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This profile was last updated on 12/4/10  and contains information from public web pages.

Rev. Judith Downing

Wrong Rev. Judith Downing?

Settled Minister

Local Address:  Fairhaven , Massachusetts , United States
Unitarian Universalist Community Church

Employment History

Board Memberships and Affiliations


  • Harvard Divinity School
24 Total References
Web References
Unitarian Universalist Church of Delaware County - A Detailed History, 4 Dec 2010 [cached]
In 1988 we welcomed Rev. Judith Downing as our settled minister. She was with us for 11 years. During her time with us we changed our principles & bi-laws to officially make ourselves more inclusive of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, calling ourselves a Welcoming Congregation. We also started to put together a mission statement and talk about building a larger space in the 1990s. We finally completed what is now our new sanctuary and church building in 1998.
After Judith left, we had another interim minister, Elizabeth Kerman, and we took a whole year looking for another permanent minister.
Westminster Unitarian Church: Staff & Board, 6 Aug 2006 [cached]
Our Minister Judith Downing
Our interim minister for the 2005-2006 church year, Rev. Judith Downing, is a graduate of Harvard Divinity School.She has served congregations as a settled minister in the Holston Valley UU Church in Grey, Tennessee, and the UU Church of Delaware County in Media, Pennsylvania.During her tenure in Media, a suburb of Philadelphia, the congregation took up the challenge of a million dollar capital campaign to build an addition to the sanctuary.
Rev. Downing is a UUA Accredited Interim Minister, and in that capacity has served churches in Fairhaven and Winchester, Massachusetts, and for the past two years, the First Parish in Brookline, Massachusetts.
She has recently purchased an 1840 Cape and is enjoying living in a small fishing and sailing village, researching the history of her house and working on improvements to the house and property.She is a native Pennsylvanian but loves New England and hopes to live the rest of her life here.
Rev. Downing has a strong interest in music of all kinds and is passionate about Baseball and the Red Sox.She has recently begun practicing Yoga and walking for exercise.Her extended family consists of a sister, nieces and nephews who live in Pennsylvania.
Boston Globe Online / City & Region / For interim minister, faith in change, 27 Dec 2003 [cached]
Interim Minister Judith Downing challenges some sacred cows (she prefers Dunkin' Donuts coffee to Starbucks), but you don't mess with Christmas.
Other traditions aren't considered so hands-off these days at a church that's older than the nation.With a morphing membership no longer quite as Christian as it once was, First Parish is in the midst of a profound discussion about how to mix other beliefs with the Christian pigments on its religious palette.And to do that, this congregation that has survived centuries is turning to a woman whose tenure will be deliberately abbreviated.
Downing is a professional interim minister who arrived in August for a two-year stint.Unlike a permanent minister, who must bond with a congregation and exercise a certain diplomacy, interim ministers are trained to "be very assertive" about needed change, Downing said. (So far, the most blatant break with tradition is Downing herself, First Parish's first female minister.)
Walking the line between being assertive and still communicating "in a kind of ministerial, pastoral way" may be made easier by parish sentiment.Downing cited a survey showing that 91 percent of the congregation support change.But "there are also a number of people who don't want to see any change," she added."This is an old, old, historic church with much tradition."
First Parish traces its founding to 1717.Along with other Congregationalists in the early 1800s, parishioners at the church found themselves disagreeing with the Christian notion of God's trinity; unlike other churches, First Parish didn't undergo theological mitosis and split in two.Rather, it evolved into Unitarianism, and over the years, those with a diversity of views worshiped together, Downing said.
The Christian heritage is reflected in a "covenant" statement that is sometimes said at services: "In the freedom of truth, and the spirit of Jesus, we unite for the worship of God and the service of humankind."
Yet today, Downing said, a majority of the congregation favors broadening the church's worship to include non-Christian perspectives -- "Buddhist, Hindu, Islam, earth-centered, pagan, all kinds of things."She's experimenting with less-Christian affirmations in place of the covenant.
"There's nothing wrong with it.It's just that it is meaningless" to much of the congregation, she said.
Downing, who said the non-Christian direction of the parish conforms with her personal beliefs, has a very different style than her predecessor, a long-serving and erudite cleric who practically wallpapered his office with books.
"You could barely get in here," she said with a chuckle, adding that she put the bookshelves on a diet when she moved in. Downing, 64, was ordained in 1984 and spent 15 years as a minister in two parishes.In 1999, looking for a change, she trained as an interim minister.
One of religion's benefits is community, and she admitted that the planned obsolescence of an interim ministry, with its early adieu to a parish community, can be hard.The job takes the right personality -- Downing said she's independent and enjoys variety in her work -- and it helps that she's single.To avoid living entirely out of her suitcase, she only accepts assignments within commuting distance of her home in Medway.
Even with a short commute, she knows the clock is ticking on changes at First Parish, where the trick will be balancing the church's history and another tradition, its skill at evolving and surviving.
Or, as she puts it, "To honor that history without making it the center of what this church is about. . . . What's more important is the people who are here now."
District Link - June/Summer 2003, 1 Oct 2003 [cached]
Judith Downing, Interim Minister, Brookline
Open Letter to President Bush from America's Clergy, 16 May 2001 [cached]
Rev. Judith Downing, Unitarian Universalist, Fairhaven, MA
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