Multi-denominational congregations within the UUA

This is a list I wanted before, so why not share? Multi-denominational — the term used at — is actually better than the more commonly used term federated because not all multiply-affiliated congregation are federated. A federated church is church made of churches; while rare, a federated church can break apart into its member churches. (This happened a few years ago.) The other common alternative is a community church, with a single corporation. These are easier to administer than federated churches, but a breakup is more like a divorce. Or a community church can drop one or more of it’s affiliations. In one case, the congregation went UUA-only, but more often the UCC is the “winner.”

The list below notes all the multi-denominational churches in the UUA. A few caveats:

  • I’ve long wondered if some of the single-digit member congregations in rural New England either function like federated churches in a local cooperative arrangement, or only report the Unitarian or Universalist partner in a federation.
  • Two of the churches below identify all their UU members as “multi-denominational” — which doesn’t make sense. Either it’s an error in filing, or perhaps a misunderstanding in terms. Such as, “all our members are multi-denominational.” Both are tiny, Universalist and in New England, so I’d be prone to believe the later.
  • In a two-way partnernship, a community church will usually report half its membership to one denomination and the rest to the other. But the stats for (UUA) membership and multi-denominational membership were made a few months apart so the smaller number isn’t going to be quite half.
  • Universalist-watchers note: with the 1961 consolidation, some Universalist churches went independent and federated locally with others, including the continuing Congregationalists (NACCC) in a few cases. They’re not listed here.
  • The last column is what other denominations are partners, where identified on their website.
    • ABC: American Baptist Churches
    • CCDOC: Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
    • Ethical Culture
    • UCC: United Church of Christ
    • UMC: United Methodist Church
    • First Existentialist, Atlanta, was an independent congregation before joining the UUA; it is essentially federated with its own founding identity. I can’t find the Friends partner with First Parish, Bolton; it isn’t New England Yearly Meeting.
Washington Ethical Society Washington DC 150 301 Ethical Culture
First Existentialist Congregation of Atlanta Atlanta GA 23 65
The Federated Church Avon IL 11 105
Peoples Church of Chicago Inc. Chicago IL 10 32 UCC
Federated Church Sycamore IL 14 182 UCC
The First Parish of Bolton Bolton MA 12 182 Friends, ABC, UCC
The First Church of Deerfield Deerfield MA 9 80 UCC
First Universalist Church of Hardwick Preservation Trust Hardwick MA 12 12
The Community Church Of North Orange And Tully Orange MA 10 50
Cong. Parish in Norton (Unitarian) Norton MA 13 13
The Federated Church of Orleans East Orleans MA 4 308 UCC
The Eliot Church of South Natick Natick MA 68 143 UCC
The First Church in Sterling Sterling MA 51 400 ABC, UCC
Federated Church Sturbridge MA 8 250 ABC, UCC
First Church of Templeton Templeton MA 10 160
The First Church of West Bridgewater West Bridgewater MA 66 130 UCC
First Parish Church United of Westford Westford MA 141 277 UCC
The Federated Church of Marlborough Marlborough NH 7 118 UCC, UMC
Newfields Community Church Newfields NH 5 54
The United Church of Winchester Winchester NH 6 119 UCC, UMC
All Souls Bethlehem Church Brooklyn NY 23 30 CCDOC, UCC
Church of the Mediator Providence RI 8 11

22 Replies to “Multi-denominational congregations within the UUA”

  1. Scott and all,

    A little further information:
    Hardwick, North Orange-Tully, and Templeton, MA are all dually aligned in some fashion with the UCC, as is Newfields, NH. (I think there may be a third denomination in the Newfields nexus as well, but I’m not certain what it is.)

    The Universalist Society in Hiram, ME, is part of the Hiram Community Church, affiliated with the NACCC.

    There have been other UU-Congregational federations in the past that have dissolved or in which the UU constituency just got absorbed and the denominational affiliation eliminated: First Church in Belfast, ME (now wholly UCC); the Federated Church in Castine, ME (UCC and UU societies now separated once again into two churches); the Brownfield Community Church in Brownfield, ME (formerly UU-ABC-UCC, now wholly UCC); the Federated Church in Warwick, MA (UU-UCC, the UU group now more or less defunct but still maintaining its building); the Community Church in Sangerville, ME (formerly UU-UCC, now separated, the UU church having regrouped in its former building and the UCC society now an independent evangelical church); and the Federated Church in Hubbardston, MA (ditto).

    In response to the post which made the observation that federated churches are seldom successful or last long, the Federated Church in Skowhegan, Maine (ABC-NACCC) has been in existence quite successfully since 1918! Many of the dually-aligned congregations on your list have been around since at least the ’40s. The Community Church in my home town of Ashburnham, MA (Methodist-UCC) was formed as a federated church in the ’20s, if memory serves.

