About Us​

You will find here an inclusive and growing spiritual community, dedicated to living love more fully and fiercely into the world. Together we celebrate life and a liberal tradition that leads social justice work, heals the earth, and nurtures the lifelong journey of mind and spirit.

LOVE IS THE DOCTRINE,

THE SEARCH FOR TRUTH IS OUR SACRAMENT,

SERVICE IS OUR PRAYER.

Unitarian Universalism

What We Believe

While our beliefs are varied, we unite to affirm and promote the eight principles to guide us on our journey.

1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person

2. Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations

3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations

4. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning

5. The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large

6. The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all

7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part

8. Journeying toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions

1

Attend a Sunday Service

It is hard to describe what a truly inclusive faith service looks like. Find out for yourself by coming to a service in person or tuning in to the livestream.

2

Find a Group

Find a group that calls to you, from knitting clubs, to Secular Humanist potlucks, to Buddhist sanghas, to social activism, there is a group for you here.

3

Grow your Faith

We recognize the search for truth and meaning to be a lifelong endeavor and offer RE programming for youth and adults of all ages.

OUR TEAM

Minister and Staff

UUS is supported by full-time and part-time staff members who work together to make things run smoothly for our congregation.

Rev. Diana Smith

Minister

minister@uusic.org

Maya Kehr Yoder

Congregational Administrator

admin@uusic.org

Nic Kaplan

Director of Lifespan Religious Education

education@uusic.org

Director of Congregational Music

music@uusic.org

Hsin-Hui Liu

Staff Pianist & Music Outreach Coordinator

pianist@uusic.org

Rev. Lois Cole

Rev. Lois Cole

Affiliated Community Minister

education@uusic.org

Victoria Huitt

Membership Coordinator

welcome@uusic.org

Kaytee Rairdin

Communications and Outreach Coordinator

communications@uusic.org

Leah Kaminsky

RE Coordinator

re.coordinator@uusic.org

Patrick Satter

Facilities Coordinator

admin@uusic.org

Sue Kann

Volunteer Rental Coordinator

rentals@uusic.org

Facilities

Our 8 acre campus in Coralville allows us to connect spiritually with nature and gather with each other in a sustainably built and maintained building that has been dubbed “the greenest church in Iowa.” Gender neutral bathrooms, flexible indoor seating, integration of indoor and outdoor spaces and multipurpose areas provides an inclusive and welcoming space for people of all backgrounds to enjoy our space. Our outdoor spaces are open to the public and we encourage our interior spaces to be rented for events and group gatherings.

D

Worship

Sanctuary

Gather

Fellowship Hall

Retreat

Nature Trails

Play

Playscape

Meditate

Labyrinth

Commune

Gardens

Learn

Classrooms

Connect

Meeting Rooms

Sustain

Net Zero Energy

Facilities Descriptions

With a wide variety of spaces available for rental use, we are able to accommodate all sorts of social and business functions. Our building includes:

  • Sanctuary
  • Conference Room
  • Fellowship Hall
  • Flexible meeting rooms
  • Outdoor patio and grounds
  • Commercial Kitchen
  • Map of Building Facilities
Wedding ceremonies, memorials, performances, speakers
Receptions, meals, workshops, social gatherings, charity events
  • Capacity 257, overflow space possible
  • Commercial kitchen with rear-door delivery access 
  • Direct access to patio and outdoor tables 
  • Integrated A/V and lighting systems
  • Sofas near windows
  • Equipment available:
Catered events, group meals, cooking parties or demonstrations
  • Open to caterers, groups, and individuals
  • Commercial ovens, stovetops, sinks, and dishwasher
  • Ample refrigerator and freezer space
  • Generous prep counters and serving counter
  • Ice machine
Business retreats, meetings, dressing room for weddings, small gatherings
  • Conference table seats 15
  • Kitchenette and bathroom
  • Large wall-mount display and whiteboards
  • Privacy blinds and full-length mirror
Relaxed meetings, discussions, workshops, breakout sessions
Oak & Hickory Rooms
  • Each holds 10-15 people, can be combined to hold 30
  • Couches and comfortable chairs
  • Wall-mount displays
Walnut Room
  • 10-15 people
  • Round tables with chairs
  • Wall-mount display

Private Events

Rent Our Facilities

You are welcome here. We’re proud to support marriages and other gatherings for all people, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, or religious affiliation.

Marriage Ceremony

Weddings

Our Sanctuary is a stunning, light-filled space with floor-to-ceiling windows that bring nature up close. With access to a concert piano, A/V equipment and excellent acoustics, it is the perfect location to host a wedding ceremony.

The Fellowship Hall adjoins the Sanctuary and is designed for receptions and other large social gatherings. It features a commercial kitchen and an outdoor patio.

Private Events

Non-Wedding Rentals

Our building is perfect for social events, memorial services, performances, and speakers. The flexibility of the space makes it ideal for business trainings or retreats.

Our primary meeting room features a large table, whiteboards, modern A/V equipment, and a kitchenette. We also offer a variety of relaxed, multi-purpose spaces to fit your unique needs.

