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This Just In from the Dean of World Writers

Warren Ross has been crucial to this magazine for more than a decade. No one has been on our masthead longer or written more major articles about Unitarian Universalism. His latest — click here — is carved from his ambitious new history of the UUA, The Premise and the Promise, which was published in June on the 40th anniversary of the General Assembly that approved consolidation of the Unitarian and Universalist denominations.

 Warren Ross Warren Ross
Journalism is only one of Warren's many accomplishments and only one of the ways he has served Unitarian Universalism. He was the first president of the UUA's Metro New York District, served two terms on the UUA Board of Trustees, and as a board member of the Starr King School for the Ministry made such a contribution that the West Coast UU seminary awarded him an honorary doctorate. Warren retired as a principal of a major healthcare advertising and communications agency more than a decade ago and since has edited a monthly magazine called Medical Marketing Media. He has also served as mayor of Rye, New York, and is an active conservationist. Amazingly, he has enough spare time to be a contributing editor for UU World.

Warren conducted 63 interviews in researching his book, so it seems fitting to turn the tables and interview him (by e-mail):

Q. Do any of your interviews stand out as particularly poignant?

A. The most moving was Mark Belletini's story of his visit with Arthur Foote. Mark, minister of First UU Church of Columbus, Ohio, chaired the commission that developed our current hymnal, Singing the Living Tradition. Foote had chaired the commission that produced the 1964 hymnal.

"He had retired by then to a small coastal village in Maine," Belletini recalled, "and after some small talk he looked me in the eye and said, 'So how much of our work have you kept?'" Belletini told him and showed him sheet music for the new ones they were considering.

"He looked at them on his lap and said, 'Young man, I can't read these any more. Will you sing them for me?' I knelt down next to his wooden-backed chair and sang the hymns and he wept and I wept."

Q. You have a long UUA background. Did any of your research paint a very different picture of events you thought you already understood?

A. The most wrenching event both for the denomination and for me personally was undoubtedly the controversy about black power in the 1960s, the BAC/BAWA [Black Affairs Council/Black and White Alternative] confrontation. When I talked to some of the leaders on both sides, I was taken aback by the depth of the remaining passions. Far from a more dispassionate perspective, it was as if I had taken the scab off a barely healed wound and the blood flowed all over again.

Q. How many World articles have you written?

A. Who's counting? My best estimate is around 40. I love interviews with UUs who have made a major contribution to society: Pete Seeger, or Robert Fulghum. One of my main motives for working for UU World is to give our readers a better sense of our great and continuing tradition.

Warren's book is available through the UUA Bookstore, 1-800-215-9076.

Tom Stites
Editor in Chief

UU World XV:4 (September/October 2001): 2.

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