Our Tribute to Reverend Forrest Church

Table of Contents

Preface to Our Forrest Church Tribute

Four years ago, after reading Forrest Church’s “Love & Death” for the second time, I looked for the official website of the Reverend Church ( forrestchurch.com ) and what I found was an unpleasant surprise: its website had disappeared and in its place there was an online games page. At that moment I thought that if I ever had the opportunity I would buy Rev. Church’s domain and dedicate him an online tribute, and so I have done!

When I started Bibleversesforever.com that incident came back to my mind. So I logged on to see if his domain was still being mistreated, and discovered to my great delight that ForrestChurch.com was for sale. But, even at that time, if you went to his domain all you would find were a bunch of ads for online games and casinos. That’s why I decided to buy ForrestChurch.com  domain in February 2024 to keep it safe and write this tribute article that you are reading now in Bibleversesforever.com. A simple article that I hope helps to make more known the figure of minister Church and his legacy. 

Finally, let me tell you that to truly understand Pastor Church’s comprehensive and insightful perspective, I highly recommend delving into his books. Particularly noteworthy are “Love & Death“, published by Beacon Press in 2008, and “The Cathedral of the World: A Universalist Theology” published by Beacon Press one year later in 2009. 

“Love & Death” came to life when Forrest Church sent a letter to his congregation about his terminal cancer, promising to summarize his thoughts in this incredible book. Additionally, “The Cathedral of the World” offers a profound exploration of universalist theology, presenting a compelling vision of faith and spirituality that complements and deepens the insights found in “Love & Death”. Together, these books encapsulate the essence of Church’s profound and compassionate understanding of life, faith, and the human condition.

I hope that my article helps to make more known the figure and work of Reverend Forrest Church. 

By the way, at the end of the article I included a selection of links to interesting articles and videos, perfect for learning more about Rev. Forrest Church. I invite you to take a look at them. 

Blessings, 

Paul Williams, Bibleversesforever.com

February 12, 2024. 

Lastly, I want to recommend checking out two heartfelt online tributes: 

The first is from the Unitarian Universalist Association, titled: “In Memoriam: Rev. Dr. Forrest Church: Theologian, Author

And the second is from the University of Idaho, titled: “A Tribute to Forrest Church: Theologian, Historian, Humanitarian

Forrest Church portrait

Forrest Church Biography: A Portrait of His Life and Legacy

Introduction to Rev. Forrest Church Biography

Reverend Forrest Church was a towering figure in the landscape of American religious thought, particularly within the Unitarian Universalist denomination. Born on September 23, 1948, and passing away on September 24, 2009, he left behind a legacy that continues to influence religious discourse and practice. As the son of former U.S. Senator Frank Church and educator Bethine Church, his life was steeped in a milieu of social responsibility and intellectual vigor, which profoundly shaped his approach to ministry and theology. 

Church’s significance lies not just in his role as a minister of the All Souls Church, Unitarian in New York City, but also in his prolific contributions as an author, theologian, and public speaker. He once wrote, “God language can tie people into knots, of course. In part, that is because ‘God’ is not God’s name. Referring to the highest power we can imagine, ‘God’ is our name for that which is greater than all and yet present in each” (The Cathedral of the World: A Universalist Theology). This quote reflects his nuanced understanding of divinity and his commitment to an inclusive and expansive view of spirituality. 

Over nearly three decades at All Souls, he transformed the church into a beacon of liberal faith, a hub for social justice, and a sanctuary for interfaith dialogue and spiritual exploration. His tenure at All Souls was more than a pastoral duty; it was a journey of building a community that reflected the inclusive and compassionate ethos of Unitarian Universalism. 

Beyond the pulpit, Rev. Church was renowned for his intellectual contributions to religious thought. His writings, which span over two dozen of books, articulate a vision of Unitarian Universalism that is both deeply grounded in tradition and boldly modern. He was particularly known for his concept of the ‘Global Cathedral’ – an idea that all religious truths, varied and diverse, converge in a single, sacred space. He explained, “None of us is fully able to perceive the truth that shines through another person’s window, nor the falsehood that we may perceive as truth” (A Chosen Faith: An Introduction to Unitarian Universalism), emphasizing his commitment to religious pluralism and mutual respect. 

Church’s approach to theology was characterized by an openness to question, a commitment to social justice, and a profound understanding of the human spirit. His works, such as “The Cathedral of the World: A Universalist Theology” and “Love & Death,” delve into themes of faith, morality, and the human condition, offering insights that resonate with a wide audience. He tackled the themes of love and death with both a personal and philosophical lens, particularly following his diagnosis and subsequent battle with esophageal cancer. He shared, “Death is not a curse to be outwitted no matter the cost. Death is the natural pivot on which life turns, without which life as we know it could not be” (The Cathedral of the World: A Universalist Theology), providing a poignant reflection on life’s impermanence. 

In summary, Rev. Forrest Church’s legacy is multifaceted – he was a visionary in the realm of religious thought, a bridge-builder in the context of interfaith understanding, and a compassionate guide in the exploration of life’s greatest questions. His life and work exemplified the principles of Unitarian Universalism, marked by open-mindedness, a relentless pursuit of truth, and a profound commitment to serving humanity. His enduring influence continues to inspire and shape contemporary religious discourse, making his story not only compelling but also vitally relevant in today’s world. 

Forrest Church Biography: Early Life and Background

Forrest Church’s journey began on September 23, 1948, in Boise, Idaho, where he was born into a family deeply immersed in the political and intellectual currents of the time. His father, Frank Church, was a prominent U.S. Senator, known for his leadership in foreign relations and environmental advocacy. His mother, Bethine Church, was equally influential, known for her active role in public service and political activism. This environment of civic engagement and intellectual discourse profoundly influenced Forrest’s early worldview and values. 

