Marlin grew up as a Unitarian Universalist in Illinois. He majored in Sociology at Tulane, and graduated from Harvard Divinity School. All Souls called him in 2000 at age 32, making him the youngest senior minister of a major congregation in the denomination. Marlin began his religious life in the North Shore Unitarian Church in Deerfield, Illinois.
After receiving his bachelor's degree, he taught English and American Culture in Kyoto, Japan for two years. He followed that with a three year around the world bicycle trip, studying Buddhism in Asia, Hinduism in India, Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions in Israel, and cycling through much of Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and North America. Along the way visiting and writing about Unitarian communities on the Island of Negros in the Philippines, in the Khasi Hills of Northeast India, and in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Rumania. The experience helped him recognize the Unitarian ministry was his calling, and he enrolled at Harvard Divinity School.
At Harvard, he was selected to assist the Unitarian Universalist Association at interfaith and international relations, and was invited to present a message to the Triennial World Congress of the International Association for Religious Freedom in Korea.
After graduating, he served as Minister of Outreach at the historic First and Second Church in Boston. He became widely recognized within the denomination for his development of the "Soulful Sundown Service" program in Boston, which reaches out to unchurched young people. His success demonstrated by wide distribution of a manual he wrote on how to bring young people into church.
Since coming to All Souls, Marlin has overseen exponential growth in the membership and attendance of the church. In 2008, All Souls in Tulsa became the largest church in the Unitarian Universalist Association with almost 1800 adult members.
He serves the wider Tulsa community as the President of Tulsa Metropolitan Ministries, as a member of the Downtown Clergy Association, a board member or the John Hope Franklin Museum for Reconciliation and the Mayor’s Police and Community Coalition.
He is married to Anitra Lavanhar and they have two children, Elias born in 2000 and Lyla born in 2008.
by Marlin Lavanhar