It is with great sadness that I share with you the news that my friend and colleague, The Rev. Russell Bennett, died today at 4:00 a.m. after a long illness. Russ was very supportive of me throughout the years; he invited me to preach several times at Fellowship Church and to lead their parish retreat twice. He was truly a delight to work with and I will miss him very much. Here's what Hope Unitarian Church said of Russ when awarding him their Religious Liberty Award on April 30, 2005:
Russ Bennett is a Tulsa Treasure. As the Minister Emeritus of Tulsa’s Fellowship Congregational Church (which he served for 36 years), he exemplifies the qualities of leadership: Honesty, Vision, Forward Looking and Competent. He has used those qualities to work for the least among us. By doing so he has become one of the greatest among us. He is a man – as one writer observed – who “stood with the African Americans when the KKK demonstrated, he stood with the Jews when their cemetery was vandalized, he stood with the Muslims at our Senator’s office after September 11, he stood with African American police officers in the law suit against the city of Tulsa . . . he stood with Native Americans trying to abolish a demeaning mascot.” His life stands as a reminder of what Captain Bill Mcdonald, one of the legendary Texas Rangers, once said: “No man in the wrong can stand up against a fellow that’s in the right and keeps on a-coming.” Russ Bennett is such a man. He is also one of the gentlest of souls. His soft spokeness is a constant reminder that those with whom we disagree are our brothers and sisters. Always standing up for what he believes, he supports that most basic of freedoms, freedom of religion. Through word and deed he has promoted and defended Religious Freedom for all.
As it happens, I marched beside Russ in that demonstration with the Tulsa Muslims mentioned above. We were the only two Christian ministers present which I thought was shameful. Russ was very active in Tulsa Interfaith Alliance and truly believed in interfaith dialogue and cooperation. He was an inspirational example of humily and compassion and will be greatly missed. I'm honored to have known him.
May he rest in peace and may light perpetual shine upon him.