Reservation FAQs

Contact our rentals coordinator here to check availability.

Schedule an appointment to see the building here.

Our Sanctuary has a maximum capacity of 285, although we typically have just over 200 chairs set up. Our Fellowship Hall holds a maximum of 259 people, with up to 30 round tables (that work best with 6 at a table), and 12 8-foot-long rectangular tables.

We have classrooms and a conference room that can seat anywhere from 10-45 people.

We do not offer our own catering on-site, but we are glad to work with you to arrange catered food from a local caterer or restaurant, or you can make your own arrangements.

You may serve alcohol at your event, but you need to sign an alcohol agreement, and you either need to provide it for free to your guests, or you or your caterer will need to have an alcohol license.

You can request access to our microphone and sound system, which we will train you on. We also have a large rolling TV monitor and smaller monitors in classrooms where you may show a movie or video or slide presentation. You can plug into our sound system to play music. We have
several cords and adaptors available. We may we have someone available to livestream an event from our sanctuary. You are also welcome to bring your own projector or smaller sound system.

We have parking for up to 75 vehicles in our parking lot. Several of those are handicapped parking spots, and 4 spots have access to free electric vehicle charging stations. For larger events, street parking can be requested from the city (or is automatically available for Sunday
events), and there are also a couple of parking lots within walking distance that can be utilized. All parking is free.

We do not require any specific COVID procedures for rental events, but we do suggest that you have some masks available for those who might wish to have them, and we do ask you to sign an agreement that you will take into account the safety of participants in regards to COVID.

Can’t find the answer?
Ask us!

History of UUS

The story of our congregation begins in 1838 when traveling Universalist preachers bring their message of universal salvation to settlers in the Iowa City area. Merger with Unitarians begins in 1878, and their combined efforts build an enduring liberal religion in Iowa City that features early female preachers, a broadening of spiritual perspectives, and a deepening commitment to social justice and environmental stewardship.

A Labor Day parade passing in front of the church building (the brick structure on the right) that the congregation occupied from 1908 to 2016.

The documents in this archival history of the Unitarian Universalist Society provide a range of perspectives on the congregation, dating back to the earliest meetings of traveling Universalist preachers with local settlers in a log cabin on the Iowa River in 1838.

Historical Documents and Resources

Augusta Chapin History of the First Universalist Church of Iowa City (PDF)
Written in 1871 by the congregation’s first female minister, this brief handwritten history describes the earliest years of the First Universalist Church of Iowa City. It includes a list of founding church members from 1841.

Universalism and Unitarianism in Iowa City, by Ruth Irish Preston (PDF)
A lengthy, two-part history of the congregation’s first seven decades, written in 1907-1908.

Edna B. Wilson and the Church Chart (PDF)
An oral history interview with an early and long-time congregation member, covering the years 1878-1933.

Universalism. Thirty-one Years of Its History in Iowa City, 1841-1873 (PDF)
A photocopy of a newspaper story published in the Daily Press in 1873.

History of the Universalist Church in Iowa: 1843-1943 (PDF)
This Master’s Degree thesis, written in 1944 by Elva L. Tucker, a graduate student in history at the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa), provides a detailed discussion of the evolution of our Iowa City congregation and the larger Universalist movement in Iowa.

From Within These Walls – Building Centennial Booklet (PDF)
A series of 24 essays published in 2008 to commemorate 100 years in the church building at 10 S. Gilbert Street and covering a wide range of congregational life.

History of the Iowa City Unitarian Universalist Society, by Tom Mikelson (PDF)
Published in 1981 by Rev. Tom Mikelson, then minister of the congregation, based on his archival research and including a broad perspective on Unitarianism and Universalism.

1838-1840

Universalists are one of the very few denominations to carry their message to the American frontier. Circuit-riding Universalist preachers, often young women, meet with Iowa City settlers in their homes and find a receptive audience among people who are now free to explore new religious ideas.

1841

The First Universalist Church of Iowa City is formally established at the Edward Foster home, and Rev. A.R. Gardiner arrives as the first minister. Gardiner’s petition to preach at the newly-built temporary statehouse in Iowa City is approved over the objections of other religious leaders who also use the shared meeting hall. This resulting publicity leads to what is reported to be the largest audience yet to gather in Johnson County to hear a ’’preaching”. Opposition continues from other Protestant Christian churches. The Presbyterian minister plans to extinguish all the candles at the next Universalist meeting, while the Methodists refuse to meet again in the hall after the Universal!sts have used it.

1843

The congregation constructs a small brick church building at the corner of Iowa Avenue and Dubuque Street, funded in part with donations from wealthy Eastern Universalists, including Horace Greeley and P.T. Barnum.

1868-1873

First Universalist begins construction of a new building near its existing location, but a fire destroys it before completion. Rev. Augusta Chapin serves as minister beginning in 1869. She is the first woman to earn a doctorate of divinity in the U.S., and the first female settled minister in Iowa City. The congregation thrives despite moving to several temporary locations and hosts a number well-known female suffragists and abolitionists, including Susan B. Anthony, Jane Swisshelm, and Mary Livermore. First Universalist constructs a new building across from the University campus at Clinton Street and Iowa Avenue in 1873, featuring Byzantine architecture and plans for a campanile tower.

