Reprinted with permission from the May – June 2010 issue of The Fourth R.
Better in Bellingham
If you believe in destiny, you might think Ruth Flucke and Rod Mackenzie were fated to come together at some point. Their lives crisscrossed countless times, starting when they both attended a United Church of Christ (UCC) summer camp in California as teenagers. Rod is five years older than Ruth, but she recalls the girls in her cabin talking about him.
They overlapped a year at the University of California, Berkeley, where Ruth studied sociology and anthropology, and Rod majored in philosophy. Their lives also coincided for a year at the Pacific School of Religion. By that time they were married to other people.
Over the years, Ruth and Rod saw each other at UCC meetings. Then one day in 1992 Rod read a note in a UCC newsletter asking for prayers for Ruth and her husband, who were divorcing. Rod called Ruth and asked how he might be helpful.
Ruth demurred. But a year later, she wrote him a letter. He immediately called and invited her to his house in Bellingham, a wonderful old home perched on the side of a hill, featuring splendid gardens and a scenic view of Bellingham Bay. “I came and never left!” Ruth said.
In fact, she had a job in Seattle counseling elderly clients, supporting and fostering their independence. She continued in that role for another two years, spending the week in Seattle and the weekend in Bellingham.
During the tumult of the 1960s, Rod served two UCC churches for 11 years, then went into campus ministry at Sacramento State University. In 1970, he moved to Bellingham and Western Washington State University, where he served for eight years as campus minister for United Ministries in Higher Education.
He also began studying for a master’s degree in social psychology. This led him to a second career in marriage and family therapy—a practice he continued for nearly 20 years. During this time he was certified as a Fellow in the American Association of Pastoral Counselors as well as a tenured part-time faculty member at Whatcom Community College. He retired at the end of 1997.
Rod and Ruth’s retirement has enabled them to pursue strong interests in theology and religion. They have attended in many Jesus Seminars on the Road in the Seattle area, hosted one in Bellingham, and attended numerous semi-annual meetings in Santa Rosa and Salem. Rod started a Thursday afternoon reading group, which primarily reads books by authors associated with Westar, then added a second group on Thursday evening.
“Westar has been liberating for me,” said Ruth. “It has enriched my religious life.” Rod has found it important as a “force for enlightenment. It is spiritually enlivening for me,” he said. “It has nurtured my religious convictions. And, I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting and getting to know the Fellows and Associates. It’s fascinating to learn the roots of their faith.”
And their philanthropy has followed their passion. Both give generously to Westar and are members of the Robert W. Funk Society. “We believe in its mission,” Rod said. “It’s very important that Westar succeed.”