Rev. Ernest D. Pipes, Jr.
October 6, 1926 – February 10, 2021
It is with sadness that we bring you news of the passing of the Rev. Ernest D. Pipes, Jr. He served as our Minister at the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Santa Monica for 35 years and then as our Minister Emeritus since 1991. Born in Texas, educated there and at Harvard Divinity, he died peacefully at home in Santa Monica, California, at the age of 94. He is survived by his children, Bruce, Heather, and Gordon. He was preceded in death by his loving, amazing wife, Margaret Cope Pipes. With the family, we will hold a memorial service for Rev. Pipes in the future. For now, we offer a few perspectives on his legacy and encourage you to share your stories with each other.
The Rev. Judith Meyer, our Minister Emerita, writes to us today:
Ernie was at the heart of our church and its history. He ministered to all of us with intelligence and compassion. He was my dear colleague and friend. I shall always be grateful that I had the opportunity to work with him and shall always remember him with love and respect.
The Rev. Jeremiah Kalendae, our Developmental Minister now, notes:
Rev. Ernie Pipes’ ministry was a beacon of liberal religion for a generation in the Los Angeles area. The church we call home was well cared for by his generous heart and spirit. During the pandemic, members and I have reached out often to Ernie, wishing that we could safely visit with him in person. We owe much to him for passing the legacy of this church’s living tradition on to our generation and those that will follow us. Let us remember, grieve, and celebrate his incredible life and ministry with us. May we continue to receive the blessings of his bright spirit and may they continue to encourage our flourishing. Rev. Ernie: We love you and we miss you deeply.
Congregational leader Charles M. Haskell writes:
The Rev. Ernie Pipes was my minister for about 23 years. His late wife, Maggie, was also my late wife’s best friend. With his passing, we have lost a fount of institutional memory and philosophical excellence. He taught us a great deal about life, death, and all that joins the two. One such lesson is the subject of my video vlog episode #18, which can be seen on my website. I join the congregation in mourning the loss of Ernie and that whole segment of church history. May his memory live on in our hearts and minds.
Congregational leader Joyce Holmen adds:
Ernie’s gone? It seemed like we might be fortunate enough to have him all the rest of our days, but no. It’s good to let the tears come, then think of another happy event shared, and something else about Ernie and Maggie that sparks respect and gratitude. From the early 1960s, the two of them were active in civil rights and justice work, inspiring many to join them as they promoted interfaith dialog and action. Not only did he lead our church with a gentle hand, elegant sermons, good listening, and a truly open mind, he guided dozens of men and women entering into or wrestling with UU ministry. Our resident philosopher read widely – and sent lots of parishioners and staff off to denominational events and training, saving his travels for weeks with Maggie in Mexico or Europe. Ernie married hundreds of loving couples, often strangers to our faith who couldn’t find acceptance from any other clergy; and he celebrated the first local gay marriage in 1955. He honored the passing of so many people, raising up in each memorial service the unique qualities of the one who died as well as the poetic, universal aspects of such a rite of passage.
I alternate today between a few tears and a little more acceptance, various memories popping up, grateful for knowing Ernie as a mentor and friend to me and to my family as well. For a decade, he was my generous colleague, promoting professionalism in Carol Edwards’ Religious Education field and in my work, Administration. He retired with typical grace, letting us fuss over him but not too much. An annual lectureship funded in his name has continued Ernie’s diversity training for us all. I have loved his steady presence in the pews throughout the years that his successors have ministered to us; he continued to practice learning, respect, and love – while enjoying a piece of cake or another potluck in Forbes Hall. May you travel light and travel easy, old friend.
From the November 2016 UUSM Newsletter:
Forbes Hall was full Saturday afternoon, October 22, for a celebration of the Rev. Ernie Pipes’ 90th birthday. Many of the UU Santa Monica members present had been in the congregation during Ernie’s 35-year ministry (1956–1991), had been friends with Ernie’s wife, Maggie, and had walked beside her in the fight for social justice. Several of the speakers at the “High Tea” spoke of the many weddings Ernie had performed in the decades during and after his ministry, including the first “committed unions” of same sex couples in California.