Tradition is a guide and not a jailer. – W. Somerset Maugham
A Message From Our Minister
As we consider this month our theme of “tradition,” it could be useful to remember both our Universalist and our Unitarian histories – the history of each before they combined into one association. The two religious groups that make up who we are today as Unitarian Universalists were separate denominations until 1961 when they merged. Their histories have much to teach us about ourselves and our “traditional” values.
This month could also be a good time to consider our congregation’s history and the history of Universalism and Unitarianism right here in our area. Both have deep roots here, the Universalists establishing a presence in 1817 in Chautauqua County and the First Universalist Society in Portland, NY, in 1825 with 35 members. In 1899 a group – that had split off from the Dunkirk Presbyterian Church in 1880 – affiliated themselves with the American Unitarian Association and became a Unitarian Church. They built the Adams Memorial Church at the corner of Central and East Sixth in Dunkirk in the early 1900s. Seventy years later, 1978, after a slow decline, those remaining in the congregation voted to disband and gave the church property to the Chautauqua County Association of the Arts.
Our current congregation had its beginnings five years later, in 1983, when a public meeting organized by Wendy and Jefferson Westwood and others brought together 18 people to consider forming a UU congregation in northern Chautauqua County. First affiliated with the Buffalo UU Church as a satellite congregation, with 16 founding members, the “Unitarian Universalist Society of Northern Chautauqua” was officially recognized as an independent UU congregation in 1986. The name was changed in 2005 to the “Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Northern Chautauqua.”
There are many wonderful stories of risks taken, hopes fulfilled, disappointments, and troubles encountered during the over thirty years of the congregation’s existence. This month of exploring “tradition” could be a wonderful time to engage one another in remembering some of them, especially as you prepare for a new minister and consider who you wish to become in working in partnership with them.
May we all learn from our traditions, holding fast to those enduring values and making space for new manifestations of them in the time ahead.
Wishing you every joy,