News briefs: Youngstown, Ohio, church puts cupola where steeple had been; All Souls in Manhattan marks bicentennial; Casper, Wyoming, UUs help install mural honoring local civil rights martyr James Reeb.
First UU Church of Youngstown, Ohio, a registered historic landmark constructed in 1925, has a new look—and a new lookout—where its traditional church steeple once stood. Last winter, the congregation installed a cupola to replace its 90-year-old, 96-foot steeple and base, which were removed in 2013 due to structural concerns. The $70,000 in renovation costs were donated by church members and the Church Endowment Fund, designated for building maintenance and repair. The church is located in a neighborhood that has undergone changes from economic challenges in recent decades, and the congregation is engaged with local groups to improve the neighborhood. “Our church plans to continue our legacy by serving as a lookout and beacon for the community and doing what’s possible to encourage positive transformation on the North Side,” said the Rev. Joseph Boyd.
As it marks its bicentennial, the Unitarian Church of All Souls in New York City, a UU congregation on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, is undergoing a major renovation of its sanctuary. The renovated sanctuary, which was built in 1931, will include an accessible chancel suitable for various modes of worship, performance, and assembly; air conditioning; a new roof and windows; restored pews; and upgraded electrical, plumbing, and other infrastructure. Projected to cost in excess of $10 million, the renovation is expected to be completed by February 2020, said the Rev. Dr. Galen Guengerich, the church’s senior minister.
Established in 1819, the congregation is celebrating its bicentennial on November 15. Celebrations will take place throughout that weekend, including a “simultaneous dinner party” on Friday night that will take place at twenty-five homes of UUs in the neighborhood, each hosting dinner for six to thirty people, said Bill Bechman, co-chair of the Bicentennial Committee. People will then return to the church for dessert and dancing. On Saturday there will be a family-oriented party with visual and performance artists, games, and square-dancing. On Sunday, UUA President Susan Frederick-Gray will speak at the congregation’s two worship services as part of the bicentennial commemorations. Afterwards, Bechman will present a performance piece he wrote, which celebrates heroic UU women who had connections to the congregation.
In an interfaith partnership, the Unitarian Universalist Community of Casper, Wyoming, helped to install an 80-foot mural commemorating UU civil rights martyr the Rev. James Reeb in his hometown. Reeb, who was murdered in Selma, Alabama, in 1965 by racists opposed to the civil rights movement, grew up in Casper and served there as a Presbyterian minister before his faith journey led him to Unitarian Universalism and civil rights activism. The mural, by Tony Elmore, was unveiled on August 28 in a ceremony attended by members of Reeb’s family. The project was a community-wide collaboration of the UU Community of Casper, The Table church in Casper, the Reeb family, and others. A Faithify campaign raised $10,447 to help finance the memorial.
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