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James Bradbury Mitchell

Date of Death: April 25, 2020

Date of Birth: October 8, 1939

Biography:

The Rev. James Bradbury “Brad” Mitchell, Minister Emeritus of the Unitarian Universalist Church of
Brunswick, died April 25, 2020, after a long illness. He leaves behind family and many friends and
parishioners who grieve the passing of this kindhearted and committed man. Brad was 80 years old.
Brad was born October 8, 1939, to Ruth (Seabury) Mitchell and James B. Mitchell of Barnstable,
Massachusetts, where he spent his childhood roaming the coast and finding special natural settings that
inspired his spiritual explorations. A lifelong Unitarian Universalist, he grew up in the Unitarian Church of
Barnstable, where he discovered and began to cultivate a lifelong love of the church.
Brad graduated from University of Massachusetts, Lowell, with a degree in music education. He taught music
for two years at the Lexington Massachusetts Public Schools before he felt called to the ministry. That call
drew him to Crane Theological School from which he graduated with a Masters in Divinity in 1969. While at
Crane, he met his lifelong partner and wife, Christine Johnson Mitchell, whom he married at the Unity
Unitarian Universalist Church of North Easton, Massachusetts, on September 9, 1966.
Brad was ordained to the ministry at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Barnstable, Massachusetts, in 1969.
In the same year, he was called to the Unitarian Universalist Society of Laconia, New Hampshire, a small
congregation where he sometimes played the hymns on the piano and organ, sang in the choir, and preached
the sermon, all in the same service. He also directed a number of musicals at the community theater in
Laconia. He served the Laconia congregation until 1979, when he was called to the East Shore Unitarian
Universalist Church of Bellevue, Ohio. He served the East Shore community for seven years.
In 1986, Brad was called to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Brunswick, Maine, where he served for 19
years. He was known for the depth of his compassion, his commitment to justice, and his care for the earth.
Many remember how, when he listened to you, you had the feeling you were the only person in the world who
mattered at that moment. He was known all around town, both within the congregation and without, as
someone who would reach out to help in any way possible. While serving the Brunswick church, he was active
in the Brunswick Area Interfaith Council, which started the Tedford Shelter for people experiencing
homelessness. In Tedford’s early years, Brad often volunteered as part of the overnight staff.
Brad retired from the Brunswick church in 2005, but, discovering he was not quite “preached out” yet, he
served the Unitarian Universalist Society of Bangor for 18 months as an interim minister. He later served the
Brunswick church in many capacities, including archivist, author and publisher of an in-depth church history
called People of the Liberal Fire, small group ministry facilitator, guest preacher, member of the Green
Sanctuary Committee, member of the Bicentennial Task Force, and more.
Brad is remembered particularly for his love of the earth. His beautifully written sermons were infused with
observations about and metaphors concerning the natural world. In addition, he was active in earth care
advocacy. A lifelong organic gardener, Brad grew most of the vegetables his family ate all summer and fall.
Brad's love of music was lifelong. Upon retirement, he sang in the Brunswick church choir, played piano for
occasional services, and added his voice both to the Merry Meeting Singers and the Nor-easters Barbershop
Chorus. In addition, he possessed a dramatic flair that the church frequently called upon when they needed to
bring children's stories to life.
In his free time, he worked as a family genealogist, compiling a history of both his own family and that of his
wife’s family, as well. Through years of research, he traced both family lines all the way back to
Charlemagne’s era. He also enjoyed cooking and baking. His specialty was pies. His children still remember
all of the fresh berry and rhubarb pies he baked during their childhood.
Brad was equally at home preaching, singing, gardening, and holding signs in protest rallies. In recent years,
he participated in many rallies on the Brunswick Mall, supporting marriage equality, earth care, women’s
rights, Standing Rock, and more. Above all, he was the embodiment of kindness and compassion. Those who
knew him remember him as encouraging and supporting, trustworthy and loving. He put people at ease right
away and he drew out the good in everyone.
Brad was predeceased by his wife, Christine Johnson Mitchell. He is survived by his son Ian Mitchell of
Brunswick, Maine; his daughter daughter Rebecca Mitchell, her partner Luke Gottlieb, and their children
Judah Gottlieb, Asher Gottlieb, and Sebastian Mitchell of Richmond, California; and his brother and sister-inlaw,
Douglas Mitchell and Christine Welsh of Brookline, Massachusetts.
Brad's death, coming as it has in a time of pandemic, represents a challenge for memorializing him fittingly at
the moment. The Unitarian Universalist Church of Brunswick will hold a celebration of his life at a later time.
Memorial contributions can be made to the church: UUCB, PO Box 129, Brunswick, ME 04011.

 

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