Growing up in the politically charged atmosphere of Washington D.C., young Forrest was exposed to a broad spectrum of ideas and beliefs. His family’s Episcopalian faith laid the foundational stones of his religious journey, but it was the exposure to a diverse range of philosophical and religious perspectives that sparked his expansive view on spirituality. This early exposure to a variety of worldviews was pivotal in shaping his later theological explorations and his embrace of religious pluralism. 

Church’s educational journey played a crucial role in his intellectual and spiritual development. He attended Stanford University, where he pursued history and political science, graduating with honors. His time at Stanford was marked not just by academic achievement but also by a growing interest in the deeper questions of faith and ethics. This interest led him to Harvard Divinity School, a decision that signified a shift from a potential political career to a life dedicated to religious ministry. 

At Harvard Divinity School, Forrest Church’s worldview expanded significantly. He encountered a range of thinkers and theologians who deeply influenced his understanding of religion and ministry. Notably, James Luther Adams, a prominent Unitarian theologian, became a pivotal figure in Forrest’s theological education. Adams’ teachings on social ethics and the prophetic role of churches in society resonated with Church, shaping his future approach to ministry and his commitment to social justice. 

Forrest Church’s formative years were marked not just by his family’s political legacy and his academic pursuits but also by personal experiences that shaped his character. He was known for his curiosity, a trait that led him to explore various religious traditions and philosophical ideas. His interactions with diverse individuals during his youth, from politicians to activists, from scholars to spiritual leaders, contributed to his broad-minded approach to faith and life. 

In summary, Forrest Church’s early life and background were a tapestry of rich experiences and influences. From his politically active and intellectually stimulating family environment to his diverse educational experiences, each aspect played a crucial role in molding him into a thoughtful, progressive, and compassionate religious leader. His early life set the stage for a ministry characterized by intellectual depth, spiritual inclusivity, and a relentless pursuit of social justice. 

Forrest Church Biography: Ministerial Career

Forrest Church’s journey into Unitarian Universalism and his subsequent ministerial career were marked by deep intellectual curiosity, profound spiritual exploration, and a strong commitment to social justice. 

Ordination and Early Ministry

Church’s path to ministry was cemented with his ordination as a Unitarian Universalist minister in 1978. His early ministerial roles took him to parishes in Boston and Virginia, where he quickly established a reputation for eloquent preaching, thoughtful pastoral care, and a deep commitment to community engagement. These early years were crucial for Church, as they allowed him to refine his approach to ministry, which combined theological depth with a keen sense of social responsibility. 

Transformational Leadership at All Souls Church

A pivotal moment in Church’s career occurred in 1978 when he was called to serve as the senior minister at the All Souls Church, Unitarian in New York City. Under his leadership, the church experienced significant growth and transformation. Church invigorated the congregation with his dynamic preaching style, insightful theological perspectives, and a strong focus on social justice and community service. He made the church a sanctuary for spiritual exploration and a center for social action, reflecting his belief in the church’s role as a force for positive change in society. 

National and International Influence

Forrest Church’s influence extended far beyond his congregation. He became a leading voice in the Unitarian Universalist Association, advocating for theological innovation, inclusivity, and social responsibility within the denomination. His impact was also felt on the international stage, where he engaged in interfaith dialogue and contributed to global discussions on religious pluralism and human rights. His ability to articulate a vision of liberal religion that was both deeply grounded and universally applicable made him a respected figure in religious circles worldwide. 

Engagement with Contemporary Issues

Throughout his career, Church demonstrated an unwavering commitment to addressing contemporary social and ethical issues from a religious perspective. He tackled topics ranging from civil rights to environmental conservation, always seeking to connect these issues to broader theological principles. His approach was marked by a willingness to engage with challenging topics and to encourage his congregation to do the same, fostering a community that was not only reflective but also active in the pursuit of social justice. 

Mentorship and Development of Future Leaders

An often-overlooked aspect of Church’s ministerial career was his role as a mentor and teacher. He nurtured and guided many aspiring ministers and lay leaders, imparting wisdom and insights gained from his own experiences. His influence helped shape a new generation of Unitarian Universalist leaders, ensuring that his approach to ministry – intellectually vibrant, socially engaged, and spiritually nurturing – would endure beyond his tenure. 

Forrest Church’s ministerial career was characterized by dynamic leadership, deep theological insight, and a profound commitment to social justice. His journey within Unitarian Universalism was not just one of personal spiritual growth but also of significant contribution to the denomination and to the wider religious community. His legacy as a minister is marked by the transformation of his congregation, his influential voice in religious discourse, and his role in mentoring future leaders, making his ministerial career a model of engaged and thoughtful religious leadership. 

Cover of the book "Love and Death" by Forrest Church.

Writings and Theological Contributions

Forrest Church’s role as an author and theologian was as significant as his ministry. His extensive body of work contributed greatly to religious thought, particularly within the sphere of liberal theology. 

Diverse Literary Contributions

Church’s authorship spanned a wide array of subjects, reflecting his diverse interests and profound understanding of theology, history, and the human condition. His writing style, known for its clarity and depth, made complex theological concepts accessible to a broad audience. His books like “The Cathedral of the World: A Universalist Theology,” “Freedom from Fear: Finding the Courage to Act, Love, and Be,” and “So Help Me God: The Founding Fathers and the First Great Battle Over Church and State,” showcase his ability to interweave theological discourse with contemporary issues and historical insight. 

Theology of Inclusivity and Pluralism

Central to Church’s theological work was his concept of inclusivity and pluralism. He was a vocal proponent of a faith that embraces diverse religious truths, believing that every religion offers unique insights into the nature of the sacred. His idea of the ‘Global Cathedral’ — where windows of different shapes and sizes represent different religious traditions — was a powerful metaphor for this inclusive theology. This concept had a profound impact on how religious pluralism is approached in Unitarian Universalist circles and beyond. 

