Frank Robertson (1936 – 2008)

Offered by Rev. Ginger Luke
UURMaPA Conferences, February and October, 2019

I knew Frank Robertson as a religious educator.  He was instrumental in welcoming experienced but non-credentialed religious educators into LREDA when only credentialed religious educators had been allowed.  He made me feel welcomed.  He seemed to always be able to make people of any age, any training, any gender, any race or any religion feel welcomed.

His passion and commitment to children and youth was outstanding.  Perhaps this had such authenticity because he truly understood what it was like to be in the process of figuring out who you are.  He spent extra time and support with leaders in LRY (Liberal Religious Youth) especially mentoring people like Wayne Arnason.  Wayne recalls that Frank was a FULLBAC supporter and a Youth Agenda supporter active in the Fellowship for Renewal in the early 70s.

Frank was a leader within LREDA.  He was the recipient of the Angus McLean Award for Excellence in Religious Education.  Frank was the author of the UUA curriculum on World Religions.  He was a mentor to many religious educators, seminarians and many parish ministers.  Rev.  Abhi Janamanchi recalls Frank as a mentor, friend, cheerleader and family member.  Frank was one of the primary guides into civil rights and gay rights especially for the UUA.

It is thought that Frank was the first openly gay religious educator to be hired or called by a UU congregation when he became the Minister of Religious Education at All Souls in Washington, D.C.  It is also thought that his officiating at a union ceremony at All Souls contributed to his leaving that congregation.

But Frank’s leadership went well beyond his role as a religious educator.  He was a founding member of Interweave, an organization affiliated with the UUA to address the concerns of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender (GLBT) people.  In this role he greatly helped other LBGT persons claim their identity.  Through Interweave’s efforts, the General Assembly was lobbied to pass resolutions concerning LGBT rights and the UUA Office of Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Concerns was established.  Frank was a national and local Gay Caucus leader.

From 1978 to 1980, Frank was a member of the UUA Board of Trustees where he was both soft spoken and effective in lobbying for human rights causes.  He served on the board of the Liberal Religious Educators Association (LREDA).  He founded and chaired the Unitarian Universalist Religious Education History Group and served on the boards of the St.  Lawrence Foundation and the U.S. Chapter of the International Association for Religious Freedom.  He participated in the International Association for Religious Freedom Congress in Tokyo in 1984.  He was an Elder of the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants.

Frank received an M.Div. from the Theological School of St.  Lawrence University in 1962, where he was certified in Religious Education.  He studied World Religions specializing in East Indian studies at Columbia.

He received the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity from Meadville Lombard Theological School in 2006.

He was ordained by the First Grace Universalist Church in Lowell, MA and served congregations in Barneveld and Shelter Rock, NY, and Paramus, NJ.  He served as Minister of Religious Education in Washington, D.C., Santa Barbara, CA and Evanston, IL where he was awarded the titled of Minister Emeritus upon his retirement.

Frank died Feb.  6, 2008, survived by his partner of 36 years, Mr.  Rick McDonald of Plymouth, MA, his daughters, Lydia and Denene and four grandchildren.

If Frank were here with us today, he would be 82 years old and he would be congratulating us and gently challenging us to face the work yet before us.  His spirit is truly present with us today.

Thank you, Frank.

Ginger Luke

The Rev. Ginger Luke is minister emerita of River Road UU Congregation in Bethesda, Maryland.