first_imgSubmitted by Olympia Unitarian Universalist CongregationThe Reverend Arthur VaeniCommunity leader and advocate for the homeless, the Rev. Arthur Vaeni, will retire from settled ministry at the end of June after serving 13 years as the minister of Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation (OUUC). He is the 2014 recipient of the Evan Ferber Peacemaker Leadership Award, established by the Dispute Resolution Center recognizing extraordinary leadership in promoting peaceful dispute resolution, civility, and service to community. He leaves a legacy of social justice work throughout his career.The Reverend Vaeni joined the OUUC as minister in August 2001. Within a week, the country was devastated by the events of 9/11. Rev. Vaeni provided a steady voice and calm refuge for a congregation deeply affected. For many, it was their first encounter with the new minister.“Arthur’s leadership at the time, his wisdom and poise brought comfort to many of us. These traits, plus his good humor have made him well loved within the congregation. He has become an important and respected voice for justice and compassion in the wider community as well. We will all miss him very much,” said Jack Jackson, OUUC Board President.In 2007, it was the Rev. Vaeni who urged his congregation to offer sanctuary to a group of homeless campers who were living in downtown Olympia. Over the course of six plus years and through the collaboration of many churches and volunteers, that first gesture ultimately resulted in Quixote Village, a 2.17-acre, $3.05 million real estate development housing previously homeless adults. It was recently featured in a New York Times article as a template for homeless housing projects across the country.The OUUC is in the midst of a three-phase building project. “The congregation has experienced tremendous growth, in large part, due to Rev. Vaeni’s ministry,” said Darlene Sarkela, Church Administrator. “The new church project is a result of that growth and our increased influence in the community overall,” she added.“Ministers are clearly important to the well-being of congregations,” said The Rev. Vaeni.  “I hope they are, having dedicated my life to being a minister,” he added laughing. “Having said that, it is ultimately the congregation that’s important. The minister may bring gifts and understandings to a congregation that will hopefully benefit it and help it to grow and develop in many ways, but ultimately it’s the congregation that matters.”Rev. Vaeni came to Olympia from New Hampshire where he served as minister for fourteen years. He earned his MDiv at Harvard Divinity School in 1987. He has two adult children. His wife, Sally Gove, teaches writing at Clover Park Technical College in Lakewood. In July he and his wife will return to New England where he will serve two years as interim minister to a Unitarian Universalist congregation in Bangor, Maine. Facebook0Tweet0Pin0last_img

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