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Congregational anniversaries, 2004-2005

UU churches celebrate their beginnings.
By Amelia Koford
Fall 2005 8.15.05

Arlington Street Church in Boston, whose fifth minister, William Ellery Channing, helped launch the Unitarian movement in the early 1800s, is celebrating its 275th anniversary with a yearlong schedule of events. In November 2004 the church kicked off the festivities with a Weekend of Celebration and Rededication, which included a gala benefit and a worship service attended by hundreds. In March an exhibit on the church’s history, featuring artifacts and photographs from the archives, was on display at the Boston Public Library. The church is also offering community courses, lectures, and walking tours throughout the year to educate both church members and the larger community about its history and ideals. “All of us emerged with a much deeper sense of our history and our place in history,” said Arlington Street’s minister the Rev. Kim Crawford Harvie.

Several other churches also marked important anniversaries this year. The Unitarian Church of Quincy, Illinois, the third oldest church in the state, celebrated its 165th anniversary on December 28, 2004. Quincy’s mayor Charles W. Scholz spoke at the commemorative service, declaring Unitarian Church Day in the city.

The First Unitarian Universalist Society of Marietta, Ohio, celebrated its 150th anniversary in February 2005. The church reenacted its founding meeting in which seven people answered an advertisement for “anyone interested in forming a liberal religious society.” According to Jim Rapp, the congregation’s unofficial historian, the church’s founder Nahum Ward later financed a beautiful church building, on the condition that it forever remain a Unitarian church. That secured the church’s future, Rapp said, at a time when Unitarianism was considered heresy.

The First Unitarian Society of Exeter, New Hampshire, also marked its 150-year anniversary with a reenactment of its founding. At the anniversary service in November 2004, the longest-serving female Unitarian minister, the Rev. Janet Bowering, gave a dramatic presentation of the dedication of the land on which the church was built in 1854.

The First Unitarian Church of Omaha, Nebraska, celebrated its 135-year anniversary in October 2004 by rededicating its sanctuary. The event was the start of a yearlong schedule of programs, concerts, and services.

The First Unitarian Universalist Church in Springfield, Missouri, celebrated its 50th anniversary in December 2004, with a Sunday service and reception. The church displayed a banner reading Celebrating 50 Years of Liberal Religion in the Ozarks. Susan Hom, a member of the anniversary committee, said it was important to be as visible as possible in the community. “This is the buckle of the Bible Belt,” she said.

The Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church in Canoga Park, California, and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Amherst in Williamsville, New York, also recently marked 50-year anniversaries.

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