Unitarian Universalism lost a giant last week. The Reverend Clark Olsen, best known for his participation in the events in Selma in 1965, died on Martin Luther King day of heart failure. His life of service and ministry holds much to inspire us in our own lives. He was with colleagues the Rev. James Reeb & the Rev. Orloff Miller when they were attacked by white supremacists, and Reeb later died of his injuries. His death, the death of a white man, is seen by many as the catalyst for the passage of the Voting Rights Act–an unfortunate reality of the Jim Crow South that all the deaths of people of color like Emmett Till, Jimmie Lee Jackson, and so many others, could not sway public opinion.
Olsen went on to continue his service as a parish minister and then as a consultant for corporations and churches. He was awarded Unitarian Universalism’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award, in 2015. According to UU World magazine, “Accepting the award, the visibly moved Olsen said, “We all live our lives at the intersection of mystery and values, and to explore that intersection, reaching into the riches of human experiences, offers deeply satisfying opportunity for insight and growth … I feel awed and grateful that, made as we are from the stardust of Creation, inherent in all of us is the desire to love others and to embrace efforts to bring more justice into this world.” “
If you are interested in the history surrounding the events in Selma or Clark’s life as a minister, here are some links to explore.
(This one’s a long interview https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=0w5oH0CepdQ )
https:// www.nytimes.com/2015/03/06/ opinion/a-call-from-selma.html
https://www.citizen-times.com/ videos/ news/2015/01/17/21900167/
He is one of the visionaries whose life story calls us to our best selves, and whose legacy will live on through the many people he impacted. In the hundreds of speeches Clark gave about his experience in Selma and how it changed his life, “Whenever you see injustice, speak up, take a stand, be in solidarity. You never know what may be the outcome.” Talk about living Unitarian Universalist values.