, had been transferred by the military to
Dayton, Ohio, where they sought a congregation with the kind of religious
education that would encourage the liberal religious values they wanted their
children to experience. The Dayton UU church was such a place. There the Spencer family flourished, and Leon
Spencer found a hint of the grandeur of our religious faith. His service on the
congregation's board, with its RE program and on its social justice committee
solidified his commitment to our free faith, and Leon Spencer never looked
Transferred once again to Germany in the mid 1970s, Leon worked with a British Unitarian minister to
co-found the European Unitarian Universalist Conference, a precursor to the
International Conference of Unitarian Universalists created to connect
expatriate UUs living throughout Europe. During the same period, Leon worked in a variety of social action programs to help
military members and their families address issues as varied as race relations,
equal opportunity and substance abuse, work that has shaped his professional
life as well as his service to Unitarian Universalism ever since.
It was Leon's professional training, including a doctorate in education as a counseling psychologist, that first
exposed him to the work of family systems theory, including his work with the
family therapy pioneer Virginia Satir. Rooted in a clinical tradition that taught him to see deeply, to
understand ingrained patterns, and to cultivate the love, patience and clarity
it takes to help others become more fully human, Spencer has for many years
moved seamlessly between his chosen career and his chosen faith. Whether it has
been helping to identify the roots of racism and other oppressions in
individuals or in our religious movement, even when the task has been hampered
by unrealistic expectations or by the very oppression he has worked to
dismantle, Spencer has proved himself again and again to be a skilled
diagnostician, a principled advocate, a warm, direct and loving healer.
His groundbreaking work in racial concerns became focused in 1985 with his service
on the Black Concerns Working Group, initially charged with changing racial
attitudes outside Unitarian Universalism. But the working group soon shifted the focus much closer to home, and
Spencer helped to draft and implement a host of educational materials about race
for use in UU congregations. In the following years, Spencer co-chaired the UUA's Racial and Cultural Diversity Taskforce, and fostered an ongoing conversation in our movement about issues of
racial justice, the linking of oppressions, and the ways in which all of us
might honor our multiple identities and act justly in our world.
It is this work of justice and wholeness has grounded Leon Spencer's commitment to Unitarian
Universalism throughout his life. But it is our entire movement that has reaped
the benefits. In his work on the Journey Toward Wholeness Transformation Team, in his eight years of service on
the UUA Board of Trustees from the Thomas Jefferson District, and even in his
efforts to change that district's name from Thomas Jefferson to Southeastern (an
unsuccessful act that brought our entire movement to a deeper consciousness
about our complex history) all of us are blessed by the work of this man, called
to speak the truth with both integrity and an abiding respect for every person.
Unitarian Universalism continues to become a better and larger religious home
for so many because of Leon Spencer's steadfast and loving insistence that we
live into the promise of our faith. It is with great pride and pleasure that we
award the 2007 Distinguished Service Award to Dr. Leon Spencer.
For more information contact web @ uua.org.
This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations.
Please consider making a donation today.
Last updated on Thursday, September 8, 2011.
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