Environmental Justice Practitioners Network Webinar Series

Presented in the Environmental Justice Practitioners Network Webinar Series: Water Unites Us, with the Reverends Rose Edington & Mel Hoover 

What: Reverends Rose Edington and Mel Hoover built upon the stories and lessons learned that are shared in their chapter “Water Unites Us” in the current UUA Common Read,  Justice on Earth: People of Faith Working at the Intersections of Race, Class, & Environment. 

Where: online

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Clergy couple Mel Hoover and Rose Edington are co-ministers emeriti of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Charleston (UUC), West Virginia.  Their shared connection to Appalachia with its beauty and challenges led them to the Charleston congregation in 2002. Rose grew up in the Kanawha Valley, often referred to as the “chemical valley” for the plants that lined the Kanawha River; and Mel had relatives in the Charleston area that were an easy visit from his Columbus Ohio home.  Both remember gagging from the chemical plants’ emissions that highly polluted the air, a factor that contributed to their environmental justice activism.

Mel graduated from the Ohio State University in 1968 with a B.S. in Social Work and from the Episcopal seminary (then located in Rochester NY), Bexley Hall in 1972 with a Master of Divinity in Ethics. He received an honorary Doctor of ministry from the then Rochester Association of Community Churches.  His post-graduate work in Education Administration at SUNY and with University Associates of San Diego enhanced his work integrating Rochester NY public schools and with Genesee Ecumenical Ministries, National Association of Ecumenical Staff, Council of Churches and Synagogues of Lower Fairfield County, CT.

Rose graduated with a BA in Humanities from Alderson-Broaddus College in Philippi WV in 1969 and received her Master of Divinity in Theology from Colgate Rochester Divinity School in 1972.  Her Doctor of Ministry in Feminist Liberation Theologies from Episcopal Divinity School in 1998 focused on the role of the parish minister in UU congregational antiracism work. Her work has included career counseling, directing a Sexual Abuse Crisis Center and parish ministry.

They met as seminary students and were married December 18, 1970. Originally Episcopalian, Mel was ordained to the Diaconate in 1971, refusing ordination to the priesthood as this order of ministry was not yet open to women.  Rose was ordained an American Baptist minister in 1975. In 1984 they transferred their ordinations to Unitarian Universalism. Their first born and youngest child Melanie was born in 1978. In 1981 their family expanded by the adoption of brothers Len, born 1969 and James, born 1971.  Granddaughter Brighton, daughter of Melanie and Winston Liu joined the family in 2015.

Initially hired by the UUA in 1987, Mel worked as an internal change agent for the faith, directing its national justice work, overseeing the antiracism, antioppression and multicultural ministries programs and serving on President Bill Clinton’s One America Task Force. In 2003 the DRUUMM organization created the Mel Hoover Beloved Community Award, presented annually at GA.  In 2013 he received the UUA’s Annual Distinguished Service Award.

To carry their activism into retirement they founded MelRose Ministries for Positive Transformative Change.  They are both founding members of the Steering Committee for the WV chapter of Interfaith Power and Light. Currently, Mel serves on the Board of UU Ministry for Earth.  Rose is on the Board of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition where she has served as its president and is the recipient of its outstanding volunteer of the year award.

An update from our chapter in Justice on Earth:  One of the groups Rose & Mel helped start, Advocates for a Safe Water System, and for whom the UU Church of Charleston provided meeting space for organizing a regional response to the spill instigated a class action lawsuit against the water company. The lawsuit successfully concluded this year with a $151 million settlement; thus, each affected household and business has or is receiving a monetary compensation.