History of the Unitarian Society of Germantown
The Unitarian Society of Germantown was founded in 1865. Without a divine charter or blueprint, the members have always had to rely on their own individual and collective capacity for self-generation or self-renewal.
Early Unitarianism in Philadelphia was inspired by English Unitarianism, embodied in teachings brought to these shores by the Rev. Dr. Joseph Priestley. Dr. Priestley’s religious ideas took root in the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia in 1796. Historically Unitarianism incorporated the ideas of God as one (Unity) and Jesus as great prophet and teacher. Many members of the new congregation in Germantown had been members of the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia.
From 1865 to 1871, our founders braved an unwelcoming community climate to gather a new congregation. Our first minister had difficulty finding a place to live because of this. However, the church gained strength in the years up to 1883. A church building was constructed in 1867 at the corner of Greene and Chelten. We pioneered in community help with the Germantown Relief Society. The Sunday School was formed and grew, and today’s Women’s Alliance took shape first as the Samuel Longfellow Alliance. The period from 1884 to 1916 was one of marking time. Still surviving from that age, remarkably, is the Nicetown Club for Boys and Girls, first conceived of by our minister, the Reverend Oscar Hawes in 1902.
A resurgence followed in the years from 1917 to 1935 when the enthusiasm generated brought members in such numbers as to require a new church building. This was constructed at 6511 Lincoln Drive and was dedicated in 1928. Included in the new building were several stained glass windows from the former building. Three lancets, once separate windows, were placed together as Clark Window I on the east transept wall. The Clark Window II graces our south transept wall. Many successful programs flourished including the Unitarian Universalist House, a home for senior citizens, which was greatly expanded from the original Joseph Priestley House. It is now closed, but a program called UU House Outreach continues to work with older adults in a variety of ways to help them remain independent in their own homes as long as possible.
The Ecumenical Pulpit era from 1936 to 1964, with a ministerial stewardship, was a remarkable period that brought some of the most highly respected theologians, philosophers and thinkers to visit with us on Sunday mornings. The congregation involved itself in humanitarian efforts related to World War II, and the church became the center for Red Cross work for the Germantown/Mt. Airy section. It bought and rehabilitated 6503 Lincoln Drive as a total Religious Education building [since sold], and created the Austin Youth Lodge out of a caved-in stable. It put a specially designed tracker organ in the balcony, established a church pension plan and built a badly needed parking lot. It grew past the 800 mark and withdrew from the Philadelphia Council of Churches because of a newly imposed creedal test.
The 1965 Centennial Celebration of the Society’s existence was a high point of reaffirmation and rededication to liberal religion. The publication of an updated church history was a significant aspect of the celebration.
The years from 1965 on may be seen as a time of reformulation and redefinition. There has been constant ministerial leadership with growing emphasis on denominational identification. The Child Spiritual Development program for children and youth provides community and meaning with an engaging and rewarding curricula. A network of committees has been staffed with on-going volunteer support for many activities. These have ranged widely, including Adult Spiritual Development classes, social events, Social Justice projects, and leadership development conferences. Worship has become more multicultural with celebrations of the Jewish High Holy Days, Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead), Kwanzaa, New Orleans Jazz Funeral among others. And the music in worship has also come from more diverse sources over the years. Celebrations of Passover Seder and Diwali were also begun.
In April of 1978, the congregation celebrated the present church building’s Golden Anniversary. A meaningful portion of the ceremonies included the deposit of mementos and messages in a time chamber that was later embedded in the chancel floor, to be opened in the year 2028.
USG continued its activity in the local community as a member of the Northwest Interfaith Movement (NIM) which no longers exists. The congregation began an affiliation with Lingelbach school and participates in the Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network (PIHN) now Family Promise, an interfaith program that provides shelter, support, and encouragement for homeless families. USG officially became a Welcoming Congregation to those in the LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender) communities in 1998 and renewed its commitment in 2017 including QIA (Queer, Intersex and Asexual) communities as well. In 2017, USG began to address White Supremacy culture along with the rest of the denomination.
The Unitarian Society of Germantown provides an ideal place for people with a variety of experiences, backgrounds and beliefs to come together to examine what each has to offer in the search for self and larger meaning. It continues to be a place for love and fellowship, a place for understanding and acceptance, a place for growing and improving, and for living our faith in the surrounding community and world.
Please see the timeline below for details.
(as well as some Unitarian and Universalist history and notes on parallel world events)
The Universalist Church of America was founded.
American Unitarian Association was founded.
Olympia Brown is ordained by Universalist convention, first woman to be ordained in the US.
