Wayne Arnason

Board Secretary
University of Toronto (1972)
Harvard Divinity School (1976)

Rev. Wayne Bergthor Arnason has had a 40-year career of service in Unitarian Universalist institutions.

Rev. Arnason retired from the settled parish co-ministry that he shared with his wife, the Rev. Kathleen Rolenz, at the West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church, in Rocky River, Ohio, in 2016. During 2015-2016 he was the part time consulting transitional minister for the Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Appleton, Wisconsin. Currently he serves a half time interim minister position in Sterling, Virginia. Before coming to West Shore, Rev. Arnason served in a long-term parish ministry at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church in Charlottesville, Virginia, beginning from 1984-2000. In retirement, he returned to Charlottesville where he and Kathleen had kept a home.

Rev. Arnason’s denominational service outside the parish has regularly been focused on ministerial formation and excellence. He was Chair of the Ministerial Fellowship Committee from 2008-2015, and served a total of twelve years on the MFC in two appointments. During his tenure the MFC, he undertook a comprehensive review of the competencies and requirements for candidates for our ministry. He also served the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association on their Executive Board over two terms, and served as President of the UUMA from 1993-95.  During his years of UUMA service, he has chaired the UUMA committees that reviewed and enforced the ethical and professional standards of our ministry. He has also served on the Board of Trustees of the Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley.

Rev. Arnason has served the Unitarian Universalist Association in continental leadership roles. From 1996-2005, he was a Trustee-at-Large on the Board of the UUA, in assignments that included the Finance Committee, the Working Group on Ministry, and as Board representative to the MFC.  For four years he was Secretary of the Association, supervising election and certification procedures. In 2013 he was elected by the UUA General Assembly to the Presidential Search Committee.

Wayne Arnason is a 1972 graduate of the University of Toronto and as 1976 graduate of the Harvard Divinity School. Early in his career, he served as a parish minister for congregations in Hayward (1976-1980) and San Francisco, CA (Interim Assistant, -1976). In addition to his parish ministry roles, from 1980-1984, he served as the UUA's Youth Program Director. He is credited with the leadership initiatives that resulted in the creation of Young Religious Unitarian Universalists, our UUA youth organization from 1982-2007. He is the author of a history of the UU youth movements, re-published in a 2004 edition under the title We Would Be One by Skinner House books.

Rev. Arnason has been well known throughout the UUA as an educator. He was the author or co-author of five UUA curricula for both youth and adults, including: Life Issues for Teenagers (1983), On the Path (a curriculum on spiritual practice, 1985) and Faithful Choices (a curriculum on bioethics choices in family life, 1995). In 1990, Wayne Arnason was named a recipient of the annual Angus MacLean Award for Achievement in Religious Education.

With his wife, Rev. Rolenz, Rev. Arnason co-authored a widely-read book on UU worship practices, Worship That Works, reissued in a second edition in 2017.  In 2013, with Rev. Sam Trumbore, he published a collection of essays on Buddhist Voices in Unitarian Universalism.

Wayne Arnason’s publications reflect his other significant interests and roles of service. His first denominational service was on the continental Executive Committee of Liberal Religious Youth in 1969-1970.  He has engaged in significant continuing education during sabbaticals in both clinical ethics and worship. In 1990, he was named a Fellow at the Center for Biomedical Ethics at the University of Virginia Health Sciences Center during a period of sabbatical leave. In 1991, his article on “Affirmative Action in Kidney Allocation” was published in the Hastings Center Report. During a 2005 sabbatical leave he and Kathleen traveled the country studying the present and future of worship in the UUA.

Wayne Arnason’s personal spiritual practice is rooted in Zen Buddhism. He has served as President of the UU Buddhist Fellowship, a continental network of UU Buddhist sitting and study groups.

Rev. Arnason has focused his community activism through faith-based community organizing within two networks in Northeast Ohio. He has served on the Board of Greater Cleveland Congregations, a coalition affiliated with the Industrial Areas Foundation, the nation's largest and longest-standing network of local faith and community-based organizations.

Rev. Arnason is a fourth generation Unitarian Universalist from the Icelandic Canadian Unitarian tradition. He grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba and is a dual American/Canadian citizen. He has three adult children from a previous marriage. In his free time, he enjoys golf, films, Tai Chi and cooking.