Probably the most important thing to know about Tony Perrino is the fact that he was the first-born child of an immigrant Italian family in Detroit, Michigan. He dedicated his UU Meditation Manual to them with this poem:
To my parents
Domenico Perrino and Concetta Gugliemetti
A simple, humble home and people
yet tall of yearning, as a steeple
Stretched against the sky.
Where litanies of love were heard
in halting speech, but never erred
From heart's intent to sanctify.
Growing up in a predominantly English and German neighborhood, he developed, early on, a need to prove that he was as good as all those Anglo-Saxons. And he did so, first in the classroom and then on the football field. Indeed, he still seems driven by a need to excel!
When he completed a B.A. in Literature from Wayne State University in 1951, he received the Donnelly Award as the "Outstanding Graduate," for academic, athletic and student leadership achievements. After an unsuccessful tryout with the Detroit Lions, he recognized that he was not pro football material, and he tried his hand at journalism.
Then he met Dr. Henry Hitt Crane, a dynamic Methodist preacher of the "social Gospel," and Dr. Crane persuaded him to enroll in the Boston University School of Theology where one of Tony's classmates was Dr. Martin Luther King. (See the sermon page for a statement regarding what Tony thinks Dr. King would say if he were alive today.)
Tony graduated from theological school in 1955 and was ordained a Methodist minister, but after serving two churches, he realized that his need to question many of the beliefs of orthodox Christianity (like the bodily resurrection and the idea of hell) made the Unitarian church, where such questions are encouraged, a better match. In 1963, he transferred into the Unitarian religious movement, just as they were merging with the Universalists, moving his family, first wife, Mary, and three sons, across country.
His first UU congregation was in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he shocked some of the members with his leadership in the anti-Vietnam war activities and then his trip to Selma to march with Dr. King. He then served congregations in Schenectady, New York; Detroit, Michigan (where he met and married his wife Karen); Rockford, Illinois; and Santa Barbara, California, where he continued to emphasize what he felt were the social justice issues of the day.
In 1990, he left the parish ministry to address some personal problems and then entered a chaplaincy training program at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. The last ten years of his ministry were spent as a hospice chaplain in northern California until he and his wife retired to Charlottesville, Virginia in 2000. In 2009, he served the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church Unitarian Universalist as its minister of pastoral care.
© Reverend Tony Perrino, 2010