The First UU Church was Founded in 1830: The Answer to Today’s Trivia Question

Congratulations to Steven R., who correctly answered today’s question.  The first ever Unitarian-Universalist church was founded in 1830, in Richmond, Virginia, the future capitol of the Confederate States of America. John Dods, a Universalist minister, organized the disparate Unitarians and Universalists of Richmond into the Unitarian-Universalist Society in 1830. It survived until after the Civil War began, when the Confederate forces drove the pastor away in 1862 under suspicion of being a Union spy. The church was resurrected as a solely Unitarian congregation in 1893 (with at least one charter member from that original UU congregation).

Interestingly, despite being the inheritor of the first UU church’s legacy, this solely Unitarian congregation in Richmond voted against union of the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America to form the Unitarian-Universalist Association in 1961. They did, however, join the UUA when the union was successfully accomplished. Why did this church oppose consolidation? There were a few Southern Universalist churches that hadn’t integrated yet, and on principle the liberal Richmond church wished to express a protest toward affiliation with such segregated religious bodies.

Even more interestingly, in his response Steven R. indicated that he thinks there was a UU church even earlier than the Richmond congregation.  Steven, if you’ve got some more trivia to share with us, please post it here!  I’m sure everyone would be intrigued to hear of an even earlier explicitly Unitarian-Universalist church.



Filed under Liberal Religious History, Unitarian-Universalism

2 responses to “The First UU Church was Founded in 1830: The Answer to Today’s Trivia Question

  1. All i know earlier than 1830 is what somebody told me – and all i recall is – i think – Maine.

    the UU church in Richmond. had E.H. Chapin as a minister from 1838-1840, DD Smith in 1849, James Shrigley in 1858-1861 – there were Universalist
    Charles Briggs 1833, Chalres Farley 1835 Unitarian

    I dont recall off-hand the affiliation of J. B. Pitkin, 1831-1835, or Alden Bosserman 1860-1862.

    there would be a reason that the church was Unitarian and not Universalist or UU in the 1890s …

  2. this thought occurred to me yesterday, what were the views of the Richmond Unitarians about the Unitarian Churches that hadn’t integrated by 1961?

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