Those Who Have Served, Part 8

The Stories of 42 Ministers Who Have Served Our Church

by Mike Roberts, Church Historian

Our review of past ministers has reached the point of discussing pastors who served recently and are well known and remembered by our congregation.

Doak Mansfield

Doak Maddox Mansfield became the minister of our church in 1975 after the resignation of Brian Tansey. However, after Tansey’s leaving, the church brought in speakers and used members to conduct Sunday services for two years until Reverend Mansfield was hired by Salem Acres.

Mansfield was born in Fayetteville, Lincoln County Tennessee the son of John Harwell Mansfield and Margaret Jean Maddox. After graduating high school, he earned an associate’s degree from Martin Methodist College and then enrolled at Austin Peay University from which he graduated in 1970. He taught school for one year and then was appointed Dean of Administration and Housing at Martin. He next attended Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington D.C. with the intention of entering the ministry. His first assignment was to serve as pastor at Sudley United Methodist Church in Virginia. He ministered there from 1973 to 1975. At the end of his tenure in Sudley, Mansfield applied for ordination with the Unitarian Universalist Church and began his career with that organization when he accepted the pulpit at Salem Acres.

During his nearly ten years of service to our church, Mansfield preached most of his sermons in the Salem Hills house that had been purchased on land above Lunken Airport. Throughout, he felt the necessity to move into or to build a true church facility if the congregation was ever to grow. Eventually, the house was sold and the group met in the auditorium at Anderson High School and at a social service center. But, the pressing need to find a permanent home was still there. When the decision was made to construct the present church, Mansfield felt it was time to move on and he resigned his position before construction of the new church was completed. He assumed a new pastorate in Huntsville, Alabama where he remained until ill health forced a premature retirement in the year 2000.

In 1978, Mansfield received a commission as a U.S. Army reserve chaplain to become one of only four UU chaplains in the army. He served in that position for eight years. In his sermons he occasionally worked in references to the “M-A-S-H” TV program. For its final episode in 1983, he donned khaki and spoke to the message delivered weekly on the show. He stated, “The 11 years of ‘M-A-S-H’ programs have immeasurably helped America heal the wounds of Vietnam. ‘M-A-S-H’ has been a religious experience because it talked about human experience and religion in contending with life.” The service was held at the H. D. West Community Center and raised funds for a Vietnam memorial in Eden Park.

Reverend Mansfield was active in service to the general community while at Salem Acres. He volunteered at the Salem Senior Center, served in the University of Cincinnati Campus Ministry, was a chaplain at the Bethesda Hospitals as well as reaching the rank of captain while in the U. S. Army Reserve Chaplain corps. During his stay in Cincinnati and in later years, Mansfield authored at least four books, Gallery of Honored CherokeeThe Mockingbird’s BalladJones of Old Lincoln, and An Irreverent Guide to Spirituality.

In tendering his resignation to the Salem Acres congregation, Reverend Mansfield stated that, “My nearly ten years with this congregation has been a time of wonder and challenge. I have real good feelings about the experience. I have real good feelings about your future. The relationships made here are gifts I shall treasure always.” After successful heart surgery, Mansfield went on to serve several churches over the past thirty years and, in February 2023, accepted the position of pastor at The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Sussex County, New Jersey.

Following Reverend Mansfield’s leave, the church used an interim minister, James Hutchinson, to conduct services and help the congregation complete its move to the new facility on Newtown Road. Elinor Artman, whose presence will play a large role in the future years of the church, also helped in the interim period.

Laine Hawxhurst

To open a new page in the history of the congregation, the church employed Reverend Laine Hawxhurst. She was installed as the 38th minister of the church and the first woman to be employed as our full-time minister. Laine Hawxhurst was born in Cincinnati and graduated from Walnut Hills High School. She matriculated to Western College for Women in Oxford and then attended Kirkland College and Union Theological Seminary in New York City. She was raised in the UU tradition, her family attending First Unitarian Church on Reading Road.

Reverend Hawxhurst was installed as the new minister on March 23, 1986. Among those speaking at the event were UU ministers Carl Whittier and Robert Clarke along with Rabbi Victor Reichert. A new start by all would be the phrase to describe Hawxhurst’s early ministry. The newly completed church was opened with its first service in December of 1985. The name of the church was changed from Salem Acres to Heritage Universalist Unitarian Church to emphasize its roots as a former Universalist congregation with a long history of service to the community. Nearly all the churches in the UU organization listed the Unitarian name first. A formal dedication for the new church facility was conducted on November 2, 1986. In order to draw new people to the church, Reverend Hawxhurst helped launch a monthly newsletter which is the predecessor of our Heirloom. She also appeared on the Channel 12 public affairs program “Dialogue.” In a report offered to the Board of Trustees, RE Director Joy Mansfield stated that new and interested worshipers were attending services each Sunday.

Reverend Hawxhurst remained with the church until she tendered her resignation on September 9, 1988. She went on to serve UU churches in Norwich, Connecticut and Allentown, Pennsylvania. She currently resides in Eastern Pennsylvania.

Image: Rev. Doak Mansfield