Rev. Mark Ward’s Biography

I consider myself fortunate to have grown up in a religious tradition where I have always felt at home, even if it took me until well into adulthood to find the calling that led me to ministry. I can’t say I remember my dedication by the Rev. Harry Scholefield at the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia, but growing up in the Unitarian Church of Princeton, New Jersey, in the 1950s and ‘60s I felt accepted. From an early age I welcomed the invitation to think for myself and explore many different sources of religious wisdom. I went on to become president of the high school Liberal Religious Youth group at the Princeton church, but college years took me away from church. On returning home, though, after graduating with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in philosophy I also returned to church, where I met Debbie, who would become my wife.

My own interests turned to journalism, which led me to the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. After I graduated, Debbie and I married at the Princeton church and moved to Charleston, West Virginia for my first newspaper job. We stayed only five years, but people at the church there, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Kanawha Valley, were an important nucleus of friendship for our new family, as our daughters Anna and Erica were born. I was also drawn into lay leadership, where for the first time I experienced a kind of leadership imperative, a sense that this tradition was one I valued and wanted to see sustained. That involvement grew and deepened when we moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where I went to work for the Milwaukee Journal and we were actively involved in Unitarian Universalist Church West of Brookfield. Our daughter Meredith was born there, and the church became the center of our family life. I sang in the choir and again was drawn into lay leadership, including a stint as president of the board while the church was building a half-million-dollar addition.

Journalism suited me well for many years. I had covered City Hall, Civil Courts, Science and Medicine and especially enjoyed my three years on the Journal’s editorial board. But after a merger with the Journal’s rival, the Milwaukee Sentinel, the newspaper changed significantly, as did my own sense of calling. I had felt a tug toward ministry for some time, and the changes at the newspaper gave me a chance to explore them. I decided to follow that tug and entered Meadville Lombard Theological School in September 2000. In addition to my classes, formative experiences at Meadville included Clinical Pastoral Education training at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee, serving as a student member of the Meadville Lombard Board of Trustees and a member of the Winter Institute Planning Committee and as a student intern at the First Unitarian Society of Madison. I graduated in June 2004 and received the Billings Award for excellence in preaching. I was called to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville in April 2004 and began work here on August 1, 2004.

As a Unitarian Universalist minister, my calling is centered in a view that sees the religious impulse within each of us as the crucible of hope for humankind, the source of saving compassion that can reconcile us all and bring us into harmony with all things. I see liberal religion as a path that can serve, foster and promote that compassion.