Monday, October 12, 2009

Thank You, Union, for My Unitas Award

Last week, I was honored by Union Theological Seminary with the UNITAS award, the seminary's highest alumni honor. I was recognized along with Rev. Dr. George Webber, class of '48, Dr. Phyllis Trible, '63, Dr. Larry L. Rasmussen, '70, Bishop Mark S. Hanson, '72, and Rev. Dr. John W. Kinney, '79. (If you don't know these people, they are inspiring, and you can read their biographies at

I was deeply honored and moved to accept the award in their company. It was a beautiful, emotional and stirring ceremony. I had the great privilege of being introduced by my colleague and friend, Rev. Dr. Marvin Ellison.

As the newest of the graduates, I was introduced last. I was so moved by the speeches of the other honorees that by the time it was my turn, I was pretty nervous. I asked, actually implored God to be with me as I rose, my heart beating wildly.

My remarks are too long to post here, but perhaps I'll post them at our web site. I concluded this way, after naming the other honorees.

"We have each had very different paths since we left Union, but each us of has ministries in the world fueled by our passions. Each of us in our own way learned that it is worth the risk and the doubt and the uncertainty to do what your heart tells you to do and to accept the call God has offered: in the words of Rabbi Nachman, 'to use my life to the fullest, to become the person, I am meant to be.' Union helped me become that person, that minister."

And I am deeply grateful.

Here's what the citation said, in case you are interested:

"Debra W. Haffner. Minister, sexologist, writer, social activist, mother, and founding director of the Religious Institute; for her passionate insistence that faith communities promote healthy, responsible and pleasurable sexuality; and for her fearless celebration of love that is just and whole."

I will treasure my memories of Friday and this honor for the rest of my life. And like President Obama's award last week, I will seek to honor it with my actions and life in the future.

1 comment:

Desmond Ravenstone said...

Congratulations - well deserved!