Future USG members were among the 360 influential white leaders who signed the “Petition for the Colored People of Philadelphia to Ride in the Cars”. Blacks were forbidden to ride the streetcars until 1867, after they got the vote.
Unitarian Society of Germantown founded. Meets in “Langstroth Hall”, upper floor of building on NW corner of Germantown and Chelten Avenues. Rev. W.W. Newell was called from Cambridge, Mass. to serve as minister.
Forty-nine members signed the Articles of Association which began as follows:
“We whose names are undersigned desiring
to meet together for the worship of the
Almighty God in the simplicity of the faith of Jesus Christ,
associate ourselves under the name: The Unitarian Society of Germantown.”
Their reason for forming the new church was stated as:
“A number of gentlemen, some of whom had been formerly connected with the church of the Rev. Dr. Furness [First Church] in the city of Philadelphia, others belonging to the Society of Friends, and others deeply interested in the cause of Christianity, ─all feeling an earnest desire to afford their families the advantages of a religious ministration more liberal than the existing churches in Germantown afforded, resolved upon establishing a church which should to some extent meets their wants and desires.”
Civil War ends
13th Amendment to the Constitution abolishes slavery
New church building dedicated Chelten Ave & Greene St. Designed by Frank Furness, son of Rev. Dr. William H. Furness of First Unitarian, Philadelphia.
English explorer David Livingstone explores the Congo
Paris World’s Fair introduces Japanese art to the West
USG Minister Ames begins Germantown Relief Society, one of first movements of organized charity in the U.S. Pastor Ames also begins “outreach” of Sunday night lectures at Spring Garden Institute.
General Amnesty Act pardons most ex-Confederates
Abolition of slave markets in Zanzibar
Women’s Work Society formed; later renamed The Samuel Longfellow Guild. Money was raised from sale of craft goods used to support church.
USG minister is Samuel Longfellow, brother of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Chapel adjoining main church built. $3,000 given to assist new Spring Garden Church, an outgrowth of Ames’ Sunday night lectures.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow dies; Pastor Samuel Longfellow leaves to write his brother’s biography).
Ralph Waldo Emerson dies
Volunteer choir was first organized.
Universalism was declared the 6th largest religion in the US.
At the National Conference of Unitarian and other Christian Churches, a revision of the constitution was proposed which included a statement in regard to Unitarian beliefs. USG objected, saying that “the Conference was purely an advisory body ‘possessing neither the right nor title to express in any authoritative way the beliefs of the various churches represented in its councils, and that the unchangeable principle upon which Congregationlism was founded is the inviolable right to the individual church to fix its own form of belief…’” This point of view was unanimously agreed to by the conference.
Beacon Press was established.
Parsonage purchased at 5226 Greene Street. USG Minister Oscar Hawes organizes the Nicetown Club for Boys and Girls; club’s building supported largely by contributions from USG members.
Emmeline Pankhurst establishes the National Women’s Social and Political Union
Nicetown Club for Boys (and Girls) endowed by E. W. Clark
Starr King School opened its doors as the Pacific Unitarian School for the Ministry and was incorporated in 1906 as “an institution for educating students for the Christian ministry, and especially for that of the Unitarian churches” in Berkeley, CA.
Named for Thomas Starr King (1824 – 1864) in 1941. He was an American Unitarian minister, influential in California politics during the American Civil War, and Freemason. Starr King spoke zealously in favor of the Union and was credited by Abraham Lincoln with preventing California from becoming a separate republic. He is sometimes referred to as “the orator who saved the nation.”
Theodore Roosevelt elected President
10-hour work day established in France
Rev. Oscar Hawes resigned after Sunday service attendance had dropped to 40-60. Without a minister, the attendance dropped further to 30-40 people on Sunday. The Rev. Roger Forbes was installed as minister in October of 1917. The ladies of the Red Cross made over 3000 surgical dressing in the summer of 1918.
World War I; 8.5 million casualties
Woodrow Wilson proposes 14 points for World Peace
Margaret Sanger jailed for “Family Limitation,” the first book on birth control
Women over 30 get the vote in England
1920 – 1922
“Laymen’s League” established. Holds Sunday evening programs to promote the Unitarian faith. Six public meetings at Garrick Theatre, downtown. At the Allegheny Theatre in Kensington; Pennsylvania Governor Pinchot leads the meeting; 3,000 attend. In 1921, policy of renting the pews was ended in favor of general seating which, they were surprised to find, resulted in an increase in revenue for the church.
League of Nations established; U.S. Senate votes against joining
19th Amendment gives women the vote.
