2012 Annual Award for Distinguished Service to the Cause of Unitarian Universalism: Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley

Presented by the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations to Rev. Marjorie Bowens-Wheately

From the words of the Reverend Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley, "If recognizing the interdependence of all life we strive to build community, the strength we gather will be our salvation."

Marjorie's service to Unitarian Universalism spanned two decades. Among those named to receive the Distinguished Service Award this time is short. But her ministry help shape contemporary Unitarian Universalist thought, programs, and practices in significant ways. Her intellectual rigor and deep spirit helped our collective yearning for the beloved community take form. The questions she posed and the resources she developed helped shape the path we still strive to walk.

She died in 2006. And many Unitarian Universalist, myself among them, still actively grieve her death. This award is an opportunity to express great thanks, not only for her impressive work, but also for the blessing of her presence in our midst. Our liberal religious movement has lost one of its most brilliant and most passionate advocates for justice, a fierce, and tender, and loving mentor to ministers and religious professionals, a gifted minister, and religious educator, and a woman filled with God's spirit and grace.

Most Unitarian Universalist remember Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley for her writing and the resources for our faith that she helped to develop. Weaving the fabric of diversity, for which she was a contributing author, Soul Work: Anti-Racist Theologies and Dialogue, co editor with Nancy Palmer Jones, the adult study and process guide for belonging to the meaning of membership from the Commission on appraisal, Interdependence: Renewing Congregational Polity, co-author, 1997.

And her numerous articles in UU World Magazine—The First Day's Record, Inward Springs, The Christian Science Monitor, The Loretta Journal, and the Women's Federation Communicator. She was a founding member of the African American Unitarian Universalist Ministry, served on the board of the Unitarian Universalist Women's Federation, served on, and then shared the Unitarian Universalist Association's Commission on Appraisal.

She held positions at the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, the UU Veatch Program at Shelter Rock, the Metro New York District, and was Adult Programs Director at the UUA. As parish minister, she served Community Church of New York, and our congregations in Austin, Texas and Tampa, Florida.

Whether in our faith's engagement with racism, or in our collective reflection on our identity, Marjorie help provide the tools that allowed us to move beyond easy affirmations, toward the lived experience of transformation. A generation of religious professionals of color look to her as model, mentor, colleague, and companion on their journey. Her loving and challenging presence helped shape the beginnings of the transformation of our ministry.

Marjorie was friend, confidant, co-worker, and so much more. Her gentle, competent, and loving spirit remains with us, helping to guide us in the years ahead. Her contribution to Unitarian Universalism lives on with each step we take on the path toward reconciliation and wholeness. if we strive to build community the strength we gather will be our salvation.