Church, Forrest 1948–

views updated

Church, Forrest 1948–

(F. Forrester Church, Frank Forrester Church, IV)


Born September 23, 1948, in Boise, ID; son of Frank (a U.S. senator) and Bethine Church; married Amy Furth (a religious educator), May 30, 1970; children: Frank Forrester, Nina Wynne, Jacob, Nathan. Education: Stanford University, A.B., 1970; Harvard University, M.Div., 1974, Ph.D. (magna cum laude), 1978.


Home—New York, NY. Office—All Souls Unitarian Church, 1157 Lexington Ave., New York, NY 10021. Agent—Joy Harris, Lantz Agency, 888 Sixth Ave., New York, NY 10023.


All Souls Unitarian Church, New York, NY, pastor, 1978—. Host of cable television program Unitarian Universalist Discussions, beginning 1985. Member of National Council on Economic Priorities, beginning 1984.


Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute (executive board member).


Pulitzer Prize nomination, 1985, for Father and Son: A Personal Biography of Senator Frank Church of Idaho.


(Editor) Continuity and Discontinuity in Church History: Essays Presented to George Huntston Williams on the Occasion of His 65th Birthday, Brill (Leiden, The Netherlands), 1979.

Father and Son: A Personal Biography of Senator Frank Church of Idaho, Harper (New York, NY), 1985.

The Devil and Dr. Church: A Guide to Hell for Atheists and True Believers (first in trilogy on heaven, hell, and purgatory), Harper (New York, NY), 1986.

Entertaining Angels: A Guide to Heaven for Atheists and True Believers (second in trilogy), Harper (New York, NY), 1987.

(Editor and author of preface) The Essential Tillich: An Anthology of the Writings of Paul Tillich, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1987.

Everyday Miracles: Stories from Life (collected essays), Harper (New York, NY), 1988.

(Editor, with Terrence J. Mulry) The Macmillan Book of Earliest Christian Hymns, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1988.

(Editor, with Terrence J. Mulry) The Macmillan Book of Earliest Christian Prayers, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1988.

The Seven Deadly Virtues: A Guide to Purgatory for Atheists and True Believers (third in trilogy), Harper (New York, NY), 1988.

(Editor, with Terrence J. Mulry) The Macmillan Book of Earliest Christian Meditations, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1989.

(Editor, with Terrence J. Mulry) One Prayer at a Time: A Twelve-step Anthology for People in Recovery and All Who Seek a Deeper Faith, Collier (New York, NY), 1989.

(With John A. Buehrens) Our Chosen Faith: An Introduction to Unitarian Universalism, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 1989, reprinted, 1998.

God and Other Famous Liberals: Reclaiming the Politics of America, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1991.

Life Lines: Holding on (and Letting Go), Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 1996.

(Editor and introduction) A. Powell Davies, Without Apology: Collected Meditations on Liberal Religion, Skinner House (Boston, MA), 1998.

(Editor and author of introduction) Lifecraft: The Art of Meaning in the Everyday, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 2000.

Restoring Faith: America's Religious Leaders Answer Terror with Hope, Walker (New York, NY), 2001.

Bringing God Home: A Traveler's Guide, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 2002.

The American Creed: A Spiritual and Patriotic Primer, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 2002.

(Editor) The Separation of Church and State: Writings on a Fundamental Freedom by America's Founders, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 2004.

Freedom from Fear: Finding the Courage to Act, Love, and Be, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2004.

So Help Me God: The Founding Fathers and the First Great Battle over Church and State, Harcourt (New York, NY), 2007.

Love & Death: My Journey through the Valley of the Shadow, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 2008.

Author of weekly column "Fundamentals," syndicated by the Chicago Tribune, 1988—. Contributor of essays to the Harvard Divinity Bulletin; contributor of eight speeches to Representative American Speeches, Wilson & Co.; contributor of an interview with Bill Moyers to A World of Ideas, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1989.


Forrest Church, son of the late U.S. senator Frank Church and pastor of New York City's All Souls Unitarian Church, delivers an energetic message of love, peace, and activism both in his sermons and in his writings. Church belongs to the Unitarian Universalists, a religious denomination that denies the existence of the Trinity while emphasizing the conscience, the ability to reason, and the innate goodness of humans. With his characteristic warmth and charisma, Church has attracted a growing number of Catholics, Jews, and Protestants to his congregation and, with his inclination toward outspokenness, has challenged the church's conservative views on such issues as abortion and arms control. He has inspired a spirit of community service among his parishioners with such projects as a task force for victims of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), a shelter for homeless women, a Meals on Wheels program, and a letter-writing campaign for disarmament. These endeavors affirm Church's belief that, as quoted by Bernice Kanner in New York, when people work together, "problems become very small in comparison with the wonder, the mystery, the miracle of life and death, of love and loss, of joy and pain."

