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Forrest Church Award
Frank Forrester Church IV (1948 - 2009) was a Unitarian Universalist minister, a prolific author, and one of the most influential liberal theologians of our day. He was Senior Minister of the Unitarian Church of All Souls in New York City for three decades, until receiving a diagnosis of esophageal cancer and subsequently becoming that church's first Minister of Public Theology. There was a three year period of remission during the course of his illness, and he was 61 years old when he died.
In 2008 he received the Distinguished Service Award from the Unitarian Universalist Association and the citation he was given stated that he had "proved himself to be a great parish minister, public minister, and public theologian. All this has been made possible by his great spirit, which has propelled his ministry in all its myriad and wonderful forms."
During the period between his diagnosis and death, he summed up his thoughts in two final books, entitled The Cathedral of the World: A Universalist Theology and Love and Death, a work which has become his best-known. Several of the aphorisms Church minted in its pages have become truisms for our time:
- Want what you have; do what you can; be who you are
- We are more alike in our ignorance than we differ in our knowledge
- Whether or not there is life after death, surely there is love after death
- The purpose of life is to live in such a way that our lives will prove worth dying for
Forrest Church was a man whose life journey took him from northern California, where he was born; to the Northern Rocky Mountains, where he came of age in Boise, Idaho; to Washington DC, where his father the late Senator Frank Church (D Idaho) was an influential politician; to Stanford University, where he received his bachelor's degree; to Harvard, where he received both a M.Div and PhD; and finally to Manhattan's tony Upper East Side, where he took the reins of what can be considered a moribund institution - it was not uncommon at that time for fewer than100 souls to attend Sunday services - and, at age 31, brought new life and vitality to the 190 year-old congregation.
The growth of the congregation during Church's tenure was volcanic. Under his guidance not only did the number of members and the staff grow rapidly, but the church emerged as the flagship pulpit of Unitarian Universalism. Forrest Church became the most widely heard voice of his generation of UU ministers: in books (over 20 of them); newspaper columns (including the Chicago Tribune, New York Post, and New York Times); on television (most notably with Bill Moyers, Tavis Smiley and Dan Rather); and at the annual UU General Assemblies, where his addresses routinely drew packed houses.
But he was also a civic leader. He was President of The Yorkville Emergency Alliance, and chair of New York City Council on the Environment, but probably his biggest, and most meaningful impact was during the early days of the AIDS crisis, when the All Souls AIDS Task Force placed over 10,000 bus and subway placards with messages such as "AIDS is a Human disease and deserves a Humane response".
The Heart & Soul Charitable Fund honors his spirit, and the Forrest Church Award is given to a person who demonstrates this same courage and selflessness while working for the betterment of the world in which we live.
Prior recipients of the award include
- Former United States President, Bill Clinton, 2009.
- Former President of Ireland and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, 2010.
- The Hon. Michael R. Bloomberg, Mayor of the City of New York, 2011.
- Dr. Paul Farmer, founder of the international health and social justice organization Partners In Health", 2012.
- Gail McGovern, President and CEO of the American Red Cross, 2013.
- Filmmaker Ken Burns, 2014.
- Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, New York Times reporters and Pulitzer Prize winners, 2015