UUCDC History

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Unitarian Universalist Church of Delaware County

Ministers

  • Herb Vetter (1958-1959)
  • David Kibby (1960-1978)
  • Van Vanstrom (Interim)
  • Morris Hudgins (1980-1987)
  • No Minister (Interim)
  • Judith Downing (1988-1999)
  • Elizabeth Kerman (Interim)
  • Kerry Mueller (2000-2004)
  • Patricia Hart and Peter Newport (Interims)
  • Peter Friedrichs (2006 to present)

Chronology

November 1951

Two exploratory meetings were held to express interest in forming a new group closer to Delaware County instead of traveling to Flourtown or the Unitarian Church of Germantown.

January 25, 1952

A third meeting continued the exploration with guidance from Fred Brill of Germantown Church and Fred Cox of First Church. Those present voted to become the Delaware County Liberal Fellowship and to seek affiliation with the American Unitarian Association. Dick Worrell was the President for the first two years.

February 10, 1952

The dream of a Unitarian Church in Delaware County (UCDC) had a most inauspicious start. The Llanarch Firehouse was rented for our Sunday night meetings, but blaring alarms and racing firemen were not very conducive to a church service.

March 23, 1952

We moved from firehouse to First Day School at Haverford Friends Meeting House. It was more fitting for church services but was not our own. The mantra heard at meetings, services and even parties was - "Breathes there a UU with soul so dead who never to himself hath said: What we need is a place of our own!"

April 1952

Members unanimously voted to affiliate with the American Unitarian Association (A.U.A.) and were formally chartered as the Unitarian Fellowship of Delaware County. There were 24 charter members. It was the first new Unitarian group in the Philadelphia area since 1865.

May 14, 1952

Congregation adopted its first budget of $479.

March 1, 1953

Religious Education classes began in private homes. Religious education was a major factor stimulating the formation and growth of the new Fellowship.

May 31, 1955

Settlement Day for Curtis Chapel. Sam Magargal had been empowered to carry on negotiations to obtain a mortgage of $6,000. We were helped by a $3,000 loan from the First, Germantown, and Wilmington Churches. We had a building - a bare building. Sparkle it didn't, and we needed more classroom space.

Folding benches were found for $300 that could be used for meetings and stored when necessary. Another $200 was spent on an old reed organ. Members cleaned and painted the interior of the building providing the bare essentials for meetings.

There was no space for religious education. Thus was born "the church that grew underground." Members armed with shovels, wheelbarrows and cases of beer spent many summer hours excavating a basement under the chapel to make room for six Religious Education classes. Alas, it was not quite enough so they built a balcony. The Summer of 1955 will be remembered by the work crew as the hottest, most mosquito-infested and biggest soda- and beer-drinking summer ever.

January 19, 1958

Herb Vetter conducted his first service as the new minister.

March 30, 1958

The Main Line Unitarian Fellowship was formed with 35 members from UCDC, 30 from Germantown, and 30 from First Church. Other fellowships also sprang up in West Chester, Bucks County, and Newark, Delaware. A fellowship was also launched in South Jersey. Liberal religion was strong and healthy, riding the crest of a return to religion felt throughout America at that time. We provided a natural home for those unable to embrace more orthodox religions.

September 1958

We rented an old house on Sproul Road (now site of Harlee Manor) to house all of the church school in one place. We were unable to finance the purchase of the building and were under constant threat of losing our annual lease.

1960-1965

Our second minister, Dave Kibby, and wife Jane arrived at the beginning of the 1960-61 Church year.

The little band that organized Delaware County Unitarians for Social Justice in this period couldn't pronounce its acronym (DCUSJ), but they could and did pronounce its convictions on fair housing, Bible-reading in public schools, and the excesses of the House Un-American Activities Committee. A number of public forums were held that attracted a lot of attention to this young congregation, including a debate between Madalyn Murray (anti-Bible in public schools) and Ed Schemp (pro-Bible). Dave Kibby's house had trash strewn on his lawn and windows broken. "We knew that the problems of the early sixties were really there and Delaware County knew that we were really there."