At the evening programs at the Colonial Theatre in Germantown, The Reverend William Sullivan speaks; 2,000 attend
USG adopts Unitarian church in Transylvania and begins sending support to its members. Norbert and Maja Capek create first “Flower Celebration” in Prague Unitarian church.
First birth control clinic opened in NYC
Chaim Weizmann named President of Zionist World Organization
Church attendance of 200 triggered decision to build a new church. Committee formed to shepherd project. Edmund Gilchrist selected as architect
New Church dedicated 6511 Lincoln Drive. 65 new members joined in first year.
Herbert Hoover elected
Amelia Earhart crosses Atlantic
Rev. Forbes resigns due to ill health. William Sullivan installed as minister. Adjoining lot purchased. Membership of 354, including seven millionaires. Annual budget of $18,000.
Black Friday on Stock Market
Arab/Jewish altercation over Wailing Wall
The term “apartheid” used for the first time
Sullivan begins series of Sunday night lectures on civilization, religion and politics. 47 new members join; Sunday attendance exceeds 200.
In the 1930’s, Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago resulted from a merger between Meadville Theological School (1844, Meadville, PA), a Unitarian seminary, and Lombard College (1853, Galesburg, IL), a Universalist seminary.
Joseph Priestley House (became UU House) opens for elderly members at Tulpehocken & Greene with 5 guests, expanded in 1939 to accommodate 22.
First Humanist Manifesto signed by many Unitarian, and one Universalist, ministers; some humanist Unitarian ministers refuse to sign a humanist “creed.”
Adolf Hitler appointed Chancellor
Frances Perkins, Secretary of Labor, first female cabinet member
C.G. Jung publishes “Modern Man in Search of a Soul”
60,000 German artists emigrate from Germany
William Sullivan dies. Sullivan Chapel memorial begun
FDR signs the Social Security Act
Alcoholics Anonymous begun
Sullivan Library given to the Church and its maintenance endowed.Unitarians and Universalists publish a hymnal together, Hymns of the Spirit (an update of Samuel Longfellow’s 1864 hymnal?); also begin producing “New Beacon Series” religious education materials under editorship of Sophia Fahs.
A regular pulpit supply plan put into place.
Japan invades China
U.S. recalls its Ambassador to Germany
Unitarian Service Committee founded, begins to use the flaming chalice logo to identify itself while doing European relief work the following year. Soon after, the Universalist Service Committee was formed. The two groups worked together starting during World War 2, but didn’t officially join to become the UUSC until 1963.
Guest Minister Plan (The Ecumenical Pulpit) was adopted by a sorrowing congregation “when they were unable to find a minister who seemed equal in stature to their beloved Dr. William Sullivan. Because the society [was] self-governing, it was free to invite to the pulpit, Sunday after Sunday, persons from near and far who towered in the fields of religion and philosophy and of science and sociology. The result [was] a long series of provocative sermons. Rev. Max Franklin Daskam is chosen as minister. Thanks to the Sewing Guild, the church becomes center for making Red Cross supplies, “nearly every woman in the church took home wool to knit into socks, helmets and sweaters”.
Norbert Capek dies at Dachau.
The U.S. engaged in WWII
Enrico Fermi splits the Atom
Gandhi demands independence for India; is arrested
Church of the Larger Fellowship organized to serve Unitarians living in areas without Unitarian congregations.
Feed Europe Now (a Mt Airy and Chestnut Hill organization with Rev. Daskam as one of its leaders): USG gathers money, clothing, food, medicines and sponsors families to be delivered by the Unitarian Service Committee. UU United Nations office was founded.
Atomic Bomb dropped on Hiroshima
USG’s Applied Christianity Committee protests release time from public school for religious studies and inadequacy and inequality of Germantown Y facilities.
Permanent Committee on Civil Rights established after concern about a young Black man who was killed by the police in Germantown. Continues support of Nicetown B&G Club
The Fellowship Movement, a program to organize lay-led congregations, was established, it expanded both the number and the form of Unitarian congregations.
USG membership at 700. Church school overflowing; bought Plumer tract. Church resolves to explore Unitarian-Universalist union. Hospitality Committee starts Coffee Hour; Memorial Committee creates Book of Loving Remembrance
Israel admitted to UN
Paul Tillich publishes “The Shaking of the Foundations”
Berlin airlift ends
1950 – 51
House on the Hill converted to church school. Sunday School Director Margaret Odell engaged as full time director; enrollment at 247. Parent newsletter begun, Killough parcel acquired, providing access to Johnson Street.
North Korean forces invade South Korea
Britain recognizes Israel
U.S. recognizes Vietnam; supplies arms; signs military assistance pact with France, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam
Dr. Ralph Bunche wins Nobel Peace Prize
Buy and restore 6515 Lincoln Drive; average pledge: 1.1 – 1.9% family income.
