09 November 2009

6 Universalist Unitarian Congregations Formed Prior to 1934, and 11 Other Examples of Unitarian Universalist Cooperation Prior to 1934

. . . Why 1934, you ask? That is the date in which the Unitarian congregation in Detroit joined up with the Universalist congregation in Detroit to form the "First Unitarian-Universalist Church." (*)

Members of this congregation are often heard to say that theirs was the first congregation in which Universalists and Unitarians joined. Well, being a stickler for accurate history, I feel compelled to dispell this local myth, so I put together these two little lists. (Please email me if I have missed anything that should be on these lists, thanks.)

6 Universalist Unitarian Congregations Formed Prior to 1934

1. 1827, in Louisville, Kentucky, a religious society was organized and a joint meeting house was built by Unitarians and Universalists. Soon, however, the Unitarians excluded the Universalists and the society fell apart. Universalists reorganized in 1840 and again merged with the Unitarians in 1870.

2. 1834, the first Universalist meeting house in Alabama was erected at Montgomery. It was a joint venture, named the "First Unitarian Universalist Society of Montgomery." The congregation was dormant by 1839.

3. 1858, Unitarians and Universalists joined in Dubuque, Iowa. There was much debate at the time over whether to use "Unitarian," "Universalist," or "Liberal Christian" as the name.

4. 1871, in Oak Park, Illinois, "Unity Temple" was founded jointly by Unitarians and Universalists. Their famous edifice was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

5. 1878, the local Unitarian and Universalist churches in Englewood Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, combined and named themselves the "Christian Union Society."

6. 1909, "All Souls Universalist-Unitarian Church," in Waterbury, Connecticut, was dedicated.

11 Other Examples of Unitarian Universalist Cooperation Prior to 1934

1. 1848, the Rev. Thomas Starr King, already ordained Universalist, became dually fellowshipped as a Unitarian and Universalist.

2. 1868, a combined Universalist Unitarian organization called the "Conference of Liberal Christians" was formed in the Missouri Valley.

3. 1899, Unitarians and Universalists formed the "Committee of Conference," a national organization for closer cooperation. It lasted until 1907.

4. 1916, Unitarian and Universalist clergy of the Boston area held their first joint meeting. Both Lee S. McCollester, president of the Universalist Church of American and dean of Crane Theological School, and Samuel Atkins Eliot, president of the American Unitarian Association, spoke.

5. 1928, the Illinois Universalist Convention and the Illinois Unitarian Conference held their first joint meeting.

6. 1931, the "Free Church Fellowship" was founded to join Unitarians and Universalists. It lasted until 1937.

7. 1932, "Uni-Uni" was in use as a nickname among the national youth organizations of both denominations.

8. 1932, a joint hymnal commission was established, made up of Universalists and Unitarians. They published Hymns of the Spirit ("the red hymnal") in 1937.

9. 1933, the Minnesota Universalist Convention and the Minnesota Unitarian Conference held their first joint meeting.

10. 1933, the "Wayside Pulpit," a Unitarian program, joined with its Universalist equivalent, the "Community Pulpit."

11. 1933, the Universalist Publishing House began printing the "Unitarian Register," a national Unitarian periodical.

(Most of these facts are found in Russell E. Miller, The Larger Hope, published in 2 volumes, 1979, 1985)

(*) The Unitarians' building was partly demolished when Woodward Avenue, the main thoroughfare in Detroit, was widened in 1934. They sold what was left of their building and moved in with the Universalists, about six blocks away, whose small but handsome 1916 edifice is still serving as the congregation's home.


Find more Universalist and Unitarian history in my little booklet, A Who's Who of UUs

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