    Sometimes the internal structures of these churches are a bit awkward, but the idea can work.

  2. The Sangerville situation is actually a bit more complicated than that. The Universalists and the UMC went in together. They eventually hired a “Congregationalist” as pastor (he was not UCC but was, in fact, an evangelical minister) who also served a UCC church farther north.

    Eventually he was ousted, the Universalist Church in Sangerville returned to being the usual UU church (the old Universalist Convention owned the deed to the building) with the Methodists moving to nearby Guilford (also Universalist and Methodist). Both the Sangerville church and the Guilford church had remainder groups of the other denomination and all get along famously.

    In the northen church (I wish I could remember the town…Abbot?) it was the UCC members who left and formed another congregation, leaving their old building to the aforementioned previous minister who was an evangelical.

    When I was pastor of the Sangerville UU church, we used to still have pancakes at 6am with the Methodists during Lent and Advent. Those were good times…

  3. Oh…and the Evangelical church next to the Catholic church in Sangerville was where the evangelicals went after the UU-UMC resurgence, but to the best of my knowledge it was never UCC in any of its permutations…

  4. Adam, I stand corrected. I didn’t know you once served at Sangerville. I had thought it had a UCC affiliation as it shared its ministers with Abbot and Monson for years. The evangelical Congregational minister in question presided over the splits in the Sangerville and Monson churches; in the case of Sangerville, the fundamentalists, as noted, started a new church; in Monson, the opposite occurred — the UCC supporters split off and formed a UCC church. The former Abbot Congregational Church (UCC) is now the Abbot Evangelical Free Church. I believe the old Monson Community Church is independent, as is the new congregation in Sangerville.

    In Guilford, as you indicated, the Methodists and Universalists were federated for a number of years. At one point in the late ’60s, a “Guilford Community Church” was formed that I think represented some sort of merger of the two churches, and it affiliated with the UCC. It didn’t last long; soon thereafter the Methodists took over the former Universalist building and the old Methodist church was razed. You may know more about this than I.

    There was also a Universalist-Congregational federation in Lewiston at one time, which lasted a few years into the UCC merger. The Lewiston United Methodist Church now occupies the building (former Pine Street Congregational).

  5. Federated Church of Avon is UUA/UCC. I’m told that the Friends connection at Bolton is somewhat informal, and linked to custodianship of Bolton’s old Friends Meetinghouse. While not officially part of New England Yearly Meeting, there is a continuing history of visitation between the Bolton church and Yearly Meeting.

    What is Mediator-Providence federated with? I thought that they were simply small.

  6. Thanks for the Friends details, Derek. Church of the Mediator/Mediator Fellowship was one of the two I was referencing in bullet #2, above.

  7. Templeton’s Web site makes it pretty clear that it has a UCC orientation (which is what I remember hearing when I was preaching once a month in the next town over).

    I used to know the story behind the North Orange church, but now I can’t remember, but as I recall there was not a strong identification with UUism. They are no longer listed on the Clara Barton District Web site, by the way.

    Sycamore, Ill., Web site says UCC and UU (originally Universalist, as I recall).

    The church in Norton, Mass., is to the best of my knowledge completely UU — this according to the minister who supplies preaching there.

  8. Dan — I disqualified the Templeton website because it’s a denominational product and didn’t mention its UUA affiliation. Might there be another, say Baptist or United Methodist affiliation? Who would know?

    I’ll add the Sycamore info — surely I knew that independently! Thanks.

  9. No, Templeton is Unitarian and Congregational only. It was the Federated Church of Templeton (First Parish and Evangelical Trinitarian
    parishes) from 1938, if I recall correctly, until the late ’50s when the church was reorganized to become the current First Church. I don’t
    know how actively (if at all) it maintains its UUA affiliation, but yes, it is a member of the UCC. That, too, was rather nominal until the current pastor arrived. It has functioned for decades as pretty much a community church, rotating mostly between UU and UCC ministers, with a few exceptions.

    The Methodists have a church in East Templeton and the UCC has another congregation in Baldwinville. The Baptist church, which dates back to the 1780s and whose meetinghouse was moved from “Baptist Common” in Templeton to Baldwinville, left the American Baptists and became independent about 25 years ago, sad to say.

  10. Oh, and how could I forget — First Parish in Lincoln, Mass., is affiliated with both UUA and UCC.

  11. I dredged up a few more federated or multidenominational churches from my memory banks, all in Massachusetts.

    First Parish in Westwood, Mass., is formerly federated but according to their Web site now reorganized as autonomous, and affiliated with both the UUA and the UCC. I don’t know how that fits into your categories.

