Gardiner, Maine Universalists disband

Sad news from Doug Drown emailed to me earlier today and  reprinted with permission:

Thought you would like to know that it has been reported on the Maine Conference UCC website that the Gardiner United Church of Christ in Gardiner, Maine (former First Universalist Church) has closed. The property and assets have been turned over to the Conference to help provide funding for its ministry.

This was not a “former” Universalist church; it WAS the Universalist Church, having elected not to join the UUA at the time of the merger and to subsequently cast its lot with the UCC instead. The building is a particularly lovely example of New Brunswick-type “Bishop Medley” Carpenter Gothic, of which there are few examples in Maine. It’s painted yellow, which is also unusual. I’ll try to find a photo.

Thank you, and a photo would be appreciated. There are other unaffiliated Universalist churches formerly associated with the denomination, of course. Some are independent or locally federated, but this situation is unusual. (There was a church in Ohio affiliated with the NACCC but it was small and I’ve not seen it in the directory lately.)

Again, a sad word, worth noting with thanksgiving.

13 Replies to “Gardiner, Maine Universalists disband”

  1. The unaffiliated Universalist church I think you are referring to is in Pataskala. For some reason they left the NACCC sometime between 1998 and 2002. They are now a kind of remnant group, that only holds services once per month. A few of their people came to the Universalist Convocation held in 2005 at the Universalist Church of Eldorado.

  2. The Gahanna church wasn’t Universalist, but Congregational. But it was yoked with the Pataskala church. The Gahanna church is NACCC & ICCC.

  3. In the USA, were there Unitarian churches which left the denomination at the merger, rather than affiliate with the UUA? Are any of them still around?

    Other than the Fountain Street Church and the four congregations of the American Unitarian Conference, are there other unaffiliated Unitarian congregations in the US?

  4. I have only dug up one reference to a Unitarian church that did not take part in the merger, and thus did not join the UUA. I found the reference back when I was in seminary, and so I don’t remember the exact location. But I think it was in CT or western Mass.. And from the little I saw, it closed by 1970. I suspect it may have been a very preacher-personality driven church, that could not survive without its key minister.

    When looking at dissent from the merger, it is good to remember that the dynamics were different from the Unitarian and Universalist sides. Unitarian opposition to the merger most frequently took place in areas where a Unitarian church existed in close proximity to a Universalist church. In some areas Unitarians had a concern that Universalist liberalism was a different “vocation” from Unitarian liberalism. But the opposition was concentrated in a small number of areas, and not geographically widespread. Universalist opposition was more wide spread, and included concerns over theology, the continuation of Universalist theological schools, and the fate of Universalist endowments. The end result was that about one-third of Universalist churches voted against merger. Most of those dissenters eventually joined the UUA. But some continued independently in Maine, New York, Ohio, and Mississippi; and other churches in Maine, New York, Illinois, Michigan, and Iowa joined other denominations.

  5. David – I forgot part 2 of your question (independent Unitarian churches). I sometimes run into some, but they are mostly independent fellowship style congregations. They are lay led, very informal, do not own property, and have no interest in official UUA membership. I seem to recall one in Petoskey, Michigan; and another in the Indiana resort town of Warsaw. I do not know if either are still meeting.

  6. Fountain Street is actually an independent liberal church that has had a succession of UU ministers over the years, though its roots are Baptist — in fact, it technically is the First Baptist Church of Grand Rapids, which indeed was its original name. The church didn’t entirely sever its ties to the American Baptist Convention until sometime between 1968 and ’72, if memory serves. The Michigan Baptist Convention had disfellowshipped it in the late ’50s, however.

    I think if Fountain Street were to affiliate with the UUA (which it won’t do — it has determined to be independent), it probably would rank as the largest church in the denomination.

  7. The First Universalist Church in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, joined the NACCC in the late ’50s or early ’60s. It may have had a dual affiliation with the UUA for a while; I don’t recall. The church changed its name to First Congregational a few years ago.

  8. New North Church in Hingham, Mass., which dates from the early seventeenth century, was a Unitarian parish for about 150 years until it left the UUA in 1970. It has since operated as an independent liberal Christian church, and is alive and healthy. The current minister, Bill Turpie, is a fairly prominent American Baptist who was involved in film and television ministry for many years.

  9. Doug – I forgot about New North Church in Hingham (the former 3rd Unitarian Parish of Hingham). Nice church. Small congregation. But their departure from the UUA had nothing to do with the merger. They just came to the point where they felt Hingham did not need 3 UU churches, but that there was still room for a libeal, non-denominational church. The people I met there had a fun mix of Baptist, UU, Quaker, and Methodist backgrounds.

  10. Scott, Derek, et al.,
    Interesting note on the Gardiner church, if someone comes up with a photo I may put a blurb in the Herald. The Jersey Township Universalist Church joined up with the NACCC at my recommendation, when I was preaching there in 1993; I am still in touch with them and they have dropped that association. So they are going it alone.
    I attended Fountain Street church when Duncan Littlefair was the Senior Minister; my father dismissed him as Reverend Littlefaith. Great choir at the time and I remember Littlefair’s sermon on hiow we need to see the connection between everything.

  11. Does anyone know what happend to the church records from Gardiner? I’m trying to locate info on two relatives. John A. Leard born approx. 1836 and his father-in-law, Dr. Welcome Pincin. Dr. Pincin was among the original group of men in 1835 who organized the “the Christian Band.” Where might I find some of the oldest church membership rolls? Thanks for your help.

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