In Spartanburg Since 1954
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Spartanburg was legally founded as a fellowship on January 6, 1954. This was accomplished through the efforts of Thomas Ezell Tindall, his wife Edna, and eight friends, most of whom were members of Saxon Baptist Church. Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, the meetings were small informal discussion groups held in homes or rented space.
House on Blue Ridge Street
In 1965 the fellowship bought a house on Blue Ridge Street near Converse College and advertised our presence with a discreet sign on East Main. Sunday school for the children and a newsletter were successfully started. However, in 1968 a controversy erupted over the proper role of the congregation in regard to political and social issues. This resulted in a loss of half the congregation (twelve members), which represented more than half the budget. By 1971 the fellowship recovered its losses, having thirty-one active members and seventeen children enrolled in RE. By the end of the seventies we had approximately forty-five members with an annual budget of $5,153.
Move to Henry Place
Realizing the impact of limited parking and physical space on membership growth, we raised monies and obtained member loans and a UUA loan to build the original structure of our church building on Henry Place. The first service in our new home was held on August 25, 1985. Initially, we contracted with the Rev. W. D. Hammond, a retired minister from Asheville, North Carolina, to deliver a sermon once a month. In 1986 our members voted to become a "church" rather than a fellowship. We then joined with the Clemson UU Congregation to call the Rev. Lee Huebert as a part-time minister. When the Clemson church decided not to renew the contract with Mr. Huebert for 1987-88, we formed a search committee and charged it with finding a half-time minister. The church did take a candidate through the entire candidating process to a final vote, which failed by a margin of two votes.The church then formed a new search committee to begin the process again. In 1989, the Rev. Joan Armstrong from Atlanta served as a monthly interim minister. She was the first minister to help us strengthen our committee work and work with volunteers.
The Rev. Gary Hyndman, 1990-1996
In July of 1990, we called the Rev. Gary Hyndman, a local Methodist minister and hospital chaplain. While with us he entered into the UUA fellowshipping program and became a Unitarian Universalist minister. His half-time ministry became full-time by July 1992. During his tenure a committee of past presidents modified our Board of Trustees to a model that includes a Council on Committees, which is responsible for programming and works with our Board. We also added two larger Religious Education rooms, hired a part-time director of religious education, purchased playground equipment, received a high-quality set of hand chimes that were donated for the children, and developed a strong Adult RE program. In the fall of 1993 our average attendance was about one hundred people, so we tried to implement two services. Our attempt was unsuccessful, and we returned to one service by spring of 1994. Many members felt that our sense of community had been lost during this attempt. However, very little preparation prior to implementing this format was provided.
The Welcoming Congregation
Also in 1993, we decided to begin the Welcoming Congregation process. During the first year of implementation, there was congregational support for completing the education program and voting on the designation, with Mr. Hyndman providing firm endorsements. During the second year pockets of discomfort arose from within several segments in the congregation about perceived requirements for the designation. The Board consequently decided, in consultation with the Gay/Lesbian Concerns Committee, not to pursue voting on this matter at that time. However, the Board gave written support for the GLBC Committee to continue educating the church-wide community to GLB issues and to provide programs that would enhance the feeling of inclusiveness for this population.
In recent years we returned to the process, which led to a successful vote, and now we are an official "Welcoming Congregation"
Meg Barnhouse as Interim
In September 1995 Mr. Hyndman informed us of his intention to resign. (He left the ministry of our congregation in January 1996.) Since Gary was our first called full-time minister, we learned much about how to define various roles between the minister and the lay leadership during his tenure. We then called the Rev. Meg Barnhouse, a Presbyterian minister and local pastoral counselor, as our two-year interim minister. While with us, Ms. Barnhouse completed the first phase of the UUA fellowshipping program and some training in interim ministry. Our years with Ms. Barnhouse allowed us to study conflict resolution, to further define the role of the minister, and to better understand how the congregation and minister can work toward a common goal. She worked quite a bit as a facilitator of group processing, giving us feedback on how to deal with conflict in meetings.
The Chris Buice Years
As the result of our search process, we successfully called in the fall of 1998 the Rev. Chris Buice, a recent graduate of Earlham School of Religion in Richmond, Indiana, a Quaker-affiliated seminary. During Chris Buice's three years with our congregation, we increased our membership to 111 members, representing a thirty-percent growth rate. Sunday attendance reached an average of seventy, and our number of families with children increased. As a result of this sustained growth, we bought a house with significant property as well as an adjacent vacant lot. This house (named the Hatcher House for deceased members Harold and Josephine Hatcher) is currently being used by the church for Religious Education classes and various church meetings. We also began development of a ten-year plan that included increasing our physical space to accommodate sustained growth. Chris actively helped us to build consensus on some challenging issues related to land purchasing and some social justice issues. Some results of these efforts include more confidence in our ability to deal with conflict and a basic concept for exploring and acting on social concerns. The Rev. Joan Kahn-Schneider was called as our interim minister after Mr. Buice left our congregation. She helped us in grieving the loss and looking at other ways to do the work and live the life of a church and congregation.
Meg Barnhouse Returns as Settled Minister
In August 2002 the Rev. Ms. Meg Barnhouse accepted the call to become our settled minister. During her tenure we grew from 90 members to 163 members. In 2005 we broke ground on a new building with sanctuary and ground floor which was completed in 2007. We hired a half-time church administrator and professional child-care workers. We have continued to deepen in our commitment to social justice, passing a by-law that laid out a process by which we could take a stand as a congregation on important matters like anti-racism and marriage equality. We became certified as a Welcoming Congregation. The Park Hills Elementary School agreed to partner with us in 2003, and we have been sending tutors, lunch buddies, and teachers’ helpers over there since then. We also raise money for supplies, uniforms, and scholarships for the students, 97% of whom are on federal assistance. Sharing the undesignated monies in every offering plate 50-50 with a different organization every month, we are deepening in generosity. Our new volunteer coordination team invites friends, members, and visitors to find their ministry within the congregation and the community. We are growing in fellowship too, having begun a small-group ministry program in which about 50 of our members are involved. The room that used to be the sanctuary is now a fellowship hall where people gather to converse before and after services. Our new director of Lifespan Faith Development was hired in the summer of 2008. We have given the children and youth the Hatcher House for their use, and the kids are experimenting with Spirit Play.
Expectations for the Future
Meg resigned in 2009 to accept a call as the interim minister at the UU congregation in Princeton, NJ. The Rev. Don Rollins came as our interim minister in the fall of 2009. Under Don's guidance we adopted a mission statement that emphasizes Caring Community, Freedom of Religion, and Social Justice, and we are looking at a number of different ways to "do church." We are now searching for a settled minister, and we expect to continue to thrive in the years to come.