Anti-British riots in Egypt
16,000 people escape from East to West Germany in month of August
1953 Universalist Youth Fellowship and American Unitarian Youth merge to become Liberal Religious Youth (LRY)
Stable converted to Austin Youth Lodge with large contribution from Mrs. George
Austin in memory of her husband. Top floor rented as apartment. Bottom floor center for Boy Scout and youth activities. Membership 805 Annual Budget $50,000 Endowment: $309,000, earning 4.5% interest which diverted to operating expenses. In response to influx of African- Americans into Mt. Airy, the Church Community Relations Council of Germantown established to welcome people of all races to full community participation. USG, Church of the Epiphany, and Jewish Community Center are founding members. George Nitzsche donates the Unitariana collection, which includes letters, manuscripts and photographs of illustrious Unitarians that he collected between 1923 and 1953 with plans to exhibit it at USG to inspire and enlighten the congregation.
Rev. Daskam publishes “Sermons from an Ecumenical Pulpit,” collecting noted sermons from guest ministers. Branch of Unitarian Fellowship for Social Justice established at USG
Relief for Hungarian refugees 30 individuals sponsored in relocation
Philadelphia Council of Churches imposes Trinitarian test for voting membership; USG refuses “taxation without franchise” and resigns. Joseph Chapline hired as organist. Also had four paid soloists and a few choir members. Choir sang in the choir loft.
Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus defies Supreme Court order to integrate schools
European Common Market begun
Capital campaign for Reiger organ, parking lot, pension fund and Unitarian Development Fund contribution, begun. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr preaches at USG. (12/11/1960)
Click Here to read sermon “The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life” by MLK, Jr.
Unitarian and Universalist Churches merge (the two interlocked circles around the flaming chalice image represent the union of Universalists and Unitarians.) The first set of UU Principles was conceived. USG study on quality of membership life; 800 members. Sometimes even the loft was full of people, before the organ was put there, on Sunday mornings. The decision to put the organ in the choir loft was very contentious. Monthly newsletter, Uni-News, established. Established Revolving Credit Plan to use endowment to help establish new churches. Joseph Priestley District established with 13 member churches to train leadership and promote cooperation.
Eichmann found guilty
Publication of meditations and prayers of William Sullivan, “The Flaming Spirit,” Max Daskam, Editor UUA Study: “The Free Church in a Changing World”
- The Church and Leadership
- Theology and the Frontiers of Learning
- Education and Liberal Religion
- Religion and the Arts
- Ethics and Social Action
- World Religion and Outreach
Cuban Missile Crisis
USG elects its first Black Board member, George Kydd.
Hymns for the Celebration of Life published. UUs participated in the March on
Washington where Martin Luther King, Jr delivered the “I Have a Dream” speech.”
President John F Kennedy assassinated.
New organ dedicated. Joseph Chapline gives monthly organ recitals. Rev Daskam retires. He had invited Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Jr and Desmond Tutu to preach from our pulpit. He was a beloved minister and dynamic leader at USG who did much for the church and its congregants. His time here heralded a time of change and struggle. One aspect of his tenure was visiting with potential members in their homes. A man of his time and a man of the people he served (as were his predecessors), Reverend Daskam was known to suggest to African American folks who were attending USG that they might be more comfortable in a church in their neighborhoods. Several of the people who were subjected to this treatment made USG their home. We are blessed that these courageous individuals persevered and have helped us become a more inclusive church.
Nobel Peace Prize for Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr
World’s Fair in NYC
Jack Ruby found guilty of killing Lee Harvey Oswald
Rev. David Parke called as minister; effective end of Ecumenical Pulpit. 600 members. Nursing wing added to Joseph Priestley House as joint project of Joseph Priestley District. USG celebrated centennial. UU Minister James Reeb murdered in Selma. USG members participate in March on Washington against the Vietnam War.
On their hundredth anniversary the members were said to:
“Still cherish the right of every person to think out, and with deepening insight, to change his ideas of the purpose and mean of life, his scale of values and his conception of the Supreme Good.”
LBJ inaugurated. Winston Churchill dies. Malcolm X assassinated. Social Security Act establishes Medicare and Medicaid. Voting Rights Act is signed. Watts Riots.
Cultural Revolution in China.
Black Affairs Council (BAC) established at the Unitarian Universalist Association. Rev David Parke helped to establish FULLBAC, an organization of white UU leaders supporting the demands of the BAC.
Black members of USG and Restoration joined together to form a Black Caucus, alternated which church they met at. Performed skits about racism in all the UU churches in the area.
