St. Paul's United Church of Christ pastor The Rev. Dr. Marty Kuchma was named as the 25th recipient of the Carroll County Human Relations Commission's human relations award at its annual awards dinner on March 27.
St. Paul's Consistory President Ben Rogers wrote in the March church newsletter "Highlights," that Kuchma was "recognized for his many efforts in addressing homelessness, diversity, inclusion, and other important issues with which we are faced in Carroll County." He further noted that Kuchma "represents us so well in St. Paul's efforts in making the world a better place."
Kuchma has been the pastor of St. Paul's in Westminster since July 2005. In his introduction of Kuchma at the awards dinner, Rodgers said Kuchma, "came to us with a background in the social services field, where he cut his teeth helping troubled children, teens, families, and adults ..."
According to the church website, Kuchma "received the Doctor of Ministry degree from Lancaster Theological Seminary where he is a core adjunct professor in the doctoral program and teaches other courses [which include] helping churches become organizationally nimble and creative in response to emerging changes, challenges, and choices."
After accepting the award from the event's master of ceremonies, Virginia Harrison, Kuchma spoke at some length about the current economic and social structure in a changing Carroll County with the 75 folks who crowded into the Zigler Hospitality Center in New Windsor.
"What is it like to be different from a white, English-speaking male," he asked rhetorically. "We need to stop playing politics with it all. ... We need to do a better job at welcoming folks in our community. ...
"The good news is that there is good news in that there are pockets of very welcoming circles. We have a long way to go. We can't live by half. The half that votes one way and the half that votes another way."
Kuchma explained that in his church everyone is welcome, "no matter who you are."
"Think about what that means," he said. "It means accepting folks no matter who they voted for."
Kuchma came to Carroll County at a critical juncture in our county's history. Carroll is changing and changing rapidly. In order to not only survive these changes, but to thrive, we must engage, adapt, improvise, and overcome. And to do that we need all hands on deck. We cannot overlook or exclude anyone.
It is as if the economist Richard Florida were writing about Carroll County today. According to a number of media accounts, including an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Oct. 30, 2004, Florida, author of the 2002 book, "The Rise of the Creative Class," a hugely successful economic prescription for declining cities, says, "Our demography has changed. Like it or not, we are living through a demographic earthquake, in which only 8 percent of Americans grow up in a 'Leave It to Beaver'-style family. Women are breadwinners; singles, grandparents, and gays are raising kids. ...
"Tolerance — an 'aggressive acceptance' of all different kinds of people — is now essential to economic success."
Throughout Carroll County's history, examples abound of local religious leaders, such as Kuchma, stepping up to the plate to make a difference. A Westminster newspaper article reported on March 23, 1945 that Rev. Dr. Lowell Ensor, "pastor of the Methodist Church at Westminster — Urges Repeal of Jim Crow Law." The article reported that Ensor "declared a state that will send citizens to the fighting fronts of the world and at the same time deny to any group of those citizens equal rights, is un-American and un-Christian."
At the awards dinner, Rodgers spoke for many of us with his concluding remarks.
"I know Marty as a role model, and a leader who has gently nudged his congregation and his community to take on issues like homelessness, and white privilege, and inclusiveness," Rodgers said. "And he leads by his deeds as much as his words. No matter who you are or where you are on life's journey, with Marty you are always made to feel welcome."