Engagement with Existential Themes

Church’s theological exploration often ventured into existential themes, particularly those of love, death, and the quest for meaning. In his book “Love & Death,” he confronted these universal experiences with honesty and compassion, offering readers a framework for understanding their own lives in the context of these profound truths. His reflections gained additional poignancy and depth following his own diagnosis with cancer, as he navigated the personal embodiment of these themes. 

Contributions to Liberal Religious Thought

Beyond his denominational boundaries, Church’s work contributed significantly to the broader landscape of liberal religious thought. He was an advocate for a rational, yet spiritually rich approach to religion, one that valued ethics and human experience as much as scriptural interpretation. His writings provided a voice of reason and compassion in the often polarized religious discourse, offering a middle ground where faith and doubt, tradition and innovation, could coexist. 

Lasting Theological Impact

Forrest Church’s theological contributions continue to resonate within and beyond Unitarian Universalism. His books and sermons remain relevant, often used as resources in religious education, sermon preparation, and personal spiritual exploration. His approach to theology — insightful, inclusive, and compassionate — remains a model for religious thinkers and leaders navigating the complexities of faith in the modern world.

Forrest Church’s writings and theological contributions represent a significant body of work that continues to influence contemporary religious thought. His approach to theology, marked by inclusivity, a deep understanding of the human experience, and a commitment to ethical living, has left a lasting impact on how religion is understood and practiced in today’s diverse and interconnected world. 

Social and Political Activism

Forrest Church’s ministry was deeply intertwined with his commitment to social justice and political engagement. His activism, rooted in his religious beliefs, was a significant aspect of his legacy.

Champion of Civil Rights and Equality

Church was a fervent advocate for civil rights and equality. His tenure in New York City during tumultuous times saw him actively involved in movements for racial justice, LGBTQ+ rights, and gender equality. He viewed these efforts not just as social causes, but as essential expressions of his religious principles. His sermons often addressed issues of discrimination and injustice, calling for a faith-based response to societal inequalities. 

Political Engagement and Advocacy

Reflecting his familial legacy, Church did not shy away from the political sphere. He believed that religious voices were crucial in shaping ethical and humane policies. His writings and speeches frequently touched upon contemporary political issues, from environmental policy to international relations, always informed by his commitment to justice and compassion. 

Interfaith Collaboration for Peace and Justice

Church was a strong proponent of interfaith dialogue and collaboration. He worked alongside leaders from various religious backgrounds, advocating for peace, mutual understanding, and joint initiatives to tackle social issues. His involvement in interfaith efforts was not just about dialogue; it was also about mobilizing diverse religious communities for social and humanitarian causes. 

Environmental Stewardship

Carrying forward his father’s environmental legacy, Church was an outspoken advocate for environmental stewardship. He saw the fight against climate change and environmental degradation as deeply connected to religious values of stewardship, justice, and responsibility. His leadership in this area inspired many in his congregation and beyond to engage in environmental activism. 

Influencing Public Discourse

Church’s impact on public discourse was significant. Through his sermons, books, and public appearances, he influenced how religious communities and the wider public engaged with social and political issues. He had a unique ability to connect complex theological principles with practical ethical action, encouraging people to think deeply about their responsibilities as citizens and as human beings. 

Legacy of Activism

The legacy of Forrest Church’s activism is enduring. He inspired a generation of religious leaders and laypeople to understand social and political engagement as a crucial aspect of their spiritual journey. His model of activism — grounded in faith, informed by intellect, and executed with compassion — continues to be a guiding light for those seeking to merge their spiritual convictions with social and political action.

Forrest Church’s social and political activism was a testament to his belief that faith must be lived out in the world as a force for justice, peace, and human dignity. His efforts in these areas enriched his ministry and left a lasting impact on how religious communities engage with the world around them.

Personal Challenges and Triumphs

Forrest Church’s life was marked not only by his public achievements but also by personal trials, most notably his battle with cancer. These challenges profoundly influenced his theology, ministry, and personal philosophy. 

Confronting Cancer

The diagnosis of esophageal cancer in 2006 was a pivotal moment in Church’s life. It presented not only a physical challenge but also a profound existential crisis. Church faced this adversity with remarkable courage and openness, using it as an opportunity for deep personal and theological reflection. His illness became a catalyst for exploring the themes of mortality and the meaning of life, subjects that he approached with honesty and vulnerability. 

Theological Reflections Amidst Illness

Church’s theological work took on a new dimension in the wake of his diagnosis. In his writings and sermons during this period, he delved into questions of life, death, and the afterlife with a renewed sense of urgency and depth. His book “Love & Death: My Journey through the Valley of the Shadow” is a poignant reflection of his journey through illness, offering insights into how one can find hope and meaning in the face of life’s fragility. 

Empathy and Pastoral Care

Church’s personal struggles with cancer also deepened his empathy and understanding as a pastor. He became acutely aware of the emotional and spiritual needs of those grappling with illness and loss. This experience enriched his pastoral care, as he could now relate to the suffering of others not just as a minister but as someone who had walked a similar path. 

Public Sharing of His Journey

Rather than retreating during his illness, Church chose to publicly share his journey. He spoke candidly about his cancer battle, reflecting on how it impacted his faith and outlook on life. This openness was not only therapeutic for him but also served as an inspiration to others facing their own struggles, demonstrating the power of faith and resilience in the most challenging times. 

Legacy of Resilience and Hope

The triumph of Forrest Church in facing his personal challenges lies not in overcoming cancer but in the way he navigated this journey with grace and fortitude. His ability to derive profound theological and existential insights from his experience and to share these with others is a key aspect of his legacy. He showed that even in the shadow of death, life can be lived fully and meaningfully.

