The church was “gathered” in 1842 as the First Christian Congregation of Geneva. Augustus and Betsy Conant and 19 others wrote our Covenant, which we still say at every worship service.
The original church building extended to only the third window from the entrance. In 1855, the building was extended to 5 windows. In 1974, the vestibule was built and the church has looked like this ever since.
In 1879, pews and colored glass windows were purchased from a Chicago church that burned in the Great Fire. In 1893, the parsonage was built--it’s now called Pioneer House and houses staff offices, meeting rooms, and Religious Education classrooms. In 1989, a new addition was built to connect Pioneer House with the Church.
In 1996, the Sanctuary (including the windows) was renovated and in 2004, the Sanctuary exterior was restored.
The first minister of our church was Augustus Conant, who served the congregation from its inception in 1842 until 1857. His time with us was followed 14 more ministers, including 4 women, between 1857 and 1926.
In 1926, Dr. Charles Lyttle become the minister and stayed with the congregation until 1964. The Rev. Donald B. King was our minister from 1964 until 1978, when our current Senior Minister, the Rev. Dr. Lindsay Bates, was called. In 2006, we called our first Associate Minister.
Changing views of religion over 160+ years at UU Society of Geneva
1842 — Clearly and strongly a part of the liberal Christian tradition of New England Unitarianism
1884 — Over the years Transcendentalism and the Free Religious Movement came to be the dominant belief systems of many in the Geneva church. We changed our name to the "Unitarian Society of Geneva." We updated the covenant, changing the “practical Godliness” to “practical goodness” and dropping the other specifically Christian references in the much longer original covenant.
1926 — Dr. Charles Lyttle becomes our minister at the height of the “Theists/Humanist Controversy.” He wrote the doxology that we sing every worship service--to combine the theists and the humanists within our church.
1961 — The American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America unite into the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.
1978 — The Rev. Dr. Lindsay Bates becomes our minister. By this time our church is made up of Liberal Christians, Theists, Humanists, naturalists, agnostics, atheists, those of a Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, or Moslem tradition, and most recently, neo-pagans of many varieties --- and those who just wish to be thought of as generic Unitarian Universalists (that probably includes most of us). We cherish our entire Covenant, but are especially committed to the phrase "not as agreeing in opinion"!
(Special thanks to Harry Shuemaker for taking over 150 years of history and putting it in such a concise summary!)