Church found his religious vocation in 1971, the year following his graduation from Stanford University. By 1978 he had completed his doctorate from Harvard Divinity School and, even though he was intent on a career in academia and had delivered merely five sermons in his entire lifetime, attended an interview for parish minister at All Souls. He astounded the congregation with his eloquent speech and was offered the position over twenty-four other candidates. "I don't come thundering out of the pulpit with the quote-unquote truth," Church told Montgomery Brower in People about his sermons, which are mixtures of allegories, metaphors, and anecdotes, often wrought from his own life experiences. "I am involved in a search, and all of my conclusions are tentative."

In 1985, one year following his father's death, Church published his first work, Father and Son: A Personal Biography of Senator Frank Church of Idaho. In this remembrance, which he called a portrait of "myself and that part of my father that is in me," as reviewer Chalmers M. Roberts quoted in the Washington Post BookWorld, Church recounts his father's early struggle with cancer—at the age of twenty-three he was told he had six months to live—and his subsequent three decades of political activity. Known as the Senate's conscience, liberal Democrat Frank Church served in the U.S. Senate from 1957 to 1980, advocating environmentalism and civil rights, exposing illegal activities within the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and speaking out against the Vietnam War, ultimately cosponsoring the bill that would limit American involvement in southeast Asia. He vied unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1976 but realized his lifelong goal of chairing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during his last two years in office. After living a full thirty-six years longer than doctors had predicted, Senator Church finally succumbed to cancer in 1984, at the age of fifty-nine. "Because my father was not afraid to die," Church said in his father's eulogy, as quoted by Kanner, "he was not afraid to live. He did not spend his life … little by little until he was gone. He gave it away to others. He invested it in things that would ennoble and outlast him."

Critics widely praised Father and Son as a realistic and genuine remembrance of Church's late father. Roberts commended the "rugged honesty" of Church's words, hailing the work as "reminiscent of what he calls his father's ‘most characteristic trait, a sense of outrage against practices … he believed to be morally wrong.’" Similarly, Jeanne Paul in her Detroit News review stated that Church "is able to convey the spirit of love (he means to show his father's love, but manages in the process to impart the brilliance of his own love) in a wholly admirable fashion," adding that Church "can now look back with a clear eye at his father and himself." The critic concluded that "reading Father and Son brings a moment of peace to the soul, and hope for oneself and the future."

In Lifecraft: The Art of Meaning in the Everyday, Church offers readers a series of meditations with the intention of helping them to lead a more meaningful life. Not all of the stories he draws from are religious; they stem from philosophy and various branches of the arts as well, and also from his own life experiences. One of the overriding themes of Church's advice is to live a diverse life that consists of different interests and projects, addressing each area as a separate entity, whether it be parenting or career or marriage or friendships. Each part of one's life can then be prioritized based upon what is most important at any given time. For instance, parenting might rank as a higher priority when children are small and more needing of time and attention, and career might be a higher priority early on in life before starting a family. Rather than struggling with a rut, Church encourages readers to merely switch their focus and move on to a different segment of their life in order to rejuvenate themselves. The meditations encourage readers to look at life as a craft, just as it is referred to in the title—something one must build on and practice every day. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly commented that "Church does not offer earth-shattering advice here, but readers will be comforted and perhaps challenged." June Sawyers, writing for Booklist, dubbed Church "an elegant writer of simple, direct prose interspersed with flourishes of poetry and flashes of inspiration."

So Help Me God: The Founding Fathers and the First Great Battle over Church and State looks at the separation of church and state in the United States during the tenure of the nation's first five presidents, founding fathers who were responsible for framing the constitution and for determining just what that separation would mean. The nation was divided in many respects on this topic, with some Americans convinced that any nation without a strong religious, moral backbone would founder, and others holding fast to the religious liberty that the colonies struggled to achieve and maintaining that it would last only if the government kept its distance from church matters. Robert Flatley, writing for Library Journal, commented that "the book reveals the complexities and ironies of this divide," and dubbed the result "well researched and written." Church's work serves to show how the constant battle between religious conservatives and those with less or no religious adherences began early in the nation's history, setting a precedent for modern-day issues that will, no doubt, continue to plague the American political scene. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly remarked of Church's effort that "those who think that the past holds clear and reassuring lessons for today will be hard put to find them here." The reviewer went on to conclude that the volume is "beautifully crafted and timely."



Church, Forrest, Father and Son: A Personal Biography of Senator Frank Church of Idaho, Harper (New York, NY), 1985.


Booklist, May 15, 2000, June Sawyers, review of Lifecraft: The Art of Meaning in the Everyday, p. 1704.

Detroit News, January 19, 1985, Jeanne Paul, review of Father and Son.

Library Journal, September 15, 2007, Robert Flatley, review of So Help Me God: The Founding Fathers and the First Great Battle over Church and State, p. 69.

New York, November 4, 1985, Bernice Kanner, review of Father and Son.

People, May 19, 1986, Montgomery Brower, review of Father and Son.

Publishers Weekly, May 15, 2000, review of Lifecraft, p. 111; July 16, 2007, review of So Help Me God, p. 158.

Washington Post Book World, November 25, 1985, Chalmers M. Roberts, review of Father and Son.

About this article

Church, Forrest 1948–

Updated About content Print Article