However, there was sharp disagreement about whether social action should be taken in the name of the church itself. After members wrestled with the question, the by-laws were amended permitting groups within the church to take action on their own behalf but requiring a vote of the congregation to do it in the name of the church.

1965-1970 Building Years

We purchased the Beatty Hill site (near what is now the juncture of the Blue Route and Route 1) for the new church building but were halted when the Blue Route (Interstate 476) cut through the property and prevented access to the remaining portions. In 1972 the State paid $71,200 for the portion of the Beatty Hills property that had been taken for the Blue Route. The congregation sold the remaining parcel to a land conservancy for $35,000 in 2002.

In December of 1965 ground breaking ceremonies were held for the current location on Rose Tree Road. The building was dedicated on December 14, 1966. The land had been purchased on October 11, 1963, for $37,500. The mortgage of $170,000 was paid off on May 16, 1988.

1970-1977 Developing Years

In 1970 UCDC entered the Bail Bond program in conjunction with the Community Assistance Project of Chester. It was designed to provide bail assistance to worthy and needy persons who, while awaiting trial, were forced to remain in prison because of lack of funds. In 1972 the congregation voted to use an amount of the church's property equal to $5,000 in support of the Bail Bond program. We were one of the first churches in the United States to provide such aid.

The Lib-Lib group, a singles organization for men and women was formed. This was a very popular group that continued through the late 1980s.

1977-1982 Period of Transition

In 1977 the Cape (Child Abuse Prevention Effort) was promoted by members and housed in the church giving counseling two nights a week. Others were working on a Haitian Refugee Project. HOP (Helping Older People) started and numerous symposiums were held including a forum on abortion. The 1977 Annual Report indicated a growing interest in outreach and support for the gay community.

In 1978 Van Vanstrom arrived as the interim minister. He was concerned about apathy and championed the idea that all church members should be asked to serve on a committee "of their choice." He was the force behind a Committee on Committees to staff our volunteer needs.

In 1979 there was an oil crisis. Many rode their bicycles to church. Betty Winberg (Worrell) and her daughter, Amy, rode horses to church.

On September 9, 1979 Morris Hudgins was voted in as UCDC's third minister.

On the very next day the Rose Tree Day School opened its doors. Church members Sue McKenney and Marjorie Ogilvie had brought a proposal for a UCDC pre-school to the Board in March. In May, the Congregation approved the school, which was to include special needs children and offer opportunities for church membership involvement. Within less than a year UCDC's day school was in the black, had repaid a $1,000 seed money loan and was actively contributing to the church budget.

Also during this period, what has become known as "The Church of the Performing Arts" was born. With the Echelmyers and the Mellis as the driving force, the chorus put on UCDC's first Gilbert and Sullivan productions. The very first one, in 1978, "Trial by Jury," brought a grand profit of $500! Legitimate theatre, with oft times not so legitimate acting, was offered through the Melli inspired Reader's Theatre. For the many who participated in this activity, it let us often present wry humor with an enthusiastic group of acting hams to an audience that appeared to ingest the offerings with few signs of indigestion. On a more informal basis our earlier "open mike" J- or Java Nights were revived under a new name: "Cabaret." Another milestone was the hiring of our first long-term, professional Chorus Director: Karl Middleman.

In 1981, twenty years after the Unitarian-Universalist merger, UCDC finally voted to add Universalist to its name, and became the Unitarian Universalist Church of Delaware County - UUCDC.

1982-1987

During the 1985-1986 church year, the "Past Presidents Team" composed of Fred Cox, Harry Sternfeld, and Dave Wittman installed a beautiful new parquet floor in Fellowship Hall. Most of the tiles were purchased out of donations from members and friends.

Joys and Concerns were initiated during Sunday services.

The congregation worked on strengthening the "Administrative Council." The plan was to meet relatively frequently, both alone and with the Board, in the expectation that the Council would be able to coordinate activities of the Church more effectively.

1987-1997

In 1987 Morris Hudgins' resigned. The Caring Committee was established and the Worship Committee was "beefed-up" in order for the congregation to carry on during the interim without a minister.

Also in 1987, as a result of some serious thinking about our need for additional space, a building committee was selected to draw up some architectural sketches for a building addition/renovation. In the Spring of 1988 these plans were rejected by the congregation after a heated debate.