Forrest Church’s personal challenges and triumphs are integral to understanding his life and work. His battle with cancer and how he faced it profoundly influenced his theology, adding a layer of authenticity and depth to his teachings. His journey through illness and his reflections on life, death, and faith continue to inspire and offer solace to those who seek meaning in their own challenges. 

Legacy and Influence

Forrest Church’s enduring legacy is woven into the fabric of modern religious thought and practice. His contributions as a minister, theologian, and activist have left a lasting imprint on Unitarian Universalism and beyond. 

Shaping Unitarian Universalism

Church’s impact on Unitarian Universalism is profound. He played a key role in shaping the denomination’s modern identity, advocating for a theology that embraces diversity and champions social justice. His concept of the ‘Global Cathedral’ significantly influenced how Unitarian Universalists view religious pluralism and interfaith dialogue, promoting a faith that is inclusive and universally accessible. 

Broadening the Scope of Liberal Theology

Beyond the confines of his own denomination, Church’s writings and teachings contributed to the broader landscape of liberal religious thought. His approach to theology — rational, compassionate, and inclusive — resonated with people across various faith traditions. His work offered a fresh perspective on how to engage with spiritual and ethical questions in a pluralistic world. 

Advocacy for Social Justice and Interfaith Dialogue

Church’s commitment to social justice and his efforts in promoting interfaith understanding are among the most impactful aspects of his legacy. He demonstrated how religious conviction could be harnessed to advocate for equality, environmental stewardship, and peace. His work in these areas continues to inspire religious and lay leaders to engage in meaningful social activism. 

Personal Journey of Faith and Resilience

Church’s personal journey, particularly his candid and introspective approach to dealing with his cancer diagnosis, added a deeply human dimension to his theological work. His reflections on life, death, and faith provided a roadmap for navigating life’s most challenging moments with grace and strength. This aspect of his legacy offers a powerful example of resilience and hope in the face of adversity. 

Influencing Future Generations of Thinkers and Leaders

Church’s teachings, writings, and personal example continue to influence new generations of religious thinkers, leaders, and seekers. His approach to ministry and theology — blending intellectual depth with a profound sense of empathy and social responsibility — remains a guiding template for those who aspire to make a difference through their religious or spiritual work. 

Enduring Relevance in Contemporary Discourse

The relevance of Forrest Church’s work extends into contemporary religious and ethical discourse. His insights into the nature of faith, the challenges of pluralism, and the intersection of religion and public life continue to be pertinent in today’s rapidly changing world. His vision of a faith that is open, inclusive, and engaged with the world remains as relevant today as it was during his lifetime. 

Forrest Church’s legacy is characterized by his profound influence on religious thought, his unwavering commitment to social justice, and his ability to articulate a vision of faith that is both deeply personal and universally resonant. His life and work continue to inspire and challenge, serving as a beacon for those navigating the complexities of faith in the modern world. 

Cover of the book "The Cathedral of the World" by Forrest Church.

The “Global Cathedral” Concept

The concept of the “Global Cathedral” is a central idea in the theology of Rev. Forrest Church, representing a profound and inclusive approach to understanding religious pluralism and spirituality. This concept is extensively explored in his book “The Cathedral of the World: A Universalist Theology,” where Church presents a metaphor for appreciating and embracing the diversity of faiths and beliefs. 

In this metaphor, the “Global Cathedral” is envisioned as a vast and all-encompassing space with many windows. Each window represents different religious traditions and spiritual perspectives from around the world. Church argues that while each window offers a unique view, they all provide glimpses of the same ultimate reality. This imagery emphasizes the idea that no single religious tradition holds a monopoly on truth; rather, truth is multifaceted and can be found in the rich diversity of the world’s faiths. 

Through the “Global Cathedral,” Church invites us to recognize and respect the variety of religious experiences and beliefs, suggesting that such diversity does not have to lead to conflict or division. Instead, it can enrich our understanding of the sacred. His theology does not seek to diminish the distinctiveness of individual faiths; rather, it celebrates the unique contributions of each to the broader spiritual landscape. 

“The Cathedral of the World” thus offers a compelling vision of how we might live together in a religiously plural world, fostering a sense of unity without sacrificing the distinctiveness of individual beliefs. Church’s approach in this book provides a thoughtful and compassionate framework for engaging with the world’s diverse religious traditions, urging us to find common ground in the shared pursuit of spiritual truth and understanding. 

Here’s an elaboration on this concept: 

Metaphorical Representation: The “Global Cathedral” is a metaphor used by Forrest Church to describe the diverse and interconnected nature of religious and spiritual beliefs. In this metaphor, the world itself is seen as a grand cathedral, encompassing a multitude of different windows. 

Windows as Perspectives: Each window of this cathedral represents a different religious or spiritual tradition. The variety in the shape, size, and color of these windows symbolizes the diversity in ways people perceive and experience the divine or ultimate reality. No two windows are the same, just as no two religious or spiritual experiences are identical. 

Convergence of Light: Despite the differences in these windows, they all let in the same light. This light can be understood as the universal truth or the essence of the sacred that is present in all religious traditions. The “Global Cathedral” suggests that while our paths and understandings may differ, they all converge towards the same ultimate truth. 

Inclusivity and Pluralism: This concept strongly emphasizes inclusivity and pluralism. It acknowledges and respects the rich diversity of religious traditions and beliefs, asserting that no single tradition has a monopoly on truth or spiritual insight. 

Interconnectedness and Mutual Respect: The “Global Cathedral” encourages an attitude of interconnectedness and mutual respect among different faiths. It suggests that understanding and learning from one another’s perspectives enrich our own spiritual journey. 

