Sunday’s Sermon

The version of the flaming chalice currently u...

The version of the flaming chalice currently used as the logo of the Unitarian Universalist Association. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“One of the attractions of the UU approach to religion and life is caught in the assertion that divinity and spirit are to be found not through blind faith but through finding and sending down roots to the deepest part of one’s unique self. As is true in botany, those roots spread out into the wider community and can nourish us and give us a healthy life. How do we know when we are living in the best place for those roots to grow? In so much as we do indeed “grow a soul” we should consider carefully the garden in which that soul grows.” – Bob Lane




Dear Robert,

With profound sadness, we share the news of Rev. Dr. Spencer Lavan’s passing. Rev. Lavan was instrumental to Meadville Lombard’s success in transforming our educational model, and cared deeply about the future of Unitarian Universalism.

 President Lee Barker issued a statement: 

“I learned of Rev. Dr. Spencer Lavan’s death while I was returning home from Peru yesterday. Although Spencer has now been released from the suffering of his debilitating Parkinson’s disease, I am still devastated by the news. As President and Dean of Meadville Lombard from 1988 to 1996, Spencer was not just my predecessor, he was also my mentor and, along with his devoted wife Susan, my friend. Among the many accomplishments he made on behalf of the school was the launch of the groundbreaking Modified Residency Program (MRP), which was the precursor to our current contextual learning program. Additionally, he widened the school’s international footprint by establishing the English Teaching Program at the Protestant Theological Institute in Kolozsvar, Transylvania, and by strengthening relationships with Rissho Kosei-kai and Konkokyo in Japan. Above all else, Spencer and Susan took a personal interest in each of their students, creating a hospitality that drew the entire Meadville Lombard community together.

Early in my presidency, they established the Spencer and Susan Lavan Scholarship for Excellence, the first full-tuition scholarship for an outstanding student. With their leadership we have been able to attract a great number of similar gifts from other generous donors. I try to visit Spencer and Susan in Maine at least once a year. In the final years, I have always been inspired by his courage and by Susan’s constancy.

Meadville Lombard Theological School and all of Unitarian Universalism have lost a great leader and, for me, it is a loss that is very personal and painful.”

We send our deepest condolences to Susan and the family. We are forever grateful for Rev. Lavan’s service to our faith.
Meadville Lombard Theological School


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