Our Minister, Rev. Barnaby Feder
Rev. Barnaby Feder is a San Francisco Bay Area native. He was raised in a UU congregation in San Mateo, Calif., that his late mother helped organize in the early 1950's.
Feder's transition to New Englander began with extended summer visits to relatives in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. His encounters with Vermont accelerated after he entered Williams College (Williamstown, Mass.) in 1968. A roommate, John Malcolm, who later became a dairy farmer in Pawlet, board member of Agrimark, and state representative, introduced him to that part of the state. Feder lived in Putney, Vt.,
in the summer of 1970 and worked in Windsor County helping to organize the “Phil Hoff for U.S. Senate” campaign. The following year, he arranged an independent study course that involved covering Clarksburg, Vt., as a reporter for the North Adams (Mass.) Transcript.
After graduating from Williams, Feder immediately became a fullitime reporter for The Transcript and head of its Williamstown office. After two years, he decided to further his career journalism by returning to California from 1974-77 to obtain a law degree at the University of California at Berkeley School of Law. While there, he learned Norwegian and, after graduating, went to Scandinavia as a free-lancer. He gravitated there to technology and business coverage for trade publications, a focus that led to him being hired by the New York Times in 1980.
During his more than 27 years at the Times, Feder wrote on a wide range of topics. He served a summer editing stint in Business Day, and was based in New York, London, and Chicago at various times. He was one of the writers on the award-winning Portraits of Grief project memorializing the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Throughout his journalism career, Feder was active in UU congregations wherever he lived; he's taught classes for kids and adults, and served on Boards of directors, a ministerial seach team, and various committees. When he was laid off in 2008 during employment cutbacks at the Times, he entered seminary at Drew Theological School. His career in ministry began as a ministerial intern in Morristown, NJ., and half-time interim minister in Stroudsburg, Pa. In 2012, he was called to become the full-time minister at the Champlain Valley Unitarian Universalist Society in Middlebury, a position from which he retired this past June 30.
Feder credits the loyal support of his wife, Michele Lowy, for his opportunity to pursue ministry after more than 20 years of thinking about it. “She's Jewish, the only child of European Holocaust refugees, and never had 'wife of a minister' on her bucket list,” he said. “But she encouraged me to 'go for it' after the Times lay-off. And she did that even though the first of our three children was just about to enter college. That left us very reliant on her job as a public school teacher!”
All three of their children (Linus, Matilda, and Alfie) are now successfully launched as adults. Ms. Lowy, who retired from her teaching career after six years as a reading specialst at the Bristol (Vt.) Elementary School, recently published a novel called “A Small Door.” It's based on her family's harrowing escape from the German army that occupied Belgium and France in the early days of World War II.
Rev. Barnaby, as he prefers to be known, and Michele currently share their home in Middlebury with a rescue cat named Alma. Being able to stop over with an old friend from law school who lives in Peacham will frequently make it easier for him get to church when he's in the pulpit or in the Northeast Kingdom for face-to-face activities. But he's very appreciative Covid gave him a lot of experience with Zoom.
“Ideally, ministers live in the same community as their congregation,” Rev. Barnaby said. “But, thanks to modern communications, I think this historic St. Johnsbury congregation and I have plenty of unique and enriching adventures ahead of us despite the limitations of this being a half-time ministry and my home being so far away! Most of the drive is so beautiful that getting back and forth can be a spiritual practice if I leave myself enough time.”