Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Queens 147-54 Ash Ave Flushing NY 11355
The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Queens (UUCQ) represents 107 years of Unitarian Universalism (UU) in the Borough of Queens. We are very proud of our history and achievements and excited about sharing our message of peace and spiritual growth with future generations. Our community arose from the merger of two churches, the Unitarian Church of Flushing and the Hollis Unitarian Church, in 2006. We meet in the historic Flushing church, on the corner of 149th St. and Ash Ave. The congregation currently has 53 members.
We are entering a dynamic and exciting new phase in our evolution. We are redefining our role in the world and attracting new members from a variety of spiritual, racial, ethnic, and social backgrounds. We are diversifying the array of services and programs that we offer to our congregation and to our community. These services and programs have included a summit on immigration issues, a community kitchen that serves a monthly free meal to the local day-laborers and neighborhood residents. We are expanding our fundraising efforts and strengthening our financial stewardship.
SOCIAL JUSTICE COMMITTEE
The Social Justice Committee is the community outreach arm of UUCQ. Its purpose is to put into action the UU value of justice, equity, and compassion in human relations. Its members are volunteers from the congregation. Since May 2010, the Social Justice Committee has operated the UUCQ Community Kitchen, which serves a free, nutritious lunch on the second Saturday of every month. Attendance ranges from 30 to 55 people.
The Social Justice Committee has also hosted a summit on immigration issues and showings of documentary movies about topics of social and spiritual interest, such as racism, New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, the criminal justice system, and the environmental damage caused by hydrofracturing.
LEWIS LATIMER SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM
Lewis H. Latimer was an African-American scientist and draftsman who is best known for the significant modifications he made to Thomas Edison's light bulb. He was also a founding member of the Unitarian Church of Flushing. In his honor, UUCQ has created an annually awarded $1000 scholarship for high school students of African descent going on to study the sciences.
HISTORY OF THE UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST CONGREGATION OF QUEENS
The Unitarian Church of Flushing
Unitarianism has a long history in Flushing and Queens. Efforts were made to establish a Unitarian congregation here during the late 1800's. A small group began meeting regularly in Flushing in 1905, first at the Lend-a-Hand Club and later at the Masonic Temple. They incorporated the Church in 1908, set up their regular programs and worship, and began to collect a building fund. The fund grew with help from the American Unitarian Association and contributions from many other Unitarian congregations, as well as the Woman's Alliance.
A lot was purchased, on the corner of Central Avenue and Ash Street in Flushing (now 149th Street and Ash Avenue). The cornerstone was laid May 31, 1914. On October 23 of that year, the first Service was held in the Sunday school room. By the fall of 1915 enough money was raised by members of the Congregation, either as loans or gifts, to complete the upper part of the church building. The Church was dedicated on Sunday, December 10, 1916.
One of the founding members of the congregation was Lewis Howard Latimer (September 4, 1848 - December 11, 1928). His memory is honored by the congregation. His portrait hangs in the sanctuary, dedicated in 2003. Latimer, a descendant of slaves, was an inventor who collaborated with Thomas Edison on the development of the filament for the electric light bulb. He was a member of the congregation until his death in 1928. His family has continued its relationship with the church until this day.
Under the leadership of several different ministers, the congregation became firmly established and grew in membership. A Sunday School was established, as well as the Women's Alliance, a choir, a Youth and Adult Group, and a variety of social justice programs. By the middle of the 20th century, the congregation had outgrown its space. In 1957 the congregation raised money to expand the original church structure, adding new church school rooms and additional seating capacity for the church auditorium.
When the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America merged in 1961, the Flushing congregation changed its name to reflect this merger. The congregation has been served by fourteen different ministers from 1905 through to the present. (Is this number correct?)
The Hollis Unitarian Church
In May 1922 an official Unitarian institution was formed in Hollis. It was named “A Unitarian School of Religion and Preaching Services.” Its membership included 7 adults and 5 children
In the autumn of 1922, Mary Lawrance was sent to this tiny congregation by Denominational Headquarters, which paid her salary. She took charge of an experiment known as the “Jamaica Movement.” By the end of the first year, this tiny group grew to 30 children in the school and 18 women registered in the Women’s Alliance. In April 1924 the Denominational Headquarters decided to terminate the “Jamaica Experiment.” The congregation, led by Mary Lawrance, refused to disband.
In November 1924 the congregation formally organized and changed its name from the Liberal Community Church to the Hollis Unitarian Church (HUC), with 29 members. From 1925 to 1926 Mary Lawrance’s father, William L. Lawrance, served as minister. In 1928, during the ministry of Kenneth C. Walker (1926-1930), the Denominational Headquarters purchased a large house at 89-25 190th street in Hollis. According to the Recording Secretary’s annual report for 1929-1930, one of the more active committees was a Hollis Branch of the General Alliance of Unitarian and Other Liberal Christian Women, which met regularly on the second Tuesday of the month.
The property located at 190th street was known as The Meetinghouse. For 33 years it was home to the Hollis Unitarian Church. During the last 5 years of its tenure it functioned as a Sunday School and hosted the Coffee Hour, while the Hollis Theater on Jamaica Avenue served as the house of worship for Sunday Services. In 1958 HUC initiated plans and started a fundraising campaign for a new building. At this moment in time, the Hollis congregation boasted an adult membership of 150 patrons and 80 children.
The ground-breaking ceremony was held in May 1960. The new building, on Hillside Avenue in central Queens, was financed mainly by the members, with some support from the denomination. In February 1961 the HUC moved into the new building in February 1961. HUC enjoyed high membership numbers and a full-time minister. RE classes were full at all age levels. HUC had an organist-choir director and a wonderful set of voices. It became home to artists, educators, writers, singers, comedians, thinkers, speakers, and craftsmen. The UU presence in Hollis grew.
During the next two decades of social turbulence, the HUC congregation faced a struggle. The neighborhood was changing, as were attitudes toward religion. HUC became a refuge for minority opinion while striving to maintain its classical values and practices. By 1976 HUC membership fell to 50 pledging units. The children’s RE program numbered no more than 10. Thanks to a faithful, steadfast few, HUC continued to meet the needs of its congregation. Community outreach activities, including the Thrift Boutique, the Hollis Creative Pre-School Center, and the semi-annual auctions, kept the church doors open. These activities brought many people into the building, but few joined the congregation. Kate Lehman was the last minister to serve Hollis for a prolonged period of time, from 1980 to 1988. She was hired on a part-time basis but in reality, gave HUC full-time service. HUC, later the Hollis Unitarian Universalist Church (HUUC) served as a platform for many notable ministers in the UU directory, including Dale DeWitt, Vincent Silliman, Ralph Bailey, Allen Wells, John and Betsy Skeirik, Richard Neff, and Donald and Aniko Harrington. HUUC closed its doors and sold the building in September 2005.
The merger of the Hollis Unitarian Universalist Church and the Unitarian Church of Flushing
In 2006, Hollis Unitarian Church merged with the Unitarian Church of Flushing, to form the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Queens (UUCQ). The congregation, which still includes a handful of members from Hollis, meets in the historic Flushing church building on the corner of 149th St. and Ash Ave.