Cooperative Nursery School started in the Austin Youth Lodge. The goal was to have an equal racial, gender and socioeconomic mix of children. It was initially sponsored by USG. USG members participate in March on Washington against the Vietnam War.
UUA voted to support the BAC with $250,000 a year, to fight political repression and economic exploitation in the Black community and support black cultural expressions and community education, as they had requested. Parke later wrote “I have never felt prouder of my church than when our overwhelmingly white denomination said ‘Yes’ to it’s militant Black minority.”
At the 1969 General Assembly in Boston, the funding to BAC was greatly reduced resulting in many Black congregants leaving UU churches (even William Sinkford, an eventual president of the UUA, left the movement at that time.) Many members of the congregation were unhappy with David Parke’s prominent role in this divisive issue.
US Astronauts land on the moon.
When the USG nominating committee didn’t nominate a black member, 55 members submitted a petition nominating Eversly Vaughn for trustee of the Board. “We regard this as one step in the direction of full and participatory sharing by both Black and white people in all roles of leadership in this society. In a church with both Black and white members, in a community where Black and white people live as neighbors, and in a time when full empowerment of Black people is of critical importance, it is unacceptable that the affairs of this church should be administered by a Board of Trustees composed only of white people.” Eversley Vaughn received almost 400 more votes than the nominating committee’s candidate.
This was a year of division in the church, there were financial difficulties and the Board was struggling to work effectively with Rev. Parke. The Board decided to ask Rev. Parke to resign. Some of the reasons for the short tenure of Rev Parke’s ministry might have been the church’s struggle with the transition from the Ecumenical Pulpit to a minister who preached most Sundays and whose sermons weren’t necessarily as polished as those of the guest speakers. He was also not as skilled a manager as Rev. Daskam who had done it for 40 years. And he preached many sermons on the great moral issues of the day: racism, the Vietnam War, Apartheid in South Africa among others, which weren’t topics everyone wanted to hear about on Sunday mornings. Many people of color left the church when David Parke left. David Parke later spent many years as an interim minister and said that USG and his ministry would have benefitted from an interim minister, but the program did not exist in 1965.
The Neighborhood Interfaith Movement (NIM) is founded. It “promoted vibrant, healthy neighborhoods in Philadelphia by uniting faith, business, civic and community partners with neighbors to advocate for social justice and serve people in need.”
No one remembers exactly when the Service Auction started, but there is consensus that it was happening in the 70s. It was a much smaller affair in the beginning: two pages typed and items were picked up from people’s homes.
Ground-breaking About Your Sexuality (AYS) curriculum published, eventually leading to lawsuits for obscenity. Black Affairs Council disaffiliates from UUA; many African American UUs begin drifting away.
Rev. Pete Peterson was called as the Interim minister, people really liked him and felt he in helped the congregation heal from the discord in the congregation around David Parke’s ministry. Many in the congregation were sad that he was not allowed, by the rules governing Interim ministers, to stay.
Rev. Arthur Jellis was called as a settled minister. Had a history supporting civil rights in the south. Had a troubled tenure at the church, membership had dropped to about 60 people, was asked to resign in 1978. Members who were unhappy with Arthur Jellis created an alternate service rather than leave the church. Many felt Jellis to be judgmental about homosexuality and felt that his attitude helped clarify for the congregation that they were in support of acceptance and rights for gay people. Some felt USG had developed a reputation as a church that couldn’t keep a minister, that is was a “problem congregation.” Sylvia Blackwell, an African American woman was elected President of the Board.
UUA Office for Gay Affairs created
UU Principles updated.
Fall of South Vietnam.
Death of Mao Zedong.
Abortion is legalized in the US.
1976 The first microcomputer is built in Steve Job’s garage.
50 Year celebration of 6511 Lincoln Dr building included the placing of a Time Capsule
Voices, a booklet of USG member’s poetry, was created.
Rev. John McKinnon was called as an Interim minister, helped the congregation heal after Arthur Jellis.
Eddilera Kinzer joined USG. She was an African American daughter and grand daughter of AME ministers who became very active at USG, NIM and in the UUA and was particularly focused on supporting ministers of color.
To ease tensions after the abrupt resignation of Rev. Jellis, the Service/Item Auction was combined with a Gong Show, with some scheduled “gonged” acts, and some real ones, including a Gut Bucket Band of six church members, who were bought by another member to play at a block party. The member-auctioneers kept up a steady chatter as items and events were sold off so successfully the auction continued to be a larger scale annual fund-raising event.
Margaret Thatcher becomes Prime Minister of Great Britain. The Shah is overthrown in Iran.
