Judith A. Walker-Riggs (1939-2019)
We offer our condolences to the family and colleagues of the Rev. Judith A. Walker-Riggs, who died on July 8, 2019, at the age of 79.
Judith was born on August 4, 1939, in Baltimore, MD, to Charles and Marjorie Louise Walker. From 1957 to 1958, she studied Comparative Religion at the University of Rochester, NY, following which she earned a Certificate in Theology from Manchester College, Oxford, England, in 1964. Judith also took courses on modern theology at the University of Oxford, while being at Manchester College. On leaving Manchester College, she was given status as a Unitarian Minister. Later, in 1987, Meadville Lombard Theological School, IL awarded her with honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity.
Rev. Walker-Riggs was ordained on June 24, 1964, by the General Assembly of Unitarian Churches, Great Britain. Following her ordination, she served the Cairo Street Unitarian Chapel, Warrington, England for a year. In 1965, she accepted a call from the First Unitarian Church, Reading, England and served the Reading congregation until 1967. From 1968 to 1970, Rev. Walker-Riggs ministered at the First Unitarian Church, Stoneham, MA, and then at the UU Fellowship Brussels, Belgium (1971-1972). In 1972, she was again called to the First Unitarian Church, Stoneham, MA, where she would serve for four years. Thereafter, Rev. Walker-Riggs executed her vital Parish ministry at the following congregations: The Peoples Church UU, Cedar Rapids, IA (1976-1983); Mt. Vernon Unitarian Church, Alexandria, VA (1984-1985); All Souls Unitarian Church, Kansas City, MO (1986-1991); and Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel, London, England (1991-1998).
From 1998 onwards, Rev. Walker-Riggs was drawn to interim ministry and served as an interim minister for the UU Congregation at Shelter Rock, Manhasset, NY (1998-2000); Main Line Unitarian Church, Devon, PA (2000-2001); Fountain Street Church, Grand Rapids, MI (2002-2004); and finally at the UU Community of El Paso, El Paso, TX (2006-2008).
Rev. Walker-Riggs carried out a great deal of services on behalf of the denomination. She functioned as LRY (Liberal Religious Youth) local and Federation officer (1954-1957); and as President for the MBD UUMA (1975-1976). She was actively involved in the UUA Extension Training (1978); and served the UUA Board of Trustees (1981-1989), Ministerial Fellowship Committee (1979-1986), the UU Ministers Association, and the UU Women’s Federation. She chaired the UUA Long-Range Planning Committee (1982-1984); and was a board member for the Governing Body of British Unitarians (1993-1998) and Starr King School for the Ministry. Furthermore, Judith served the British Unitarian Finance and Administration Committee from 1995 to 1998. She was adjunct professor at the Meadville Lombard Theological School and was one of the writers for UUA Kit, “Liberal Religion- Our Mission for the Future”.
In addition to her ministry, Judith belonged to several community organizations. She served on the boards for the League of Women Voters; United Way; Red Cross; Planned Parenthood; Council of Churches; Council on Aging; Emergency shelter; Camden Ecumenical Refugee Network; and many more organizations. She was appointed to the Civil Rights Commission (1979-1983) and the 8th Circuit Court Desegregation Monitoring Committee (1987-1990). She was instrumental in setting legally required Religious Education in Schools for the London Borough of Camden. In her spare time, Judith enjoyed theatre, music, reading, walking, swimming, and crossword puzzles.
Judith’s son James had these thoughts to share in reminiscence of his mother:
The thing I remember the most (and that people often mention first when remembering her services) was her “Freddy the Frog” stories. The way in which they brought children into adult service, and the opportunity for her to use her voice performance skills was legendary.
Personally, her drive for justice in the world around her really affected my brother and me. She was committed to understanding the ways in which UUs could help drive fundamental change. She influenced countless others in her congregations and in the denomination as a whole.
Judith is survived by her sons Iain Urquhart and James Urquhart; and her stepson Steven Riggs.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the charity of one’s own choosing.
A celebration of Judith’s life was held at 10 am on Saturday, July 13, 2019 at the Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 1025 Mt. Vernon Highway NW, Sandy Springs, GA 30327.
Notes of condolences may be sent to James Urquhart at 3208 Fairview Avenue, Alameda, CA 94501.