The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Cleveland traces its roots to The Church of the Unity, founded in Cleveland in 1846 by Unitarians from New England. Over the next 150 years the church underwent relocations, mergers with other congregations, and emerged as The First Unitarian Church of Cleveland by the early twentieth century.

In 1950, the congregation split in two over the issue of moving from its location on E. 82nd Street in Cleveland to the suburb of Shaker Heights. The majority agreed to the move and built a new home that became the The First Unitarian Church of Cleveland. Those who voted to stay in Cleveland formed a new congregation, The Unitarian Univeralist Society of Cleveland.

In 2019, the UU Society and First Unitarian Church voted to reunify and formed our new congregation, The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Cleveland.

1830s Informal groups of Unitarians meet in each other’s homes
1854 First permanent minister hired, Reverend Amory Mayo
1867 Initial founding of the Unitarian Society of Cleveland, downtown on Public Square in Case Hall
1869 Bond of Union created spelling out the basic beliefs in religious thought: “Believing in the absolute right of private judgement and the sacredness of individual conviction”
1878 Frederick Hosmer hired as permanent minister, who lead the church through the developing times in a much more liberal spiritual environment
1880 Unity church built at the corner of Prospect and Bolivar streets. Used until 1901
1881 Jeptha Homer Wade offered $500,000 to relocate the Meadville Seminary to Cleveland to be aligned with Case and Western Reserve colleges. However, Wade’s vision included a belief in “spiritualism” which conflicted with the more conservative views in the church at the time
1890 Revised Bond of Union without mention of Jesus or other spiritual figures
1893 Life partners Florence Buck and Marion Murdock serve as co-ministers of the church
1894 Joint Thanksgiving service with Jewish community Temple Tifereth Israel
1895 Set up daycare/free kindergarten for factory workers’ children in the White Sewing Machine Co., supported suffragette cause and other social agendas
1900 Moved to East End (Hough) as the neighborhood had problems, partially due to Gray’s Armory
1904 Built the church at 82nd and Euclid, used until 1951
1911 Changed name to First Unitarian Church of Cleveland
1923 Ministry supported birth control education and devices, even though illegal. Established the precursor to Planned Parenthood in Cleveland
1932 Merged with All Souls Universalist Church, a step towards the consolidation of all Universalist and Unitarian churches in 1961
1935 Took part in the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous
1945 Harold Burton, a congregation member, appointed to the Supreme Court, helping shape many of the Civil Rights verdicts of the Warren Court in the 1950’s
1945 West Shore Unitarian established in Lakewood (church membership of 1,500)
1949 Plans began to move to the suburbs. Shaker Heights recommended due to community set up, zoning and deed restrictions
1950 A split congregation votes for moving to Shaker Heights, seen by many as a very conservative community without the diversity to support a cosmopolitan church “where all members would be regarded as equal, regardless of color, national background, or social position”
1951 Unitarian Society of Cleveland founded, purchasing the 82nd Street building from First Unitarian
1954 Shaker Heights building built with a design reflecting the Puritan roots of American Unitarianism
1960 Shaker Height building expanded for Religious Education wing (church school had attendance of 700)
1960 Robert Shaw named music director, attracting multiple services on Sundays
1960s Fight against freeway construction in Shaker won
1960s Integration of Shaker Heights begins, and first black families join First U. First U members support integration, directly conflicting with mayor and other city leaders. Black children and teens included in RE and choir
1965-66 Reverend Killam dies, Robert Shaw resigns, and Arnold Westwood takes over as minister. 300 congregants leave during the time of change
1966 Hough riots occur, leading congregation and ministers to establish the Cleveland UU Parish to address some of the factors that lead to the riots. It used the 82nd St. facility as a base. This effort failed and was shut down in 1970.
1968 Black Humanist Fellowship splits Society into two churches, with Society moving to Lancashire Road, and the Black Humanist Fellowship holding the 82nd Street facility
1969 Unitarians for Peace (Vietnam War) and Open Housing committees active
1970 Reinvigoration of music program under Marcelline Hawk, Bach Cantata program and modern music introduced
1980s Adopt a school helped John W. Raper school in Hough, congregation recognized as a welcoming church on Gay-Lesbian issues
1990 82nd Street Facility raised, cornerstone and records strong box saved and moved to Shaker Heights building
1993 Lesbian-Gay-Straight Alliance formed
1997 Racial Harmony Group formed with more diverse view of inclusion. Relationship with East View UCC formed
2000 Forums committee formally established to take over the work of Stuart and Joyce Walker
2002 Impact Youth program established
2011 Green Sanctuary accreditation received
2016 Permaculture Gardens established, and solar array work begins
2017 Discussion of reunification of Society and First U begins
2019 Reunification of Society and First U is accomplished