As I have been reading and listening to the dialogue surrounding the ministerial search, I want to offer an opinion based on fact, not speculation. The Reverend Sidney Freeman would be appalled to have his name and career used as an example of why we should consider a candidate who is not in fellowship with UUA. My comments are not to be construed as supporting or opposing the petition – only to correct the conversation.
I have been attending since 1971. Together with Loyd Dillon, we served as spokespersons for the congregation for over 20 years. Sid Freeman married me twice, I was a substitute in his contract bridge group, and we were friends for many years. I say that to assure you that we had many conversations about his ministry, relationship with the UUA, and his fellow ministers.
When our congregation found Dr. Freeman in Lynchburg, VA in 1957, he was a lay leader in the local congregation and an English and Drama professor at Sweet Briar College. As many of you know he continued his professorial role while serving our congregation as an instructor at Johnson C. Smith University.
By his own admission, he was not qualified for the job at the time he was hired! It was a very different time and place. Unitarian Universalism was in the midst of a big growth surge and there was a true shortage of qualified candidates. Sid came to a SMALL congregation and they learned together. As Charlotte grew and the congregation expanded, he realized he was lacking many of the skills required to adapt to this change. As much as I loved him, he should have retired years earlier, as he was not the person to lead us further.
Dr. Freeman was very supportive of the credentialing process. He mentored seminarians and interns and was instrumental in at least one candidate who served our congregation being declined fellowship. Because he came to the UU ministry in an unconventional manner, he always felt an outsider at General Assemblies and other assemblies of UU ministers. He was never “part of the club.” He missed that collegial interaction and felt it hampered his ability to serve us.
Please know that if Reverend Sidney Freeman had a vote, he would be supporting the traditional search process emphatically.