Hoertdoerfer accepts MacLean Award for Excellence in Religious Education

Hoertdoerfer accepts MacLean Award for Excellence in Religious Education

‘My life’s work of forty years broke me open to the moral issues of our time.’

Sonja L. Cohen
The Rev. Pat Hoertdoerfer accepts an award from Jessica York

The Rev. Pat Hoertdoerfer (left) accepts the 2017 Angus H. MacLean Award for Excellence in Religious Education from Jessica York during the UUA General Assembly in New Orleans, June 23. (© Christopher L. Walton)

© Christopher L. Walton


During General Session III of the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly, Jessica York, faith development director and interim director of Ministries and Faith Development for the UUA, presented the 2017 Angus H. MacLean Award for Excellence in Religious Education to the Rev. Pat Hoertdoerfer.

The prestigious award was established in 1972 by the St. Lawrence University Theological School Alumni Association and the Religious Education Department of the UUA. It honors contributions to the quality of religious education at the local and Association levels, innovation in the use of religious education resources, and influence in religious education beyond the Association.

Hoertdoerfer served as director of religious education at May Memorial UU Society in Syracuse, New York; national director of ethical education at the American Ethical Union in New York City; and minister of religious education at River Road Unitarian Church in Bethesda, Maryland. For sixteen years, she served on the national level, first as the Children, Family, and Intergenerational Programs director in the curriculum office of the UUA, and then on the district staffs for New Hampshire/Vermont and Northern New England.

Among her many contributions over the years, she helped create the popular Neighboring Faiths RE program, and the five-volume curriculum series on peacemaking, In Our Hands. Recognizing the need to address the safety of youth and adults in UU congregations, she co-edited the Safe Congregations Handbook: Nurturing Healthy Boundaries in Our Faith Communities. She helped develop the K–1 and grades 4–6 Our Whole Lives curricula, and wrote the Parent Guide to Our Whole Lives, a companion to the program for families. She authored a chapter in Essex Conversations: Visions for Lifespan Religious Education, and she created a series of CDs for families to use at home, Let’s Talk About, with guiding questions to hold family discussions on topics such as money, marriage, divorce, and interfaith families.

York described Hoertdoerfer’s current ministry, as a certified sage-ing leader, as incorporating “many of the passions she has embraced for her entire ministry: learning from many spiritual/wisdom traditions, multigenerational learning, and the importance of ethical relations.”

“Because Pat journeyed with us, beside us,” York said while presenting the award, “youth programming was strengthened, congregations became safer and multigenerational ministries extended to include a focus on ministry with and to elders. Her reach goes far beyond the Unitarian Universalist world.”

Accepting the award, Hoertdoerfer expressed deep gratitude to her family, mentors, and colleagues. “I am, because of all these relations—and so much more—the person practicing integrity, compassion, and courage.”

“My life’s work of forty years,” Hoertdoerfer said, “broke me open to the moral issues of our time. The many faces of injustice and oppression, violence in human relations, and the abuse of planet earth. In the struggle and the power of love, we have addressed these critical issues and made a difference, I believe. With my congregation’s councils, my district’s committees, and my UUA partners, we have lived briefly into the presence of love, the practice of restorative justice, and the deepening of our faith.”