The Reverend Mark Henry Edmiston-Lange, our Co-Minister, died suddenly on September 21 after a brief battle with aggressive lung cancer at the age of 64. Mark was born in Newburgh, NY on January 12, 1952, the middle of three brothers, to Barbara Rudd Lange and Samuel Charles Lange. Mark’s brother Russell describes their childhood growing up in Newburgh and spending summers with maternal grandparents in rural Vermont as idyllic.
Mark graduated from Newburgh Free Academy in August 1968 at the top of his class of one. The administration had agreed to his “expedited” graduation after several expulsions because of his vigorous advocacy for progressive causes. As a teenager, Mark protested the war in Vietnam, supported Liberation fighters in Angola, and was the only white member of the local NAACP. Often the person who picked Mark up from school after expulsion was his Unitarian Universalist (UU) minister.
Mark grew up in the Newburgh UU Church and knew by the time he was a teenager that he wanted to be a UU minister. He went to Marlboro College, a small academically rigorous school in Marlboro, Vermont, with the specific intent of preparing for the ministry. There he majored in Philosophy; volunteered in the local Fire Department; hiked the surrounding mountains; and, worked for a local contractor who taught him to plow snow, lumber, build stone walls, and a host of other practical skills. He graduated from Marlboro in 1973. From there he went to Andover Newton Theological School, receiving his M.Div. in June 1978. During seminary he and his brother Guy owned a contracting business. Mark was ordained October 22, 1978 at the First UU Society of Berks County in Reading, PA, his first call. Mark served the Reading church with distinction, earning a reputation for his outreach to the community and his support of women’s and LGBTQ rights.
Mark was called to the UU Church of Akron in 1984 where he served until 1993. A vigorous advocate for reproductive choice, Mark served on the board of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio. He also organized successful interfaith support for the just settlement of an Akron teachers’ strike. A highlight of his life was participating in 1989 in the 108 mile Via Crucis March protesting U.S. policies in Central America with his daughter, Kara, who turned 12 on the march. Mark’s son, Aaron, 6 at the time, was too young to participate. Mark was a hands-on, loving father, often bringing the kids by himself to collegial and denominational events even when Aaron was a toddler.
In 1993, Mark married his “wondrous Becky”, who at the time was the solo minister of the Accotink UU Church in Burke, VA. Mark and Becky were soulmates, sharing a love of Unitarian Universalist ministry, the natural world, hiking, gardening, birding, whitewater canoeing, home remodeling, dancing and the music of John Hiatt, Ry Cooder and a widely diverse host of other musicians and composers. Their love for one another was passionate and deep, precious and rare, an inspiration to others. After their marriage, Mark served two years as interim minister to the Williamsburg UUs; tried to start a rock and roll ministry in the D.C. area called Jubilee Project; and served two years as interim minister to the UU Congregation of Rockville, MD. In 1999, Mark and Becky were called to serve as Co-Ministers to the Emerson UU Church here in Houston. As a co-ministry team, the two brought out the best in and complemented one another, energizing and deepening the Emerson religious community. Their commitment to Unitarian Universalism, social justice and their love for the Emerson congregation were – and are – palpable.
In Houston, Mark has served on the Board of Trustees of Interfaith Ministries (IM) for Greater Houston and as Chair of the IM Interfaith Relations Task Force. He was instrumental in the founding of the Texas UU Justice Ministry and was on the steering committee of UU Voice for Justice. Mark had a brilliant intellect, a keen wit and a compassionate spirit. He was a student of evolutionary psychology and neurobiology, believing that only when human beings understood themselves as evolutionary creatures bound by the same universal laws of nature as the rest of the universe would human beings be able to live in harmony with one another and with the earth.
Mark is survived by his wife, the Rev. Becky Edmiston-Lange, his two children, Kara Honthumb and Aaron Lange; his two brothers and their spouses, Russell and Allynne Lange and Guy and Sallie Lange; a passel of cousins and other family members; and a beloved congregation.