Rev. Dr. Bill Gardiner was called as a settled minister. His time at USG was felt to be a great success. He was particularly focused on social justice. He performed services of union for same sex couples (after a two year conversation about LGBT issues, 95% of the congregation voted that he could perform them in the sanctuary), helped establish USG as a nuclear free zone (USG divested of holdings in nuclear energy or weapons, Steve Schick was active in this process), and was involved with NIM. He also was witness to women becoming ushers and the congregation working through its concern about women ushers wearing pants. His wife was the first USG minster’s wife to have her own career. Daughter was very active with district youth.
Ronald Reagan elected President.
1981 The first cases of AIDS are documented.
Young Religious Unitarian Universalists (YRUU) replace Liberal Religious Youth (LRY.)
Mark Daugherty is hired as Music Director, grew the choir (before long, they no longer fit in the loft and moved to the chancel), continued with the paid soloists, began three special music services a year. Rev. Marguerite Lovett joins the congregation as Associate Minister responsible for Religious Education.
Sullivan Chapel and Austin Youth Lodge Renovations. The “House on the Hill” was sold.
UU Principles updated. USG’s elects George Kydd as our second Black Board President.
Under USG President George Kidd’s leadership, USG divested investments from South Africa.
USG member Jack Armstrong, diagnosed with ALS. Congregation very supportive of him and his family.
Men’s Group is founded with the encouragement of Rev. Bill Gardiner. The Passover Seder is first celebrated, led by Marcy George with the support of Rev. Marguerite Lovett. About Your Sexuality (AYS) offered for the first time.
After Bill Gardiner left, Rev. Marguerite Lovett became the Interim Senior Minister and Rev. Bob Morris, who had been a ministerial student and then intern at USG, became an Interim Assistant Minister.
Fall of the Berlin Wall. Tien an Mien Square massacre.
Rebecca Parker becomes president of Starr King, the first American woman to be president of a theological school.
Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait.
The Rev. Nina Grey was called as the first female settled minister at USG. It is said that Bill Gardiner’s strong support of women in leadership positions helped lead to her being called. She identified as Jewish as well as UU, this was notable at the time. Rev. Bob Morris stayed on for another year as Assistant Minister. USG become a Supporting Congregation for John Gilmore. Nina started the Committee on Ministry.
The end of the Soviet Union
The debut of the World Wide Web
USG members participated in the March on Washington for Women’s Lives. Rev. Stephanie Nichols joins the congregation as Associate Minister (she had also been a student minister at USG.) USG becomes involved with Northwest Philadelphia Interfaith Housing Network (NPIHN, then later PIHN, then Family Promise) and begins to host homeless families during the summer.
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper Celebration
A few months after starting at USG, Rev Nina Grey connected with an African-American Unitarian Universalists movement initiating in Chicago to honor Francis Ellen Watkins Harper on the one hundredth anniversary of her most famous novel, Iola Leroy. She was an African American abolitionist, suffragist, poet and author. She was also active in other types of social reform, was involved with the Unitarian church and her funeral was held at First UU in Philadelphia. USG had the honor of hosting this national celebration. Following a weekend long program attended by several hundred UUs from across the nation, a new headstone was installed at Francis Ellen Watkins Harper’s grave in Eden Cemetery in Collingdale, PA. It was part of her work to help the congregation heal from the wounds to its African American members in earlier years.
Bill Clinton elected President.
Rev. Austin William (Bill) Forward joins the congregation as Associate Minister for Religious Education. He was very active with the youth group (YRUU) and they went to CONs (youth weekend “conventions.”) He also led peace pipe ceremonies which were precursors to the Earth Honoring Traditions celebrations. He was asked to leave in 1997. UUA publishes Singing the Living Tradition, a degenderized, multicultural hymnal that causes some controversy.
Nelson Mandela becomes President of South Africa.
Earth honoring Traditions group begins. Barbara Dowdall leads an attempt to change the church’s name to include “Universalist.” The first MLK Day of Service is held. The Lingelbach school partnership begins. USG members John Gilmore (OOM Prakash) and Steve Shick are ordained at USG. UU Principles and Sources updated, Earth Honoring Traditions added as a UU Source of Wisdom.
There was a Board reoganization and a bylaws and mission statement change.
USG becomes a Welcoming Congregation (an official designation that is given to a church that has gone through a process to be fully welcoming to members of the LGBTQ community.) Ann Scott joined the congregation as RE Director.
DRUUMM (Diverse and Revolutionary UU Multicultural Ministries) was organized in 1998 by religious professionals of color (Ministers, Directors of Religious Education, UUA Staff) to be a welcoming spiritual and cultural home for people of color and to build a meaningful anti-racist, anti-oppressive, multicultural community.