Limitations of Human Perception: Church also highlighted that while each window offers a view of the divine, none can capture its entirety. This acknowledges the limitations of human perception and understanding when it comes to the divine or ultimate reality. 

Unity in Diversity: The metaphor of the “Global Cathedral” celebrates diversity in religious thought and practice, while also affirming a deep underlying unity. It is a call for harmony and unity amidst diversity, suggesting that diverse religious expressions are varied responses to the same ultimate reality. 

Modern Relevance: In a world where religious conflicts are prevalent, the “Global Cathedral” offers a model for peaceful coexistence and interfaith dialogue. It’s a vision that aligns well with contemporary ideals of multiculturalism and global interconnectedness.

Impact on Unitarian Universalism: The concept has had a significant impact on Unitarian Universalism, encouraging the denomination to embrace an even more inclusive approach to faith and spirituality. It fits well with the UU principle of seeking truth and meaning through various sources. 

Personal and Communal Exploration: Finally, the “Global Cathedral” invites individuals and communities to explore spirituality in a way that is both personally meaningful and respectful of others’ paths. It’s a call to engage with one’s own faith deeply while also opening up to the wisdom found in other traditions. 

In essence, Forrest Church’s “Global Cathedral” is a poetic and profound illustration of how diverse religious and spiritual traditions can coexist harmoniously, each offering unique and valuable insights into the nature of the divine and the human quest for understanding and connection. 

To know more in depth I invite you to read his book “The Cathedral of the World: A Universalist Theology” published by Beacon Press in 2009. 

The Forrest Church Award

The Forrest Church Award, honoring Reverend Forrest Church’s legacy, is presented by the Heart and Soul Charitable Fund. It recognizes individuals who demonstrate exceptional courage and selflessness in improving the world. The award began as a tribute to Church’s significant contributions in theology and social justice.  

Key aspects of the Forrest Church Award:  

Focus on Values and Principles: The award typically recognizes contributions that align with the values Forrest Church espoused, such as religious freedom, theological pluralism, social justice, and interfaith dialogue. 

Celebration of Leadership and Service: Recipients of this award are often individuals or groups who have demonstrated exceptional leadership within the Unitarian Universalist community or in broader religious, humanitarian, or social justice fields. 

Commitment to Unitarian Universalism: The award may particularly acknowledge contributions that have strengthened or advanced the principles of Unitarian Universalism, a liberal religious tradition that Church was deeply committed to. 

Legacy of Advocacy and Activism: Given Church’s strong commitment to social justice and advocacy, the award may also honor those who have actively worked to promote these values in their community or globally. 

Inspirational Impact: The award aims to recognize those whose work not only embodies the values Church held dear but also inspires others to engage in similar efforts of theological exploration, social activism, and interfaith understanding. 

Over the years, it has been awarded to influential and notable figures such as former U.S. President Bill Clinton, former Mayor of New York Michael R. Bloomberg, former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, and the founders of #Black Lives Matter, among others. 

For more detailed information, please visit the Heart and Soul Charitable Fund.

Cover of the book "Father & Son" by Forrest Church.

The Shared Paths of Frank and Forrest Church

Frank Church, born on July 25, 1924, in Boise, Idaho, was a notable U.S. Senator renowned for his impactful role in foreign relations, environmental advocacy, and civil rights. Educated at Stanford University and Harvard Law School, Church served in the U.S. Army during World War II. Elected to the Senate in 1956, he quickly made a name for himself, especially in foreign affairs, critically assessing U.S. involvement in Vietnam and shaping Cold War policies. 

A passionate environmentalist, Church was pivotal in establishing protected wilderness areas in Idaho, including the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area. His most prominent role was as the chairman of the Church Committee, which investigated U.S. intelligence agencies and led to significant reforms. 

Frank Church’s dedication to justice and public service profoundly influenced his son, Forrest Church. Forrest’s commitment to social justice and ethical leadership in his ministry reflected the values he observed in his father. The integrity and moral courage Frank demonstrated in public life set a powerful example for Forrest, shaping his worldview and contributing to his development as a compassionate, progressive religious leader. Frank’s legacy, therefore, extends beyond his political achievements to his enduring impact on his son’s life and career. 

Recommended reading: Father and Son: A Personal Biography of Senator Frank Church of Idaho. A personal biography of Senator Frank Church of Idaho by his son F. Forrester Church. – HarperCollins Publishers, 1985. 

The Influential Bond Between Bethine and Forrest Church

Bethine Church, an influential figure in Idaho politics, was not only the wife of Senator Frank Church but also the mother of Reverend Forrest Church. Born into a politically active family, Bethine’s upbringing and career deeply influenced her son’s approach to life and service. As the daughter of an Idaho governor and the niece of a U.S. Senator, Bethine was immersed in public service from a young age, a legacy she passed on to Forrest. 

Her marriage to Frank Church and her active role in his political career, where she was dubbed “Idaho’s third senator,” showcased her commitment to civic engagement and public affairs. This environment of political activism and service in which Forrest grew up undoubtedly shaped his worldview. Bethine’s dedication to causes such as education, home health care, and environmental conservation mirrored in Forrest’s commitment to spiritual and ethical matters. As a minister, theologian, and author, Forrest embodied his mother’s passion for making a difference and addressing significant issues, albeit through a different lens. 

Bethine’s influence on Forrest was profound. Her life, marked by political involvement, community service, and a commitment to the greater good, was a guiding force for Forrest, leading him to a path of service and intellectual inquiry, continuing the Church family’s legacy of contributing to the public discourse and societal welfare. 

Conclusion

The life and work of Rev. Forrest Church embody a profound journey through the realms of faith, social justice, and human understanding. His impact on modern religious thought and practice is both significant and enduring, marking him as a key figure in the landscape of contemporary liberal religion. 

