Church History

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All three settled ministers in our church history posed together for a photo after the Founders Day worship service on Jan. 31, 2016. From left: Rev. William T. Haney, 1989-2010; Rev. Molly Housh Gordon, 2012-Present; and Rev. Gertrude Lindener-Stawski, 1980-1986.

Summary of Church History

Our congregation was initially formed under the auspices of the American Unitarian Association Fellowship Movement. The first organizational meeting for what would become the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (later Church) of Columbia was held Jan. 28, 1951.

We surveyed our 60-year history in a “history wall” project in fall 2010, which culminated in a summary of key dates in church history, a detailed timeline of church history, and a sermon marking the 60th anniversary of the organizational meeting. See “History Wall” Project below.

The January 1951 organizational meeting resulted from a desire to have a group in which liberal religious ideas could be explored. The fellowship began with a close connection to the University of Missouri, actually meeting on the campus for nearly 20 years. The University’s intellectual atmosphere animated the fledgling fellowship, and its lay leadership and exploration of liberal religious ideas became key parts of what made us who we are today.

As often happens with families as well as churches, the arrival of children added new priorities and provided the impetus to obtain our own facility and ultimately to call a minister. The move to a new church home coincided with a broadening of our identity, which became less faculty-oriented and included increasing numbers from other segments of the community.

Rev. Gertrude Lindener-Stawski

Our present site was selected in 1965, and we had our first ground-breaking in 1969. In 1970 we held the first services in our beautifully designed church, with services continuing to be lay led.

We called our first minister, Gertrude Lindener-Stawski, in 1980, and she served until her retirement in 1986. She remained in Columbia for many years before moving to Nova Scotia to live with her daughter and was honored as Minister Emerita in 2006. Rev. Gertrude was a pioneer in our faith, having been ordained in 1968 when only 21 ordained Unitarian Universalist ministers – 2% of the total – were women. Before becoming our congregation’s first minister, Rev. Gertrude served congregations in Bethel, Vt. and Madison, Wis. She died peacefully June 12, 2020 in Nova Scotia with her daughter by her side.

We then called George Brooks as an interim minister to do the important work of getting us ready to work well with our next professional religious leader, the Rev. William Haney, who was called in 1989.

The Rev. William Haney at his going-away party in Spring 2010

Rev. Haney resigned in 2010 to begin a period of interim ministry before final retirement. On Jan. 30, 2016, Rev. Haney was honored as minister emeritus at a celebration of the church’s 65th anniversary – read more and see photos. On Jan. 31, 2016, Rev. Haney participated in a Founder’s Day Worship Service along with Rev. Lindener-Stawski and Rev. Housh Gordon – read more and see photos. Read Rev. Haney’s thank-you.

We continued to change and develop during Rev. Haney’s tenure. In 1992 we hired our Music Director, Desi Long, and our first Church Administrator, Kathie Bergman. We hired our first Director of Religious Education in 1996.

In 1998 our physical facilities were expanded to nearly double their original size. In the period from Rev. Haney’s arrival in 1989 until the building expansion in 1998, the church experienced a great period of growth, increasing from 130 members to about 200, or about 7% a year. After that, membership remained relatively stable until it started growing again in 2012 after the arrival of our current minister.

Rev. Dr. Suzanne Redfern-Campbell

The Rev. Dr. Suzanne Redfern-Campbell served as our Interim Minister from August 2010 through July 2012 and helped shepherd us through the process of defining what we sought in our next settled minister and conducting the ministerial search. Rev. Sue brought to us her experience of 24 years as an ordained minister in fellowship with the UUA, serving small and large congregations (140 to 600 members) in Vancouver (Canada), Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, and New England.

On April 29, 2012, our members unanimously voted to call the Rev. Molly Housh Gordon as the third settled minister in our history, and she began her tenure with us on August 1, 2012.

As of October 2023, our membership was 257.

On Aug. 26, 2012, shortly after Rev. Molly Housh Gordon’s arrival,
she led the dedication of our church’s new sign/sculpture.

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Video – UUCC’s First 50 Years

UUCC member Ian Thomas produced the following 56-minute video covering the first 50 years of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbia in 2001 as part of the church’s 50th anniversary celebration. In 2016 the video was converted from videotape to digital format for use in the church’s 65th anniversary observance. Many thanks to:

  • Ian for giving permission to post the video online.
  • UUCC member and audio specialist Wil Reeves, owner of Centro Cellar Studio, for editing the soundtrack to comply with copyright requirements for online posting.

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“History Wall” Project

In Fall 2010, church members and friends participated in a “history wall” project, writing their recollections of church history on timeline sheets posted on the wall of the Sanctuary. This project resulted in a summary of key dates in church history, a detailed timeline, and a sermon by the Rev. Dr. Suzanne Redfern-Campbell marking the 60th anniversary of the church’s first organizational meeting, all of which are available in PDF format:

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Selected Materials from UUCC History Archives

Services began in our original church building, pictured above, in 1971.
Graphic timeline of church history — 1951 to early 1990s

Documents available in PDF format:

Original church building as shown in The Columbia Daily Tribune on March 28, 1992

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