Wayne Bergthor Arnason

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Arnason, Wayne Bergthor

By Wayne Bergthor Arnason

As a fourth generation Unitarian, I took for granted the place of the Unitarian Church located at Sargent and Banning in our community. I grew up on Dominion Street in Winnipeg’s West End when it still had a considerable Icelandic population. I attended Sargent Park School, Clifton School, and Daniel McIntyre Collegiate Institute. The Unitarian Church was down the street from Daniel Mac, and so my school and church activities were well contained within the West End. My family spent every summer at our cottage in Gimli, and viewed Gimli as our second home.

Regional youth conference events began to draw me out of Winnipeg. Like my mother before me, the first one I attended was at the Unitarian Camp at Hnausa. Subsequently I traveled to other cities in Western Canada and then to conferences in the United States and Europe. I attended one year at the University of Manitoba before deciding to take a year out to work at the Unitarian Universalist Church headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts. I then finished my bachelor’s degree at the University of Toronto, graduating in 1972. By then I had confirmed my desire to pursue the Unitarian Universalist ministry as a career, and was accepted to Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I graduated from H.D.S. in 1976.

My first call was to the church I had served as a student minister, the First Unitarian Church in San Francisco, CA. I served as Interim Assistant Minister there in 1976. In the fall of 1976 I was called to my first settled ministry as Minister of the Starr King Unitarian Church in Hayward, California. During this period I was married to Margaret Woodside.


I left California and this marriage in 1979. From 1980 until 1984 I served as Youth Programs Director at the Unitarian Universalist headquarters in Boston. During this time I lead the effort to re-create the church’s youth organization, resulting in the founding of the UUA’s current youth organization, Young Religious Unitarian Universalists. During this time I wrote a history of the UUA’s youth movements, entitled Follow the Gleam. I also published several curricula for youth and adults.

In 1982, I married Lida Brown Pritchette, and adopted her two children Karla and Keith. Our daughter Sarah Amanda was born February 20, 1983. In 1984 I was called to become the minister of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church in Charlottesville, Virginia, where our family remained for sixteen years. Lida and I were divorced in 1997.

During my years in Virginia, I served as President of the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association. The congregation doubled in size and expanded its physical plant. I was involved in publishing two curricula for UU churches, one on spiritual practices and another on ethical decision making in health care. In Charlottesville I developed an interest in biomedical ethics and served as a Fellow at UVA’s Center for Biomedical Ethics in 1990. In 1996 I was elected to serve on the Board of Trustees of the Unitarian Universalist Association.