Forrest Church’s ministry was distinguished by an unwavering commitment to inclusivity, a passion for social justice, and a profound understanding of the human condition. His theological contributions, particularly his concept of the ‘Global Cathedral,’ redefined the way we approach religious pluralism and interfaith dialogue. Through his writings and sermons, he articulated a vision of faith that is as intellectually robust as it is spiritually nourishing. 

His personal challenges, especially his courageous battle with cancer, added a layer of depth and authenticity to his theological reflections. In facing his own mortality, Church offered profound insights into the nature of life, love, and faith, providing guidance and comfort to those navigating the complexities of human existence. He once reflected, “About life after death, no one knows. But about this we surely know: there is love after death… Centuries from now, the last tracings of our being will yet express themselves in little works of love that follow bead by bead in a luminous catena extending from our dear ones out into their world and then on into the next, strung by our own loving hands” (The Cathedral of the World: A Universalist Theology). 

As a figure in modern religious history, Forrest Church stands as a beacon of liberal religious thought. His legacy continues to influence ministers, theologians, and laypeople, inspiring a faith that is dynamic, open-minded, and socially engaged. His work remains a touchstone for those seeking to understand the role of religion in a diverse and changing world. 

In summary, Rev. Forrest Church’s life was a testament to the power of faith to bridge divides, inspire action, and provide deep, personal meaning. His enduring relevance lies in his ability to speak to the heart of the human experience, offering a vision of religion that is as relevant today as it was during his lifetime. Forrest Church’s place in modern religious history is secure, not only as a thinker and leader but as a compassionate voice calling us to live our values with integrity and love. 

Interior of the All Souls Church, Unitarian in New York City (1157 Lexington Avenue at 80th Street)

The Evolving Path of Unitarian Universalism: Faith, Reason, and Inclusivity

Unitarian Universalism is a theologically diverse religion that encourages individual belief systems. It has roots in Christian traditions but has evolved to encompass a broad spectrum of religious, spiritual, and philosophical beliefs. UUs often draw from various religious traditions, including Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Humanism, and Earth-Centered Spirituality, among others. The faith emphasizes values such as the inherent worth and dignity of every person, justice and equity in human relations, and respect for the interdependent web of all existence. 

History of Unitarian Universalism

Early Origins

Unitarian Universalism has its origins in two separate Christian denominations: Unitarianism and Universalism. Both began as radical Protestant movements in Europe. Unitarianism developed in the 16th century, rejecting the doctrine of the Trinity and instead teaching the unity, or singleness, of God. Key figures like Michael Servetus and Faustus Socinus were instrumental in shaping early Unitarian thought. Universalism emerged around the same time, preaching universal salvation, the belief that a loving God would ultimately redeem all souls, with early proponents like George de Benneville and John Murray. 

Growth in America

In America, both Unitarianism and Universalism grew as liberal Christian alternatives. Unitarians gained a foothold in the early 19th century, particularly in New England. They emphasized reason and individual conscience in religious matters, with leaders like William Ellery Channing and Ralph Waldo Emerson, who was also a prominent transcendentalist, playing pivotal roles. Universalists, spreading a message of universal redemption and God’s unconditional love, also grew during this time, led by figures like Hosea Ballou and Clarence Skinner. 

Post-Christian Transformation

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, both Unitarianism and Universalism gradually moved away from their Christian origins. They began to incorporate more humanist and inclusive religious ideas. This transformation was partly due to influences like transcendentalism, with figures like Margaret Fuller and Theodore Parker, and the rise of secular humanism, represented by people like John Dietrich and Curtis Reese. 

Merger and Formation of UU

The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) was formed in 1961 with the merger of the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America, facilitated by leaders like Dana Greeley. This merger marked the official beginning of Unitarian Universalism as a distinct religious movement. 

Modern Unitarian Universalism

Today, Unitarian Universalism continues to evolve as a pluralistic faith community. It is known for its strong commitment to social justice, environmental stewardship, and the fight for equality for all. UUs often engage in social activism as an expression of their faith. The UUA has congregations not only in the United States but also in Canada and several other countries. 

Summary of the Main Ideas of the Unitarian Universalism.

Unitarian Universalism represents not just a religion, but a dynamic, evolving journey in spiritual and ethical exploration. Its history, stretching from the radical reformation movements of Europe to the inclusive, creedless faith it is today, reflects a continual adaptation and response to the changing needs and understandings of its adherents. 

A Religion of Principles, Not Dogmas: Central to Unitarian Universalism is its commitment to principles over dogmas. Unlike many religions that are built around set creeds, UU encourages individuals to embark on their own spiritual journeys. This open-minded approach allows for a wide range of beliefs and practices, from theist to atheist, from Christian to pagan, all coexisting within the same community.

Advocacy for Social Justice: Unitarian Universalism has long been at the forefront of social justice movements. From its early involvement in the abolition of slavery and women’s suffrage to its current advocacy for LGBTQ+ rights and environmental sustainability, UUs have consistently put their principles into action. This activism is seen not as separate from their faith but as a direct expression of their religious convictions. 

Embracing Pluralism and Diversity: As a beacon of pluralism, UU congregations are unique spaces where diverse viewpoints and cultural backgrounds are not just tolerated but celebrated. This inclusivity extends to interfaith dialogue and cooperation, reflecting a belief in the universal values shared across religious traditions. 

Future Challenges and Opportunities: Looking ahead, Unitarian Universalism faces both challenges and opportunities as it navigates an increasingly secular yet spiritually diverse world. How it continues to adapt and respond to societal changes, while staying true to its core principles, will be key to its ongoing relevance and growth. 

A Living Testament to Progressive Faith: Unitarian Universalism stands as a living testament to the possibilities of a progressive, non-creedal faith. It offers a model for religious community that is adaptable, reflective, and deeply engaged with the world. As humanity continues to grapple with complex moral and existential questions, Unitarian Universalism provides a valuable framework for exploring these issues within a compassionate and open-minded spiritual context. 