Rev. Paul Hull is called as Interim Minister. Nancy Torres Vignola was RE Director.
The UU Church of the Restoration in Mount Airy honored Eddilera Kinzer with the Fifth Annual Rudolf Gelsey Social Justice Award for her dedication to social justice and civil rights, advocacy for older adults and children, mentoring of seminarians and aspiring ministers, and service as a musician to area churches and community groups. The Joseph Priestly District of the UUA presented her with the Unsung UU Award recognizing her contributions to the denomination and the Eddilera Kinzer Fund for Seminarians was established to honor her for her continuing work with seminarians. The Memorial Garden is established at USG. Women’s Alliance disbands.
USG hosted a UUA Jubilee (Racial Justice) weekend. As a follow-up to that work, the Anti-Racism Committee was formed under the leadership of Mel Silver and Betty Hankins.
Capital Campaign is begun that raises almost $300,000 for major improvements. Rev. Mathew McNaught is called as Interim Minister. Property Committee becomes more effective Buildings and Grounds Committee.
OWL curriculum launched by the UUA.
George Bush is elected President.
USG website established.
Bill Sinkford elected first African American president of the UUA.
September 11th attacks in the US.
Rev. Kent Matthies is called as Settled Minister. Day of the Dead service started. USG members marched in Washington against war in Iraq.
David Chandler was a ministerial Intern.
Small Group Ministry program is begun.
After rewriting the mission statement, the name of the Anti Racism Committee was changed to the Ending Racism Committee. The ERC has sponsored Jubilee workshops, book study sessions, movie nights, and other activities to help raise the congregation’s awareness of racism. Amy Birge Anu wrote a “White Privilege” pamphlet which was available in the pews. Jude Henzy joined the congregation as Director of Religious Education. Jazz Funeral service started with support from Rev. Stephanie Morel. Singing the Journey hymnal introduced at General Assembly.
The Unitariana collection was categorized in preparation for the 140th anniversary. It was found to include over 250 documents. The oldest dated was 1791, and was by our second president, John Adams. In addition to the Adams paper, there was material from six American presidents and vice presidents, letters and other papers from many famous persons, among them Louisa May Alcott, William Cullen Bryant, Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, James Russell Lowell, and Thomas Starr King. Among the manuscripts in the collection was an unbound book by Joseph Priestley, with marginal notes by the author. The collection was sold to the Massachusetts Historical Society for $50,000. The proceeds were used to fund the Architectural Master Plan. Elizabeth Putnam joins the congregation for a year as a Community Minister Intern.
Share the Plate program started. There was concern that plate income would decrease, but it actually increased 10-20%.
Master Plan is commissioned. Caring Committee is formed. First Diwali celebration led by Andrea Durham with support and encouragement from Rev. Kent.
Barack Obama is elected President.
Closing of Joseph Priestley (UU) House. The organization is now called UU House Outreach and it works to help people stay in their homes.
Director of Religious Education Jude Henzy went on medical leave and did not return. Rob Keithan joined the congregation as Consulting Minister. Erick DuPree joined the congregation as Consulting Director of Religious Education. Sandy Campbell assumed the role of Sunday Morning Youth and Faith Development Coordinator (Erick was also the DRE at First Church and often needed to be there on Sunday mornings.)
First Finding Our Way Home retreat for UU religious professionals of color.
Joan Javier-Duval joins the congregation as Intern Minister. She stays on as Consulting Minister. Rob Keithan is ordained at All Souls Church in Washington, DC. Jody Wheldon joins USG as Director of Religious Education. NIM files for bankruptcy. At the time it closed its doors, more than 50 congregations and faith-based organizations were part of the NIM family. “NIM… played one of the stabilizing roles in Northwest Philadelphia as a place that people trusted and turned to for advice and assistance. It was bringing congregations together, but that really brought the community together.”
Daniel Gregoire joins the congregation as Director of Spiritual Development. The Ending Racism Committee hosts a very successful Teach In on Mass Incarceration out of which grows the Coalition Against Mass Incarceration (CAMI), both with the support and guidance of Marietta Tanner and many others. CAMI is faith groups working with returning citizens for criminal justice reform. First Phase of Master plan is completed with Sullivan Chapel renovations and conversation of the stage into an office. Two services trial begun. Band played at early service once a month.
The Transformation Team was formed in 2013 by the Board of Trustees with the charge of coordinating congregational efforts to realize our goal of being anti-oppressive in spirit and action, and to strengthening and solidifying our resolve to become a Beloved Community (in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King) that is intentionally welcoming, multiracial and multicultural.
