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Unitarian Universalists select Zimmerman

The Mid-Columbia Unitarian Universalist Fellowship has called the Rev. Judy Zimmerman to serve as its first “settled” minister — meaning she’ll be the first to reside in the area.

Zimmerman was a long-time Unitarian Universalist before recently receiving her Master of Divinity degree from the Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago.

She is presently teaching psychology at Portland Community College. She starts Aug. 1.

The fellowship draws from throughout the Columbia Gorge, including Hood River, The Dalles and White Salmon. It meets Sundays at 10 a.m. at the Rockford Grange, 4262 Barrett Dr., in Hood River.

“Unitarian Universalism’s celebration of theological diversity and long history of being a progressive voice for social change prompted me to leave a teaching career and heed the call of my heart to serve the needs of the world in a new way,” Zimmerman told the fellowship’s search committee.

“This led me to seminary, to service as a hospital chaplain, to co-founding and leading Oregon Unitarian Universalist Voices for Justice, and now to the Mid-Columbia Unitarian Universalist Fellowship,” she said.

She said the fellowship “can be a place that attracts and nourishes families, feeds our spirits, broadens our minds and creates worship that makes our hearts sing.”

Cathy Rion was a contract minister who served for about nine months from 2011 into 2012, and since then the fellowship has had an interim minister, Ken Jones, said Steve Castles, a member of the congregation.

Zimmerman will start in a part-time capacity, but the hope is she will become full-time, Castles said. The congregation has 79 adult members.

Unitarian Universalists are an old, but little understood denomination that doesn’t fit any standard category.

“What we like to say is we have a very big tent,” Castles said. “We have Christians and believe it or not, we have a few that call themselves naturalists. It means in a sense that they get a lot of their spirituality through the earth. We have quite a variety of theological orientations. And we don’t have a creed.”

Rion said in 2011 that Christians would think Unitarians are not Christians, but someone who is from a non-Christian religion, such as a Muslim, would say, “They’re definitely Christian.”

Unitarian Universalists do not believe Jesus Christ is the son of God, but they do believe all people are saved.

“That’s what we call the Universalist part of our religion. The Universalists, before they joined [with Unitarians] that’s exactly what they believed, that everyone was saved, including people who are not Christians,” Castles said.

Jesus is “a very important religious figure, there’s no question. But Unitarians believe we can learn from all the major religions,” Castles said.

The faith started in the Middle Ages in what is now Romania. It spread to England and then to the American colonies.

Social justice is a key part of the faith and has been for centuries. “Some people say we live our faith. It’s not what you believe, it’s what you do,” Castles said.

Zimmerman, who is already active in social justice causes on the state level, will become active on the community level, Castles said.

The Unitarian Universalists help with the FISH Food Bank, the Hood River Warming Shelter, and Gorge Grown, a part of the local-food scene.

Sermon topics vary widely.

“Our ministers tend to be pretty well educated and they draw from all sources. Christian and not just religious sources, but any source. Spirituality is a personal thing so different people draw inspiration from different materials,” Castles said.

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