In summary, Unitarian Universalism offers a unique and valuable perspective in the landscape of world religions. As a faith that honors the individual’s quest for truth and meaning, while advocating for justice and inclusivity, it holds a special place in the hearts of its followers and a significant role in the broader dialogue about the future of faith in our ever-evolving world. 

To expand more in depth about Unitarian Universalism we recommend visiting the Unitarian Universalist Association.

A Selection of Links About Forrest Church

The New York Times – Rev. Forrest Church, Who Embraced a Gospel of Service, Dies at 61.

The New York Times – His Death Postponed, a Minister Repeats His Farewell Sermon.

PBS – Bob Abernethy’s interview with Reverend Forrest Church

PBS – Joan Cartan-Hansen interviews Rev. Forrest Church (28 minutes video)

PBS – Forrest Church Profile

PBS – Video (7 minutes video Tribute)

NPR – The Rev. Forrest Church, Living ‘Love And Death’

Belief.net publish a Forrest Church sermon delivered on Easter Sunday 2005 titled Life Before Death.

Unitarian Universalist Association

Unitarian Universalist Association – Forrest Church Articles and Writings

Unitarian Universalist Association: In Memoriam: Rev. Dr. Forrest Church: Theologian, Author

All Souls Unitarian – YouTube Channel

The Unitarian Church of All Souls located at 1157 Lexington Avenue at East 80th Street on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, New York, NY 10075.

Wikipedia: Forrest Church page

Wikipedia: Unitarian Universalism page

Wikipedia: Unitarian Church of All Souls page

Beacon Press – Forrest Church Books

YouTube – Love and Death Part 1 (7 minutes video)

YouTube – Love and Death by Forrest Church (3 minutes video)

YouTube – Rev. Forrest Church: Grace (42 seconds video)

YouTube – KQED Bill Moyers interview Forrest Church (32 minutes video)

Video – Charlie Rose Interview (15 minutes video)

Video – WETA (7 minutes video Tribute) It’s the same video included as PBS now from the WETA website.

Find a Grave dedicated to Rev. Forrest Church

YouTube – Dan Cryer discusses his biography “Being Alive and Having to Die: The Spiritual Odyssey of Forrest Church” (69 minutes video)

10+1 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Reverend Forrest Church

Who Was Reverend Forrest Church?

Rev. Forrest Church was a prominent American minister in the Unitarian Universalist denomination. Born on September 23, 1948, and passing on September 24, 2009, he was known for his influential role as a theologian, author, and public speaker. He served as the minister of the All Souls Church, Unitarian in New York City, and contributed significantly to religious discourse through his writings and speeches.

What Are Some Notable Contributions of Rev. Church to Theology and Religious Thought?

Rev. Church is renowned for his contributions to Unitarian Universalism and liberal religious thought. He authored over two dozen books, including “The Cathedral of the World: A Universalist Theology” and “Love & Death.” He was known for his concept of the ‘Global Cathedral,’ highlighting religious pluralism and inclusivity. His works often explored existential themes such as faith, love, death, and the human condition.

How Did Rev. Church’s Background Influence His Theological Approach?

Forrest Church’s background, being the son of a U.S. Senator and an educator, and growing up in a politically and intellectually vibrant environment, profoundly influenced his theological approach. He developed a nuanced understanding of spirituality, emphasizing inclusivity, social responsibility, and intellectual vigor. His early exposure to diverse religious and philosophical ideas shaped his embrace of religious pluralism.

In What Ways Did Rev. Church Engage in Social and Political Activism?

Rev. Church was a fervent advocate for social justice and political engagement. He championed civil rights, equality, environmental stewardship, and interfaith collaboration. His activism reflected his belief in the integration of faith with ethical and humane policies and in mobilizing religious communities for social and humanitarian causes.

What Is the Significance of Rev. Church’s ‘Global Cathedral’ Concept?

The ‘Global Cathedral’ is a central idea in Rev. Church’s theology, representing an inclusive approach to understanding religious pluralism. It metaphorically describes the world as a cathedral with diverse windows, each representing different religious traditions. This concept underscores the belief that no single tradition holds all truth and emphasizes respect for the diversity of religious experiences and beliefs.

What Role Did Rev. Church Play at All Souls Church in New York City?

At All Souls Church, Unitarian in New York City, Rev. Church served as the senior minister and transformed the church into a vibrant hub for liberal faith, social justice, and interfaith dialogue. Under his leadership, the church became a sanctuary for spiritual exploration and community building, reflecting the inclusive and compassionate ethos of Unitarian Universalism.

How Did Rev. Church’s Personal Challenges Influence His Work?

Rev. Church’s personal battle with esophageal cancer profoundly influenced his theological reflections, particularly on themes of mortality and the human condition. His book “Love & Death: My Journey through the Valley of the Shadow” is a poignant exploration of these themes, offering insights into finding hope and meaning in the face of life’s fragility. His personal struggles deepened his empathy and enriched his pastoral care.

What Was Rev. Church’s Approach to Interfaith Dialogue?

Rev. Church was a strong advocate for interfaith dialogue, believing in the importance of collaboration and mutual understanding among different religious traditions. He worked alongside leaders from various faiths to promote peace, understanding, and joint initiatives for social justice. His approach was characterized by respect for the distinctiveness of each faith while seeking common ground in shared spiritual truths.

How Has Rev. Church’s Legacy Influenced Contemporary Religious Discourse?