Joan Javier-Duval is ordained at USG. Daniel Gregoire is ordained at Community Church of NY (UU) with USG as co-ordaining congregation, becomes Associate Minister. New Mission Statement: Building Beloved Community with Compassion, Service and Empowerment. Governance Change: Ministry Executive Team (MET) is created. The first year of the MET was very busy with much emphasis placed on the need to reduce the budget deficit which was projected at $48,000 for the year with the plan to draw it from the endowment. The MET was able to reduce the deficit to $28,000.
Rosemary Bray McNatt becomes the first an African American President of Starr King School for the Ministry.
150th Anniversary year with many special events. Transformation Team educates the congregation about some of its painful racial history. Ending Racism Committee holds Teach In 2. A group travels to the Massachusetts Historical Society to view the Unitariana Collection which they displayed in honor of our 150th anniversary. Black Lives Matter banner raised on Lincoln Drive.
Black Lives of UU forms to provide support and information for Black UUs and to expand their role and visibility within our faith.
Daniel Gregoire, Director of Spiritual Development left the congregation after three years of service, to seek settled parish ministry. Jason Bender joined the congregation as Director of Spiritual Development. Connie Simon joined the congregation for two years as a part time Intern Minister.
Capital Campaign is begun to add an elevator that will reach all three floors of the church building, widen and light the driveway and resurface the parking lot. USG joined the UU Pennsylvania Legislative Advocacy Network (UUPLAN.)
Donald Trump is elected President.
There was turmoil in the UUA because of hiring practices that led the UUA President Peter Morales to resign and the Association to begin an examination of white supremacy culture. USG offered White Supremacy Teach Ins 1 and 2 during worship services. Jason Bender left the congregation at the end of the year.
Rev. Susan Frederick Grey is elected President of the UUA.
USG co-ordained both Connie Simon and McKinley Sims (he was a Student Minister at USG in 2014-15.) The Promise and the Practice service is held at USG to center UU voices of color and raises $3000 for Black Lives UU. Elevator Construction began. USG joins Pennsylvanians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild (POWER), a Black clergy led interfaith social justice organization. Ryan Hurd became the Director of Spiritual Development.
Zero deficit budget is achieved which decreases withdrawls from the endowment. Gloria Guldager leaves the position as Administrator after 10 years. Celeste Lamb becomes the new Administrator. Elevator is completed. USG adopts the 8th Principle which calls for “Dismantling Racism and Other Oppressions.”
The Covid 19 pandemic begins.
The Covid-19 shut down happened locally in mid-March. After one Sunday with no worship service, USG began offering virtual services which continued throughout the year. The virtual services were well attended and most of the other church groups such as Small Group Ministry, Exploring Elderhood and Child Spiritual Development, in addition to the Board and all the of the committees, met successfully online. Latifah Griffin joins the congregation as part time Intern Minister.
UU the Vote is created and does incredible grassroots work nationwide.
GA is fully virtual for the first time.
Joe Biden is elected President.
Covid vaccinations became available, but because of Covid surges worship services remained online only for most of the year. A Covid steering team met regularly to assess the case counts and adjust the policies. The Auction and MLK Day of Service were done virtually. In August we rented a large tent for the parking lot and began offering multi-platform services in September. We were in the sanctuary in limited numbers for several services in November and December before going fully back online. Child Spiritual Development including 7-9th grade OWL met in person starting in September. Mark Daugherty retired in November after 38 years as USG’s Music Director. We began study of the UUA Commission on Institutional Change’s Widening the Circle of Concern report with the goal of developing USG specific goals and actions. Latifah Griffin served a second year as half time Intern Minister. Barbara Browne was hired as Visiting Music Coordinator.
UUPLAN becomes UUJusticePA.
GA was fully virtual for a second year.
Multi-platform services resumed in February, with masking and distance. MLK Day was held virtually again. Rev. Kent announced in January that after 20 years as USG’s minister, his time at USG would finish in June. Ryan Hurd announced he would leave the position of Director of Spiritual Development in June as well. The UUA approved Latifah Griffin to assume the Director of Spiritual Development position for one year to help the congregation transition to new leadership. The Rev. Cheryl M. Walker was hired as Interim Minister. Baker Purdon was hired as Music Director.
Russia invaded Ukraine.
GA was fully multi platform for the first time.
The US Supreme Court overturned Roe Vs. Wade.
Received an $80,000 grant from the State of PA for security improvements around the facility and grounds. Increased Share the Plate to weekly (from monthly), doubling the number of organizations that we contribute to (each organization receives half the collection for 2 weeks.) Ordained Rev. Latifah Griffin.