Storms and fire struck UU congregations in Alabama, Massachusetts, and Maine.
In Tuscaloosa, the Rev. Fred Hammond spent several anxious days reaching out to his 75-member congregation after storms devastated a wide area of Tuscaloosa. Six families lost homes, but there were no fatalities. The church building was undamaged. Other congregations in the Mid-South District quickly provided support. The district created the 2011 Severe Storm Fund, available on the district’s website. (See UU World’s full reports, “Severe Storm to Provide Storm Relief,” 5.2.11, and “Tornado-Struck Towns Begin Recovery,” 5.9.11.)
The steeple at Monson, Mass., which is near Springfield in western Massachusetts, fell into the churchyard. At the time of the storm, the 19-member congregation was in the final stages of a $215,000 renovation to its 1888 building, partly paid for with community preservation tax funds. The building had been closed since May 2010 for structural repairs. Its large stained glass window, removed at the start of the work, had not yet been reinstalled at the time of the storm.
The Rev. Darrick Jackson said that other parts of the building were not damaged. The Clara Barton and Massachusetts Bay districts created a fund to help with storm damage. The steeple will be replaced, said Jackson. (See UU World’s full report, “Tornado Topples Steeple of Massachusetts Church,” 6.6.11.)
An early morning fire at the UU Church of Brunswick, Maine, destroyed the entire rear of the building, gutting the first and second floors. Among items destroyed were historic stained glass windows. A Bible given to the church by poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was salvaged.
The Northern New England District of the Unitarian Universalist Association set up a relief fund. The minister, the Rev. Sylvia Stocker, said shortly after the fire that it was undetermined whether the building could be restored. The congregation, which has 157 members, held a flower celebration service the Sunday after the fire and planned to hold future services in the town library. (See UU World’s full report, “Fire Devastates Maine Church,” 6.10.11.)
This article, which appeared in the Fall 2011 issue of UU World, was abridged from articles published earlier on uuworld.org.
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Julia Angley is a senior Writing Seminars major at Johns Hopkins University and a summer intern at UU World. She is the former business manager for the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) General Assembly Youth Caucus and a member of First Parish Church Unitarian Universalist in Duxbury, Massachusetts.
Michelle Bates Deakin, a member of First Parish Unitarian Universalist of Arlington, Massachusetts, was a UU World contributing editor from 2006 to 2011 and a UU World senior editor from 2011 to 2014. She is the author of Social Action Heroes: Unitarian Universalists Who Are Changing the World (Skinner House, 2011) and Gay Marriage, Real Life: 10 Stories of Love and Family (Skinner House, 2006).
Donald E. Skinner was the founding editor of the InterConnections newsletter for congregational leaders and a senior editor of UU World from 1998 until his retirement in 2014. He is a member of the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church in Lenexa, Kansas.
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