    The Federated church in Warren, Mass., still claims on their Web site to be affiliated with UUA, UCC, and UMC, but I have never seen them listed in district or denominational publications.

    The Dover Church in Dover, Mass., is primarily UCC, but to the best of my knowledge is still affiliated with the UUA as well — at least, they were five years ago or so.

    First Parish in Berlin, Mass. (accent the first syllable of Berlin, please), is federated UCC and UUA.

    I believe the federated church in Charlton was once both Universalist and Congregationalist, but I have no idea what their affiliation is now.

    The Federated Church of Hyannis used to be Universalist and Congregationalist, but unfortunately they’ve dropped the Universalist completely now.

    I think there are a couple more multidenominational churches out in the hills of central Mass., but can’t remember what they are. Seems to me there was also another one down on Cape Cod, but again I can’t remember. Some of these multidenominational churches are small and struggling financially, and may not be able to afford denominational dues;

  12. [posted that last one before I finished typing]

    Some of these multidenominational churches are small and struggling financially, and may not be able to afford denominational dues; or maybe they’re just affiliating with district or local conference or equivalent?

  13. The Federated Church in Charlton is still UUA and UCC, and is a member of the Council of Christian Churches Within the UUA as well.

    Another church with a Universalist-Congregational history is the Church of Universal Fellowship in Orono, Maine. It was originally a federated church, dating from the 1920s, but severed both denominational ties years ago and became a member of the International Council of Community Churches.

  14. Re the Hyannis Federated Church: They dropped both denonimational connections years ago, well prior to either the UCC or UUA mergers, and proudly proclaim themselves an independent community church (big church, too — over 600 members, I think.). The pastoral leadership has come largely from the UCC. Carl Fearing Schultz, who was the minister there for over forty years, was a Baptist turned Congregationalist (UCC).

  15. I got curious and checked district Web sites to see which congregations are listed on those sites. That search also turned up Bethel, Vermont, which says on their Web site that they are multidenominational (UUA and UCC). While doing this, I realized that I have worked in four districts that have more than one multidenominational congregation.

    If you mapped these multidenominational congregations, you’d see that the biggest cluster is in the hill country of north central Mass. and southern N.H. (west of I-495, north of I-90, east of I-91). Then there are 4 west of Boston, 3 in north east Illinois, 2 in southeastern Mass. (although there used to be more on Cape Cod), and the rest widely scattered. This geographical distribution roughly corresponds to the districts they’re in, as listed below:

    Clara Barton District (all in Mass.):
    [N.B. North Orange / Tully is NOT listed, although it is within the geographical bounds of the district.]

    Northern New England District uses the UUA Web site’s congregations locator:
    Hiram, Maine (as per Doug Drown, above)
    Marlborough, N.H.
    Newfields, N.H.
    Winchester, N.H.
    Bethel, Vermont (UCC, UUA)

    Massachusetts Bay District (all in Mass.):
    S. Natick

    Central Midwest District uses the UUA Web site’s congregations locator (all in Illinois):
    People’s Church, Chicago

    Ballou Channing District (all in Mass.):
    West Bridgewater
    [N.B.: I’m not including Church of the Mediator, because from my time in the district I don’t remember them as being multidenominational.]

    Metro New York District:
    All Souls Bethlehem, Brooklyn, N.Y., N.Y.

    Joseph Priestley District:
    Washington Ethical Society, D.C.

    Thomas Jefferson District:
    First Existential, Atlanta, Georgia

  16. I thought of two other churches that are federations and used to have a Unitarian or Universalist affiliation, but no longer: First Church of Christ in Sandwich, Mass., and First Church in Walpole, Mass. I think both used to have Methodists in the mix as well. They’re now exclusively affiliated with the UCC.

  17. Scott @ 18 — Oops, sorry.

    Federated church trivia: There are some interesting federated churches in Canada with an Icelandic connection, e.g., the Federated Church of Winnipeg was a federation of the American Unitarian Association and the Icelandic State Church. More info here:
    (click through to individual church Web sites for histories).

  18. I think I recall the Newfields, NH church being listed on the New England Conference United Methodist Church site. However, I’m unsure whether this is a current affiliation. There is also the Community Church of Pepperell, which inexplicably mentions its UCC/ UUA joint affiliation on its website, but doesn’t show up at all on any UUA congregational lists.

  19. I’m doing research for a history book and this website came up. I wonder if the evangelical pastor at the Guilford Community church referenced above was a Rev Warren Hedrick?

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