2007 Melcher Book Award Presented to Kate Braestrup for Here If You Need Me
Rev. Kate Braestrup accepted the Unitarian Universalist Association’s (UUA) Frederic G. Melcher Book Award on April 16, 2008, for her memoir Here If You Need Me. The award ceremony took place at the UUA’s headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts, and included a talk by Braestrup and a book signing.
UUA Executive Vice President Kay Montgomery expressed pride that Braestrup’s memoir has “resonated with so many who might not otherwise have heard of Unitarian Universalism.”
Book award committee member Rev. David Blanchard read from the award citation addressed to Braestrup, “Your story—told with unflinching courage, piercing insight, and just the right dose of irreverent humor—has been a blessing to your readers and a gift to our religious movement.”
Braestrup’s remarks focused, first, on “the minister you didn’t have.” Her late husband, Drew (a Maine state trooper), had planned to become a Unitarian Universalist minister. Braestrup described Drew as a “very loud and forceful advocate” for the rights of bisexual, gay, lesbian and transgender people, and recalled his service as a civil rights enforcement officer and as a coordinator of the Welcoming Congregation program at their Unitarian Universalist congregation. “I remember what all of us lost” with his death, she said.
During her remarks and in conversation afterward, Braestrup spoke about her commitment to Unitarian Universalism. Braestrup noted that she was “very pleased [to win the Melcher] because it’s nice to know that the UU movement feels that I’ve contributed.” She described Unitarian Universalism as “the only religion I could be in,” adding that Unitarian Universalism allows her to more effective as a chaplain serving people whose backgrounds or beliefs differ from her own.
One of Time magazine’s "top ten" non-fiction books for 2007, Here If You Need Me chronicles the unlikely path that led Braestrup to her calling as a Unitarian Universalist chaplain of the Maine Warden Service, serving those injured and lost in the wilds of Maine.
Braestrup plans to continue her writing and her ministry. Her next book, another work of nonfiction which is nearly complete, will be about marriage.
2007 Melcher Book Award Citation to Kate Braestrup
April 16, 2008
Kate Braestrup—warden of the woods, wizard of words, widow of a man named Drew, mother and minister, spirit guide and spouse, mischievous mystic of the Maine wilderness—to these attributes we add the well-deserved mantle of best-selling author of Here If You Need Me.
Your story—told with unflinching courage, piercing insight, and just the right dose of irreverent humor—has been a blessing to your readers and a gift to our religious movement. Far more than the tale of the “plucky widow,” Here If You Need Me transcends the particularities of your own important and gripping story. It ushers the reader into the chambers of the collective human heart where our brokenness is shared and our healing is forged.
You remind us that an authentic spiritual life is indeed a “search and rescue” enterprise. God is not lost. God is not playing hide and seek. God is dead serious. God is hiding in plain sight: in loss and grief and despair; in gladness and giddiness and gratitude. Our vision of the sacred dimensions of life has been widened in the telling of your story.
Given the choice, you would likely have sought a different story to tell. But this is the story into which Life has spun you, and in its narrative your book has given a source of hope to those who would wish to have chosen a different story for their own lives. You hold up the truth that we are never without choice—the choice of patience, the choice of faith, the choice of hope, the choice of gratitude.
We celebrate your inestimatable contributions through this book to our faith and its people. And beyond our small circle, far greater legions of spiritual seekers will come to appreciate the liberating experiment of the faith that is Unitarian Universalism because your story has been placed into their hands and hearts.
What sweet words to hear: “I’m here if you need me….” We can hear our grandparents’ voices. Or perhaps the voice of a parent or spouse; a lover or friend; or maybe we hear the still small voice that speaks in every tongue, representing the deep trust, fierce devotion, and abiding presence of the holy.
These are words we long to hear.
These are words others hope they might hear from us.
“I’m here if you need me….”
Kate, you have reminded us and reassured us of the great resonance of such a sacred transaction in your words, images, and metaphors. And it is because of this, that the Melcher Book Award Committee presents to you, this day, the Frederick G. Melcher Book Award for the year 2007.
Congratulations and thank you for Here If You Need Me.
—Rev. David S. Blanchard for the Melcher Book Award Committee