BELFAST, Maine — The Unitarian Universalist Church of Belfast has welcomed its first full-time, settled minister, the Rev. Dr. Deane Perkins.
Arriving in August with his wife, Susan Cobb, Perkins was called by the unanimous vote of a congregation that built itself from nonexistent to about 130 members and 35 children in 17 years.
“That’s pretty extraordinary for a new congregation,” said Perkins, citing UU Belfast’s “tremendous vitality” as a compelling factor in his decision to accept its call.
Perkins studied and traveled in the Middle East, earned a black belt in tae kwon do and taught nonviolent communication. Raised as an American Baptist, he developed a profound respect for “the beauty and complexity of the myriad religions and cultures that I encountered,” he said. Teaching religious studies at the college level, and challenging young people to find their own sense of truth, was a natural vocation for him, he said.
After earning a doctoral degree in the psychology of religion from McGill University, Perkins spent three decades teaching at Norwich University in Vermont. In 1996 he felt called to the ministry.
“When I decided finally to go into the ministry, it had to be in a context that was open, that allowed for critical analysis, that saw through the violent mythologies and systems that exist in today’s world.” Perkins said. “Because Unitarian Universalism is nondoctrinal and noncreedal, I can have my own beliefs, you can have your own beliefs, others can have their own beliefs and we can come together in a meaningful way to do good work and good ministry.”
Coming to Belfast from the Unitarian Universalist Church at Glens Falls, N.Y., Perkins will lead Sunday services twice monthly, with guest and lay speakers leading in other weeks. He will extend the church’s ministry initially by forming a youth group, as well as spiritual growth classes for adults, beginning this month with a course in nonviolent communication.
“The bottom line is that we’re working together to create a place that’s welcoming to gays, lesbians and transsexuals, that is open to everyone regardless of creed or political beliefs,” he said. “Many people are disillusioned about their past churches, congregations, temples or synagogues, but there is a safe haven here — a sanctuary, truly — that allows us to do the kind of work that is important to better the world and provide right relations.”
Perkins will lead services at 10 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 18 and Oct. 2, 9, and 23. For information about the UU Church of Belfast, 37 Miller St., visit http://uubelfast.org/ or call 338-4482.