The Rev. Mel Hoover lit the chalice at the start of a General Assembly worship service Thursday, June 20. On Saturday, June 22, he received the UUA's Distinguished Service Award.
The Rev. Mel Hoover received the 2013 Distinguished Service Award from the Unitarian Universalist Association, recognizing his work in anti-racism, anti-oppression, community building, gender equality, and environmental justice, and his role in shaping the path of faithful justice-making in the UUA.
In presenting the award, UUA Board member Lew Phinney, said: “When the biblical writer advised those setting out to do holy work to be ‘as wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove,’ he must have anticipated Mel Hoover’s appearance on the scene in the 20th century. Mel is a truth seeker, truth speaker, collaborator, networker, and community builder. His ministry is filled with gifts of the spirit—grace, hope, and courage. Where others see injustices and fall into despair, Mel looks for ways to make new paths.”
Now the co-minister of the UU Congregation of Charleston, W.Va, with his co-minister and wife Rose Edington, Hoover also served on staff of the UUA for many years as assistant to the president and advocate for racial inclusiveness.
Delegates gave Hoover a standing ovation as he accepted the award. Hoover came to the podium with a photograph of his brother, Felix. Hoover had wanted his brother to be with him when he received the award, but he died a month ago. He was joined on the stage by his wife and co-minister and several friends.
Hoover spoke of first learning of Unitarian Universalism watching white people march among black civil rights activists in Selma, Ala. He found out they were Unitarian Universalists, and he wanted to know them better.
Despite the years of struggle and progress, he said that more work needs to be done to end oppression. “The journey is not over yet,” he said. “I stand here today in hope that you and we someday may not just stand on the side of love, but stand in the midst of love together.”
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Michelle Bates Deakin, a member of First Parish Unitarian Universalist of Arlington, Massachusetts, was a UU World contributing editor from 2006 to 2011 and a UU World senior editor from 2011 to 2014. She is the author of Social Action Heroes: Unitarian Universalists Who Are Changing the World (Skinner House, 2011) and Gay Marriage, Real Life: 10 Stories of Love and Family (Skinner House, 2006).