History of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Andover
The Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Andover (UUCiA) formed from two separate congregations, each founded in 1847 in the nearby city of Lawrence, Massachusetts. Those two congregations were the Universalist Society of Lawrence and the Parish of the First Unitarian Society in Lawrence.
Shortly before the City of Lawrence incorporated, the first Universalist sermon was delivered there in January 1847. The Universalist Society was organized later that same year by working class persons; many of the men who built the first building for the congregation were mill workers in the city. Some of them had worked on the city’s Great Stone Dam. By 1853, they had completed a church building on Haverhill Street. Today this building is the home of the Evangelical Primitive Methodist Church. (Note: If you’re looking for the building, which still stands, know that the 1955 hurricane blew down the steeple of the building, and it was not replaced.)
That same year, 1847, the Parish of the First Unitarian Society was also organized. This congregation was called together by Charles Storrow, a prominent civil engineer who had designed the Great Stone Dam. (Storrow Drive in Boston is named after his grandson, James J. Storrow.) Early members of this Unitarian congregation were mostly “white collar” workers, including physicians, lawyers, engineers, and industrialists such as Storrow. In fact the City of Lawrence was named after Abbot Lawrence, who was a Unitarian lay person. This congregation had two buildings, both at the corner of Haverhill Street and Jackson Street. (Note: If you’re looking for these buildings, know that the main building was torn down in 1917 due to structural issues. From 1917 until 1956, they worshipped in the smaller brick building; that building still stands.)
The class difference between the Universalists (predominantly “blue collar”) and the Unitarians (predominantly “white collar”) in Lawrence also mirrors the historical national patterns for these denominations.
A century later, both congregations found that they had dwindling memberships. Overcoming their class and cultural differences , the two congregations decided to merge in 1956 and become the Church of the Good Shepherd, Unitarian Universalist. Interestingly, this Lawrence merger of Universalists and Unitarians pre-dated the national merger of these two denominations by five years.
The Church of the Good Shepherd commissioned a study to see what they might do in order to increase membership; the study suggested that the congregation should move to a nearby suburb. Subsequently, the congregation moved to Andover in 1964, changing its name to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Andover. It had a brand new building at 244 Lowell Street, a contemporary structure with a striking sanctuary; unfortunately, it proved to have design flaws that led to issues such as leaking roofs, prohibitive heating costs and maintenance needs. In 1980, this building was sold to the North Boston Korean Methodist Church.
While selling the building, the UU Church of Andover began to rent the building at
6 Locke Street in Andover. This historic shingle-style building was built in 1892 by the November Club, which was New England’s first women’s clubhouse. The congregation purchased this building in 1985, two years later doing significant renovations including the addition of Johnson Hall on the lower level.
In 1994, the congregation changed its name from the “UU Church of Andover” to the “UU Congregation in Andover”, in recognition of their religious and demographic diversity.
Interestingly, there was a Universalist congregation in Andover in the 1860s (on the corner of Punchard Street and Main Street), but this congregation did not survive to become part of the present-day UUCiA merged body.
Though the UUCiA is no longer physically located in Lawrence, the congregation continues to connect with its Lawrence roots by participating in such organizations as Habitat for Humanity, Bread & Roses, Lawrence Community Works, and more.
The UUCiA became a “Welcoming Congregation” in 1994, making it among the earliest of the congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) to intentionally welcome and affirm LGBTQ persons. In 2015, the congregation became one of the early members of the UUA to display a Black Lives Matter flag.
Succession of Ministers at UUCiA
As noted above, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Andover got its name in 1994. Prior to that, from 1964-1993, it was the “Unitarian Universalist Church of Andover”. From 1956-1963, it was the “Church of the Good Shepherd, Unitarian Universalist”.
Here are the past and present ministers of the merged congregation:
*M. Lara Hoke 2009- (*current minister)
Ralph B. Galen 2003-2008
*Peter T. Richardson 1992-2002 (*current minister emeritus)
Rosemarie C. Smurzynski 1981-1989
Gayle K. Lehman-Becker 1978-1980
Randolph Lehman-Becker 1975-1980
Richard M. Woodman 1968-1974
Keith C. Munson 1960-1968
Kenneth C. Hawkes 1956-1960
As noted above, 1956 marks the year that two local congregations merged. Those two congregations were the “Universalist Society of Lawrence”, and the “Parish of the First Unitarian Society in Lawrence”. Here are the ministers who served those congregations:
Universalist Society of Lawrence
Kenneth C. Hawkes 1953-1956
Robert L. Jacobs 1948-1952
Robert H. Barber 1944-1948
Charles Wyman 1942-1944
Brainard F. Gibbons 1939-1942
C. Guy Robbins 1908-1939
William E. Gibbs 1886-1907
Alphonso E. White 1878-1886
George W. Perry 1873-1877
George S. Weaver 1860-1873
Martin Steere 1859-1860
J. J. Brayton 1855-1858
James R. Johnson 1852-1855
Henry Jewell 1851-1852
George H. Clark 1847-1851
Parish of the First Unitarian Society in Lawrence
Robert Wheatley 1953-1955
Theodore DeLuca 1950-1952
Amos C. B. Murphy 1945-1950
Felix D. Lion 1940-1945
Herman F. Lion 1929-1939
William W. Locke 1923-1929
E. J. Bowden 1921-1923
W. S. Nichols 1915-1919
H. Van Ommeron 1910-1914
Samuel C. Beane 1905-1909
Thomas J. Robjent 1901-1905
George H. Young 1891-1900
E. C. Abbott 1887-1890
Henry F. Jenks 1881-1885
E. R. Sanborn 1877-1878
C. A. Hayden 1872-1877
J. B. Moore 1866-1872
James H. Wiggin 1864-1865
William L. Jenkins 1855-1864
Henry F. Harrington 1847-1854