Unitarians and Universalists
in Iowa City
UUSIC traces its beginning back to 1841, six years before Iowa achieved statehood,
when a small Universalist congregation hired its first minister. A few years
later, they bought its first church for $90.
Four different male ministers served
these Universalists over the next 20 years before the
Rev. Augusta Chapin
was called in 1869, not long before the wooden church burned to the ground.
After a year in rented quarters, the congregation built a new church on the
corner of Clinton Street and Iowa Avenue and dedicated it in 1873, shortly
before Rev. Chapin left the city.
Five years of hard times found the congregation low
in both membership and funds, a situation which took a decided turn
for the better when the American Unitarian Association in Boston offered
to fund a minister's salary if the Universalist congregation would
provide a church building. With the offer accepted, the Rev. Oscar
Clute became the new minister. Services continued at the Clinton-Iowa
Avenue site until about 1906, when the congregation sold its building
to The University of Iowa. Money from that sale made it possible to
our present building at the corner of Gilbert Street and Iowa
Philanthropist Andrew Carnegie provided money for the "Mighty Felgemacher,"
our organ, which is still providing music today -- although no longer
pumped by hand! Assistance in the early years of the UUSIC also came from
such Unitarian Universalists as Horace Greeley and P.T. Barnum.
As had long been anticipated, the
Universalist and Unitarian denominations
merged nationally in 1961--a union accomplished de facto many years
earlier by the Iowa City congregation.
twenty-nine "settled" ministers
(ministers who held permanent, full-time appointments rather than
interim service between settled ministers), Rev. Evans Worthley
holds the record for being at UUSIC the longest, for his service, from
1931 to 1951, extended through the Depression, World War II and
the baby-boomer years. Built a decade after he retired,
the addition that today houses the office, library, and UUSIC Lifespan
Religious Education classrooms, bears his name: the
Likewise, the monthly dinners launched by his wife, Amy, continued until
their original name, Worthley Evenings.
In 2011 we
welcomed our new, settled minister,
Reverend Steven Protzman.
Within These Walls
In 2008, our congregation celebrated the
100th birthday of our
home at 10 S. Gilbert. As part of the celebration, UUSIC authors penned
a series of articles,
From Within These Walls,
which document our history
in Iowa City.
The Historical Records Committee is continuing this work through
articles about UUSIC history for the UU News, our monthly