1874-1884

After Chapin’s departure, the First Universalist congregation dwindles and the building eventually closes. Meanwhile, the First Unitarian Church has become more active in Iowa City following its establishment in 1871. The American Unitarian Association agrees to help support a new minister (Rev. Oscar Clute) if First Universalist will allow regular use of their building. Clute preaches on the controversial topic of evolution and institutes “a vigorous social life,” including dancing, cards, a popular Shakespeare Club, and a youth group dedicated to the study of nature’s religion. Other churches in town and the University of Iowa President are worried about the church’s ideas and influence, and Clute responds by personally inviting each U of I student to attend services. The Unitarian congregation absorbs many Universalist members and the merged congregation becomes the First Unitarian Society of Iowa City in 1881.

1908

The First Unitarian Society constructs a new building at 10 S. Gilbert Street that will serve as the congregation’s home for more than a century. The modest house-like design is based on plans from the American Unitarian Association that encourage congregations in “building convenient and beautiful churches without undue expense, without discord, and without debt.”

1918

During the Spanish flu epidemic, which kills an estimated 675,000 Americans, the church serves as an annex to the University of Iowa Hospital (then located in what is now Seashore Hall), providing 3500 meals to health care providers over a three-week period. The Women’s Alliance also makes gauze face masks for children to help slow the spread of infection.

1940-1957

Rev. Evans A. Worthley works with a local Baptist minister to integrate Iowa City restaurants in the 1940s, and in the 1950s Rev. Alfred Henriksen accompanies African Americans to local barbershops that practice segregation. In 1951, former First Unitarian minister and dedicated social activist Rev. Arthur Weatherly co-founds the Holmes-Weatherly Award with the Unitarian Society for Social Justice to annually honor an individual “whose lifelong commitment to faith-based social justice is reflected in societal transformation.”

1965-1970

Rev. Bill Weir helps found Iowa City’s Community Mental Health Center and participates in the Selma Freedom March. The congregation  formally changes its name to Unitarian Universalist Society of Iowa City in 1965, four years after the two denominations merged at the national level.

1973

The congregation adopts an “open door policy” that allows building use for activities such as political party functions, arts performances, gay and lesbian dances, and yoga classes.

1986

Congregation members begin serving lunch on the second Friday of each month for the Iowa City Free Lunch Program, a practice that continues to the present day.

1995-1997

Deepening its existing commitment to including and supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, the congregation undertakes a two-year process of self examination that leads to a unanimous congregational vote to become a formal UU “Welcoming Congregation.” An Interweave chapter is formed to continue the work of the Welcoming Congregation process.

2006

The congregation begins distributing all Sunday service cash donations to local community service organizations, a practice that is still in place.

2017

The congregation moves to a newly-constructed building on eight acres of woodlands in Coralville. The building is designed to be the “greenest church in Iowa” and features passive solar design, geothermal and photovoltaic energy, sustainable building materials, on-site handling of water runoff, and inspiring visual connections to nature. During the same year, the congregation is officially certified as a “Green Sanctuary” by the Unitarian Universalist Association, formalizing its commitment to ongoing learning and work related to environmental sustainability.

Diana Smith, 2020-Present
Diane Dowgiert (Interim), 2018-2020
Steven Protzman, 2010-2018
Benjamin Maucere (Interim), 2008-2010
Nancy Haley, 1997-2008
Oren A. “Pete” Peterson (Interim), 1996-1997
Michelle Tonozzi, 1992-1996
Elizabeth Kerman (Interim), 1991-1992
Fritz Hudson, 1984-1991
Theodore “Ted” Webb (Interim), 1984
Thomas J. Mikelson, 1971-1983
William Weir, 1965-1970
Khoren Arisian, 1958-1964
Alfred J. N. Henriksen, 1951-1957
Evans A. Worthley, 1931-1951
W. Rupert Holloway, 1929-1931
Arthur Weatherly, 1922-1929
Franklin C. Doan, 1920-1922
Vincent B. Silliman, 1919-1920
Charles M. Perry, 1913-1919
H. Houghton Schumacher, 1911-1913
Robert S. Loring, 1907-1910
Duren J.H. Ward, 1900-1906
Eleanor Gordon, 1896-1900
Charles E. Perkins, 1892-1896
Robert C. Morse, 1889-1891
Arthur Beavis, 1884-1889
Oscar Clute, 1878-1884
Augusta Chapin, 1869-1873
Joseph Kinney, 1866-1868
William Brattain, 1863-1864
Eben Francis, 1858-1860
N. K. Peck, 1854-1856
I. M. Westfall, 1846-1849
A. R. Gardiner, 1841-1845

Detailed UUS Congregational Timeline

Click the above link to see our detailed timeline from our archives that shows the full history of our congregation.

Service on Sundays at 10; Office Open Mon-Thurs 9-4 By Appointment

2355 Oakdale Rd, Coralville, IA 52241