The Reverend Edwin “Ed” A. Lane—dedicated parish minister, bold and passionate activist for truth and social justice, supporter and volunteer for humanitarian causes, and devoted servant of liberal religion—died in hospice care on July 19, 2017, in Columbus, Ohio, at the age of 89.
The Rev. Mr. Lane was socially active throughout his life in a multitude of causes, ranging from civil rights to the environment. He protested against the Vietnam War and joined many of his colleagues in the 1965 Selma march. He actively supported women’s rights, abortion rights, and same sex marriage, and fought for income equality and environmental protections. His piece on gun control legislation won the Skinner Award for “Most Significant Sermon of Social Concern” in 1967. Twice he travelled to Africa to build houses with Habitat for Humanity. “Life is a gift of grace,” Ed Lane once wrote, “not something we have earned. We have a responsibility to use it with wisdom and to share it with love.”
Edwin A. Lane, born to Lester and Vera Lewis Lane on June 19, 1928, grew up on a hog farm in Kingman, Ohio. After graduation from Kingman High School in 1944 in a class of eight students, he went on to earn a B.A. from Wilmington College in 1951. Raised in the Methodist church, Ed pursued ministerial study at Drew University Divinity School but found and embraced Unitarianism while there, took his divinity degree in 1954, and was ordained on 12 May 1957 by the Church of the Unity (now UU Church of Winchendon, Mass) while serving his first ministry. He accepted a call as the first minister to the UU Church in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and in nine years there (1958-67) he helped the small fellowship grow into a thriving church with over 400 members, twelve acres of land, and four congregational buildings. The Rev. Mr. Lane went on to settlements at UU churches in Westport, CT (1967-78?), Cambridge, MA (1978-87), an interim year in Bellingham, WA, and a final call to First Parish Waltham, MA (1987), where he was named Minister Emeritus on retiring in 1996.
Mr. Lane gave broad service to the wider UU movement. He chaired the editorial board of the Register Leader (now UU World) from 1957 to 1963 and sat on the board of Beacon Press for ten years (1962-72). It was during his term as chair of that board (1969-71) that the momentous decision was made for Beacon Press to publish the classified Pentagon Papers in 1971, detailing the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War. During the subsequent controversy and lawsuit, his telephone was found to have been tapped. Other roles included membership on the Ministerial Fellowship Committee (1965-1969), Ministerial Consultant to the UU Service Committee (1961-1964), and leadership in the Massachusetts Bay Chapter of the UUMA.
Ed Lane wrote many articles for Church Management and edited the magazine from 1955 to 1957. As a public minister, his submissions of “letters to the editor” often appeared in The New York Times and The Boston Globe. Dedicated to the end, his final letter was published in the Times on 17 July 2017, just two days before his death.\
In retirement, as an active member of First Parish in Needham, MA, Ed often served as a guest preacher and congregational volunteer in adult religious education and on issues of social and racial justice. There he also became a model layperson, where his wildly popular homemade bread, key lime pie, and cheese pennies brought in many dollars for church fundraisers. In his spare time, Mr. Lane enjoyed acting, woodworking, bicycling, and hiking.
In their own obituary for Ed, family members recalled both his professional and personal character: “[Ed] was known as a caring, intelligent, wise, kind, loving minister with a great laugh and sense of humor. His sermons were memorable and thought-provoking. He helped nurture churches in their growth, and served as a cheerleader to those that needed it. … To his family he stands as a patient, loving, intelligent, kind, thoughtful, amazing and huggable husband, father, brother, uncle.”
Edwin Lane is survived by his wife of 28 years, Helen, two sons, four grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, and one great-great grandchild.
Memorial donations are encouraged to First Parish in Needham, 23 Dedham Ave, Needham, MA 02492.
A memorial service was held on Saturday, September 30, 2017, at First Parish Needham.
Notes of condolence may be sent to HelenBLane@gmail.com and to 66 Hastings St. Apt 106, Wellesley, MA 02481.