2014 Annual Award for Distinguished Service to the Cause of Unitarian Universalism: Kenneth Torquil MacLean

Presented by the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations to Rev. Dr. Kenneth Torquil MacLean

Kenneth Torquil MacLean—preacher, teacher, pastor, prophet, husband, father, partner, organizer, advocate and institution-builder—over the course of your extraordinary 54 year career, you have ministered to your colleagues, congregations and the wider community and have been outstanding in your efforts to establish and strengthen the organizations and associations that will sustain Unitarianism and Universalism in American and around the world for generations to come.

A graduate of Brown University and Harvard Divinity School, you were introduced to this faith by your wife, Harriet, who encouraged and supported you to become a minister. Ordained and fellowshipped in 1960, you were called to the Rosalind and West Roxbury Churches and during your tenure you reunited these two historic churches. In 1964, you were called to the Tennessee Valley Church in Knoxville, where you helped establish the first chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in that state. In 1972, you were called to Cedar Lane Unitarian Church in Bethesda, Maryland, one of our largest churches, and you served for 20 years before becoming their Minister Emeritus. In 1999, you began what grew to become an eleven-year ministry to the Church of the Desert in Rancho Mirage, California, and led them to build a beautiful new church home. You also spent many memorable summers as a visiting preacher for our church in North Hadley, Quebec.

While you are renowned for your long and successful parish ministries, your unfaltering devotion to establish and support institutions that sustain and uphold our faith, nationally and internationally, makes you stand out as one who has fostered our faith for the future. You were the founder and organizer of the Senior Ministers of Large Unitarian Universalist Congregations (SMOLUUC), which to this day serves to support the ministers and ministries of our Association’s largest churches. You have served as the president of the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association (UUMA), and in that role were instrumental in helping establish the Office of Church Staff Finances to help churches and ministers address questions of salary, health care, pensions, and equitable compensation; and also established a foundation grant to supplement the income of retired ministers and their widows who were living on less that $10,000 a year. As UUMA president, you also worked with the Rev. David Weisbard and leaders of the Liberal Religious Educators Association (LREDA) to support the ordination of ministers of religious education.

You served two terms on the Board of Trustees of the Unitarian Universalist Association during which time you established the UUA's Task Force on AIDS. You also served on the board of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, and for five years you worked as the Special Assistant to the President of our Association for International and Interfaith Affairs, under President John Buehrens. In this role you worked tirelessly to strengthen our heritage worldwide and helped organize the founding meeting of the International Council of Unitarian Universalists (ICUU). The ICUU has since played an essential role in connecting, supporting, and training UU communities in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America. On behalf of our Association, you traveled to and lent your support to our churches and partners in the Philippines, India, Japan, New Zealand, Hungary, Romania, Canada, the United Kingdom, and beyond. You have helped our coreligionists, and others, in far-off and sometimes remote places that were battling discrimination or deprivation or dictatorships. In Prague, you worked for many years, even when others were convinced the cause was futile, and you ultimately prevailed to rescue the church of Norbert Capek from people who had seized illegal control of it.

Even as you have worked on a world stage for the betterment of the human condition, you are also well known among your colleagues, as a pastor of pastors. Colleague after colleague, as well as congregant after congregant, tell stories of times you ministered to them as they were bearing burdens too heavy to bear alone. For decades, you have also mentored young ministers that have gone on to serve our faith well – here and in other countries.

Indeed, the reach of your more than half a century of ministry has touched and strengthened our faith to the far corners of the earth. You have given your vision and leadership to fortify the individuals and institutions of Unitarian Universalism. It is, therefore, with deep gratitude, admiration, and pride, in your 88th year and in your home state of Rhode Island, that we confer on you our highest honor: the Award for Distinguished Service to the Cause of Unitarian Universalism. It is our intention that your name be inscribed among those who, from ages past, have stood out as the exemplars of this tradition.

Your ministry has provided a standard for succeeding generations to aspire to as they, and we, seek to sacrifice for and give our lives to the faith of our forbearers, the betterment of the human condition, and the pursuit of freedom and justice for all.