Rev. Church’s legacy continues to influence contemporary religious discourse, especially in the realms of liberal theology, religious pluralism, and social justice. His writings and teachings remain relevant, often used in religious education and by individuals seeking a deeper understanding of faith in a modern, pluralistic world. His approach to theology and ministry, blending intellectual depth with empathy and social responsibility, serves as a model for current and future religious thinkers and leaders.

What Educational Background and Influences Shaped Rev. Church’s Ministry?

Forrest Church attended Stanford University, where he studied history and political science, followed by Harvard Divinity School for his theological education. Influential figures like James Luther Adams, a prominent Unitarian theologian, significantly shaped his understanding of religion and ministry. Adams’ teachings on social ethics and the prophetic role of churches in society deeply resonated with Church, influencing his commitment to social justice and shaping his future approach to ministry.

Why did the website Bibleversesforever.com buy the domain ForrestChurch.com?

The website Bibleversesforever.com purchased the domain ForrestChurch.com as a tribute to Reverend Forrest Church and his legacy. Paul Williams from Bibleversesforever.com, who had previously been inspired by Rev. Church’s work, particularly his book “Love & Death,” was dismayed to find that the original website for Forrest Church had disappeared and been replaced by an online games page. A few months ago, if you typed forrestchurch.com you would only find online gambling ads. This motivated Paul Williams to buy the ForrestChurch.com domain when it became available for sale.

His primary intention was to rescue the domain from misuse to promote online gaming and casinos, which was unrelated to and disrespectful of Rev. Church’s legacy. When acquiring ForrestChurch.com, he thought it might be a great idea to create a space dedicated to honoring Rev. Church, ensuring that the domain associated with his name was used appropriately and respectfully. The purchase allowed Paul Williams, owner of Bibleversesforever.com, to write and publish a tribute article on his site, contributing to the recognition and appreciation of Rev. Church’s contributions to theology, spirituality and social justice.

This action reflects a desire to preserve the integrity and legacy of influential figures like Rev. Church and to ensure that their digital presence aligns with their life’s work and values.

z3 Being Alive biography Church

Book Recommendation: Being Alive and Having to Die” by Dan Cryer

“Being Alive and Having to Die: The Spiritual Odyssey of Forrest Church” by Dan Cryer published by Macmillan in 2011 is a deeply engaging and comprehensive biography that not only explores the life of Reverend Forrest Church but also delves into the broader context of the Unitarian-Universalist movement and the post-WWII American social and cultural landscape. 

Cryer’s narrative skillfully intertwines the personal, professional, and spiritual dimensions of Forrest Church’s life. From his upbringing as the son of Senator Frank Church in a liberal, professional household, to his struggles and achievements as a leading figure in the liberal religious movement, the book paints a vivid portrait of a man deeply influenced by his era. Cryer doesn’t shy away from exploring the complexities of Church’s life, including his challenges such as alcoholism, marital issues, and eventually his battle with esophageal cancer. These personal trials are presented with sensitivity and depth, offering insights into Church’s character and his journey towards spiritual and personal growth. 

The book stands out for its well-researched and insightful exploration of the Unitarian-Universalist denomination. Cryer, a member of the All Souls Church and an accomplished journalist, brings a unique perspective, blending detailed historical context with personal anecdotes and observations. His journalistic background is evident in the book’s accessible and engaging style, making it a compelling read not just for those interested in religious studies, but for anyone seeking a nuanced understanding of an influential figure and the era he embodied. 

Moreover, Cryer’s direct interactions with Church provide a rich and intimate look at his evolving spiritual beliefs. Church’s intellectual prowess and his emphasis on the transcendent and universal aspects of human existence are highlighted, offering a profound reflection on life, death, and the search for meaning. The book’s treatment of Church’s final days and his approach to his impending death is particularly moving, underscoring his optimistic yet realistic outlook on life. 

While the biography delves into the history of the UU church and includes some critical views on conservative religious movements, it primarily focuses on Church’s life and his role within the liberal religious framework. Cryer’s balanced portrayal ensures that the book is not a mere hagiography but a thoughtful and nuanced exploration of a complex individual. 

In summary, Dan Cryer’s ‘Being Alive and Having to Die’ is a masterful and insightful biography, rich in historical and personal depth. It brilliantly captures Forrest Church’s spiritual journey, intertwining his personal struggles and achievements with broader societal changes, making it a must-read for those interested in religious history, personal transformation, and the human quest for meaning. Highly recommended for its profound narrative and its exploration of the impact of faith in modern times.

Paul Williams.

Thank You for Reading This Article

Thank you for reading this article about Reverend Forrest Church in which I have modestly tried to gloss his figure and his work. 

I think purchasing the forrestchurch.com domain made a lot of sense as it allowed me to return content to a domain that was using the Forrest Church name to promote gaming activities. 

At the same time, including this text about Rev. Forrest Church on my beloved website bibleversesforever.com ensures easy accessibility and I hope that it modestly helps to make his extraordinary figure known more. 

Blessings, 

Paul Williams, Bibleversesforever.com

February 2024

Finally I would like to invite you to read in the following pages two Forrest Church Sermons originally published on their website in 2007: “Beating the Odds” and “Unfinished Business”. I think these two Sermons are very interesting to understand his figure a little more and I think it’s nice to be able to read two Forrest Church sermons written to be read.

Origin of the Images included:

First image of the web is a portrait painting. This image was included on the official Forrest Church website on July 12, 2010 and found with web.archive.org.

Second image is the cover of the book “Love and Death” published by Beacon Press in 2008.

Third image is the cover of the book “The Cathedral of the World” published by Beacon Press in 2009.

Fourth image is the cover of the book “Father & Son” published by HarperCollins Publishers in 1985.

Fifth image is the interior of the Unitarian Church of All Souls. The picture is from nycago.org.

Sixth image is the cover of the book “Being Alive and Having to Die” by Dan Cryer and published by Macmillan Publishers in 2011.

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