Rev. Dr. Jay Deacon
Updated: Aug 29
Rev. Dr. F. Jay Deacon, UU Minister, died suddenly at home on July 23, 2020 at age 74. He is survived by a long time and much-loved friend Steve L’Heureux, his brother Tim Deacon, his sister Pat Sherwin, her 3 sons and their families, and his beloved dog Thunder.
Jay grew up on the Jersey Shore in a milieu of fundamentalist Christianity and reactionary public attitudes. As a teenager, when not sailing on the Barnegat Bay, he became involved in an Assembly of God church and was graduated from an A/G college in Missouri. For a while he lived in Newark and Brooklyn and worked for the Pentecostal evangelist David Wilkerson. But the realities of urban life, race and the Vietnam War brought a changed perspective and soon Wilkerson fired him, calling him a “communist sympathizer.”
During 3 years at the evangelical Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary north of Boston, Jay’s evangelical faith collapsed and was finally shattered by his growing awareness that he was gay. In 1973 he founded the Metropolitan Community Church of Hartford to serve the gay and lesbian community. He worked for the passage of Hartford’s ordinance protecting fundamental rights for gay and lesbian people. The mayor of Hartford declared an “F. Jay Deacon Day” in honor of his efforts. However, his church was the subject of attacks from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hartford and his car was firebombed. Meanwhile, he entered the new Doctor of Ministry program at Hartford Seminary Foundation.
In 1978 Jay was called to serve Good Shepherd Parish MCC in Chicago and continued his doctoral studies at McCormick Theological Seminary. An enthusiastic congregation built a new Parish Center in Lakeview and Jay developed programs on sexuality and spirituality in conjunction with Matthew Fox and the institute for Creation Spirituality. The Good Shepherd became a spiritual center for a community torn by the AIDS pandemic. A few days before the 1983 Chicago mayoral election, Jay hosted a rally for Harold Washington, who became Chicago’s first black mayor.
Receiving feedback that he seemed to be following the precepts of Unitarianism, Jay realized this was so. Calling himself a “refugee from protestant fundamentalism, he found himself inspired by the Transcendentalism of Emerson and the swelling company of evolutionaries. He began to transfer his ministerial credentials to the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1982 and relocated to Boston to serve as Acting Director of Information at the UUA headquarters on Beacon Hill.
Though painfully shy by nature, his gift, his love and his forte waspreaching and teaching. He served 6 New England Congregations; most recently at Channing Memorial Church in Rhode Island. One of his joys was the 6 months in 2001 spent in the UK while on sabbatical leave. He served the British Unitarian Congregations in London and Scotland during that time. Since retiring he has done some teaching and preaching at the Springfield Unitarian Church near his home.
Jay is the author of a book: The Magnificent Journey-Religion as a Lock on the Past or Engine of Evolution. In his words: “It’s about an evolutionary spirituality, a new quality of consciousness beyond ego for a time when the old myths can no longer serve us, when human greed has taken us to the brink of catastrophic ecological collapse. Drawing on my own life story as a former fundamentalist and as a gay man in a society held captive by outmoded religion, I show that transformation is possible, that the energies of life itself are available to us in this crisis.”
A voracious reader, Jay was passionate about equality and justice, the environment, truth, unity and the journey of opening to the Oneness.
Jay’s journey here on earth touched many-his shy but engaging personality, guiding insights and passions will be very much missed-yet we can also celebrate that he has moved on into the very source of Love.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to a charity of one’s own choosing or:
Diabetes Research Institute Foundation (https://www.diabetesresearch.org/Give)
Alzheimers Research Foundation (https://www.alzheimersresearchfoundation.com/make-a-donation/) The Nature Conservatory (https://www.nature.org/en-us/membership-and-giving/donate-to-our-mission/gift-and-estate-planning/) Friends of the UUA (https://giving.uua.org/friends)
Notes of condolence may be sent to:
287 Hillside Ave
Holyoke, MA 01040