In 1988 a committee of members of our church joined with CASA - a sanctuary alliance program for El Salvadorian refugees needing financial, practical, emotional and social support.

The 1988-89 year opened with a Board Retreat where Judith Downing was welcomed as our new minister and a decision was made to do a Long Range Plan. This was the beginning - though we didn't realize it at the time - of the process leading to the successful building of our addition, completed in 1999.

A special fund drive was conducted to provide handicap access via ramp to Fellowship Hall and an accessible bathroom.

On May 29, 1990 Judith Downing was involved in a very bad automobile accident - a car hydroplaned across the median and hit her head on - killing the other driver and leaving Judith with two broken legs, a perforated abdomen, lots of bumps and bruises and the need for home care through the summer. Under the tireless direction of Barbara Florio, meals were arranged on a daily basis, as were cleaning, shopping, visits, medical trips, etc. By September, 1989, the ramp was completed with the addition of a riser built so that Judith, who was now able to get around in a wheelchair but could not stand, could give her sermons from her chair and be seen and heard by all. She was unable to drive herself from May through November but nevertheless preached regularly during the Fall.

During the 1990-1991 church year, one of main concerns, as well as that of the nation, was the Gulf War. In response to the war build up, a vigil was held in Fellowship Hall and a group joined a bus entourage to Washington as part of a denomination led protest against the war. George Bush (the first!) refused to speak to the President of the UUA or any of our other representatives. That year we also had a Ministerial Intern named Judith Wright.

During the summer of 1990, under the direction of Fred Cox, major property work was accomplished. New carpeting was installed, the lounge and hallways were painted after old wallpaper was stripped away, the roof over Fellowship Hall replaced, the parking lot and driveway were re-paved, and new windows were installed, financed in part by a loan from the Day School.

In 1991 a Mission Covenant Statement was discussed, drafted, discussed, redrafted, discussed, redrafted and finally approved by the Congregation. This process began in October as part of the canvass with small potluck suppers in members' homes, was followed by guided discussions, and concluded at a special congregational meeting in March of 1992.

The Welcoming Congregation program was run for the first time under the leadership of Judith Downing and Lou Madonna with a committee of ten.

The church experienced a "dramatic jump" in children and youth Religious Education attendance.

The Acme and Pathmark grocery coupon program began with proceeds ear-marked for the capital improvement reserve.

A Growth Committee was established to study "expanding membership and shrinking space."

In the 1992-1993 church year, we experienced the first surplus since 1988 and began holding two services due to increased attendance.

1998-1999

In May of 1998 ground was broken for the new sanctuary, offices, and entry space.

We survived a winter while construction was in progress without heat and in cramped quarters.

Services began in the new sanctuary in September of 1999 with Elizabeth Kerman as our Interim Minister. Judith Downing had determined that this was the appropriate time for her to move on after guiding us through the fund raising and building years.

2000-2002

Kerry Mueller became our minister beginning in the Fall of 2000.

On the evening of September 11, 2001, we provided an incredible interfaith worship service that was well attended and very healing for many. Muslims, Christians, Jews, and Methodists came together to grieve and find comfort with each other.

The Small Group Ministry program was launched.

On April 21, 2002, the congregation voted overwhelmingly to officially become a Welcoming Congregation. To achieve that status, we held a series of workshops and events to educate the members about what it means to be such a congregation and why we would want to be one. A Welcoming Congregation makes serious efforts to welcome gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and questioning individuals. In 2006 our rainbow flag (a sign of a Welcoming Congregation) was stolen, burned and returned. The act was reported as a hate crime. We held a series of candlelight vigils to bring attention to the burning. We also held a well-attended evening service, and we provided programs to reacquaint the congregation with our Welcoming Congregation commitment. On April 29, 2007, we dedicated a new, metal rainbow flag art piece (designed and fabricated by one of our members) out front next to our sign.

On April 26-28, 2002, Future Search developed visions for the congregation. A large number of committed members participated to answer the question: "Given our UU principles, what does UUCDC need to do in the next five years for ourselves, the community, and the world?"

On May 18, 2002, we celebrated our 50th anniversary.

We implemented a new Coming of Age program.

