Our UU Wellesley Hills Minister Emeritus, Rev. Dr. John Hay Nichols, has written a history of our congregation, "Lives that Speak and Deeds that Beckon." According to amazon.com, the book allows the reader to “Experience the hopes, dreams, doubts, and courage of a congregation as it grows and evolves with the times.” The book is available for purchase HERE.
The History of UU Wellesley Hills
In 1871, 67 people left the local Congregational Society (now the Wellesley Hills Congregational Church) to form a more liberal church in their community, which was called Grantville at that time. They transformed a small meeting hall on the site of our current facility into their first place of worship. In 1888, when they had saved up enough money, they built a stone church, which became the first of three buildings, all now part of our campus. In 1929, another building, a Parish Hall, was built to accommodate the congregation's expanding life. Finally, in 1959, as the old church was being converted into three floors of classroom and meeting space, the present Sanctuary was constructed. In 1996, UU Wellesley Hills held a major capital campaign, called LEGACY, which added the present entrance, remodeled the church school wing, greatly increased accessibility to many parts of the complex, installed a new heating system, expanded parking, and provided a much needed face lift throughout.
Almost 150 years later, we still feel an affinity with our founders. They, too, were united in respecting the importance of each individual in the church and in believing that the final test of a religious community is the service that community can give toward the enrichment of human lives. Because of these beliefs, our history is closely intertwined with the history of leadership in Wellesley and in the Unitarian Universalist Association.
Our Wider History
Our religious roots come out of the Judaic and Christian traditions and the Protestant Reformation. During this time, the books of the Bible were translated out of the Latin, which few but the clergy then understood, and into local languages. This enabled some people to discover that the beliefs they had been assured were central to the Christian faith were not reflected in the Bible and had been created later by the church. One of these non-Biblical beliefs was the idea that God consisted of three persons: "The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." This is called the Trinitarian position. Those who found no justification in the scriptures for this belief came to be called Unitarians, believing that God is one and not three representations.
To be a Unitarian during the Reformation meant becoming branded a "heretic," which effectively meant becoming a criminal. Our reluctance to exclude new ideas from our own midst has much to do with a history in which our predecessors were persecuted for what their own lives and consciences taught them. Unitarianism, by that name, first took root in Eastern Europe, established there by a king who passed the first edict of religious toleration in Western history. Since that time, Unitarians have believed that the Source of Life is essentially a mystery that cannot be confined by any church, dogma or creed.
In the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, a small group of people, mostly British, attacked the idea that God chose only a few people to be saved for eternal life and capriciously damned the rest to spend eternity in Hell. These people believed that God loved all men and women, including those who worshipped in different traditions and different representations of God. They did not believe in Hell, but believed that God welcomed all souls to eternal life. Believing In universal salvation, they were called Universalists.
By the early part of the Twentieth Century, the Unitarians and the Universalists were very close to one another in their basic beliefs and freedoms. In 1961, they merged their separate denominations into the Unitarian Universalist Association.
The UUA's website has an overview of Unitarian and Univeralist beliefs, and how they were merged together in 1961. In addition, the Unitarian Universalist History and Heritage Society maintains an extensive history of the denomination, with links to many interesting related documents.