We held the first Concert for the Community. The idea was to give the proceeds from the performances to a charity. Approximately $4,000 was given to The Support Center for Child Advocates. This program has continued with proceeds going to the Chester NAACP for college scholarships.

2003-2012

The Board accepted Kerry Mueller's resignation, which was then approved by the membership, and became effective in March of 2004. Trisha Hart and Peter Newport spent two years with us as our Interim co-Ministers. They shared the one position while each of them also did consulting and ministering to other congregations.

In Spring of 2006 the congregation chose Peter Friedrichs to be our sixth "called" minister. He began with us during August.

On July 1, 2008, the system of Policy Governance was formally initiated. A new organizational chart was developed and approved by the Board of Trustees. It featured the creation of a Lay Leadership Council consisting of five Ministry Teams and a Council Chair elected by the congregation. 

2013-present

The lower level build-out was completed and dedicated in September 2013 to increase our space for religious education and meeting space. A beautiful chapel, two classrooms and the adult faith development library occupy the former storage area under the sanctuary.

To cultivate a culture of joyful service in our congregation, Growth Through Service was developed in 2013 to match service opportunities with our member's goals for spiritual growth. Congregants have a conversation with a GTS team member every two years to discuss spiritual development and UU values of service.

UUCDC votes to become an institutional member of UUPLAN, an advocacy group to assure that all Pennsylvanians have the basic means of survival, access to living-wage work and the right to organize for justice and dignity on the job.

After voting to change the bylaws in May 2014, the congregation in November 2014 elected the Executive Team to replace the Lay Leadership Council. The Executive Team consists of the minister, and 4 lay leaders responsible for membership engagement, expenses stewardship, income stewardship and social justice and outreach.

Soul Matters becomes the curriculum for our small group ministry program in early 2015. Monthly themes are also reflected in Sunday service sermons.

Unitarian Universalist Association selects UUCDC as a "Breakthrough Congregation". An illustrated article in the Fall 2015 UU World magazine highlighted our Growth Through Service program, young families ministry, Five to Thrive stewardship program and the UU101 class.

Erica Shadowsong serves as Interim Director of Religious Education replacing Irene Friedrichs. In August 2017, UUCDC member Chrissy Bushyager is appointed as Director of Religious Education after an international search.

Board Presidents

  • 1952-54 ~ Richard Worrell
  • 1954-55 ~ Bruce McFadden
  • 1955-58 ~ Sam Magargal
  • 1958-59 ~ Walter Schleyer
  • 1959-60 ~ Charles Stanton
  • 1960-61 ~ Elizabeth Beardsley
  • 1961-62 ~ Robert Waxham
  • 1962-63 ~ Thomas Duff
  • 1963-65 ~ Walter Wilson
  • 1965-67 ~ George Davies
  • 1967-69 ~ Roy Clark
  • 1969-70 ~ Betty Winberg
  • 1970-72 ~ Richard Gammon
  • 1972-73 ~ Priscilla Hopkirk
  • 1973-75 ~ Fred Cox
  • 1975-77 ~ Priscilla Hopkirk
  • 1977-79 ~ Dave Wittman
  • 1979-81 ~ Bob Beaney
  • 1981-83 ~ Harry Sternfeld
  • 1983-85 ~ Don Pound
  • 1985-87 ~ Bob Beavins
  • 1987-89 ~ Sue Adnopoz
  • 1989-91 ~ Hal Sherman
  • 1991-93 ~ Bill Henderson
  • 1993-95 ~ Doug Feisler
  • 1995-97 ~ Larry Schwab
  • 1997-99 ~ Neil Goldstein
  • 1999-00 ~ Bill Henderson
  • 2000-01 ~ Bill Henderson/Penny Bartlett
  • 2001-02 ~ Penny Bartlett
  • 2002-04 ~ Jean Campbell
  • 2004-06 ~ Bob Beaney
  • 2006-08 ~ Jody Malloy
  • 2008-10 ~ Mark Bernstein
  • 2010-12 ~ Peter Cooke
  • 2012-13 ~ Marylin Huff
  • 2013-15 ~ Craig Harris
  • 2015-     ~ Bill Clinton