First Unitarian Universalist Church (Ann Arbor, Mich.) records: 1859-1998
Summary Information
Title: First Unitarian Universalist Church (Ann Arbor, Mich.) records
Creator: First Unitarian Universalist Church (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
Inclusive dates: 1859-1998
Inclusive dates: 2007-2015
Extent: 9.4 linear feet
Extent: 10 GB (online)
Abstract:
Founded in 1865, the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Ann Arbor has a history of social activism and involvement with the University of Michigan community. The records contain church files and annual reports, sermons and correspondence of church ministers, and church publications--including the weekly newsletter. The papers also include materials of minister Kenneth Phifer regarding his views on assisted suicide and Jack Kevorkian, and also the issue of racial justice with the Ku Klux Klan rallies in Michigan.
Call number: 86918 Ba 2
Language: The materials are in English.
Repository: Bentley Historical Library
1150 Beal Ave.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2113
Phone: 734-764-3482
Fax: 734-936-1333
e-mail: bentley.ref@umich.edu
Home Page: http://www.bentley.umich.edu/
Finding aid prepared by: Bentley Library Staff, updated April 2017.

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

The record group has come to the library from the church (Donor No. 5319) in several different accessions beginning in 1972. Material was also donated by Kenneth Phifer (Donor No. 11686) in March 2017.

Access Restrictions:

The record group is open for research.

To protect fragile audiovisual recordings (such as audio cassettes, film reels, and VHS tapes), the Bentley Historical Library has a policy of converting them to digital formats by a professional vendor whenever a researcher requests access. For more information, please see: http://bentley.umich.edu/research/duplication/.

Copyright:

Donor(s) have transferred any applicable copyright to the Regents of the University of Michigan but the collection may contain third-party materials for which copyright was not transferred. Patrons are responsible for determining the appropriate use or reuse of materials.

Processing Information:

In preparing digital material for long-term preservation and access, the Bentley Historical Library adheres to professional best practices and standards to ensure that content will retain its authenticity and integrity. For more information on procedures for the ingest and processing of digital materials, please see Bentley Historical Library Digital Processing Note. Access to digital material may be provided either as a direct link to an individual file or as a downloadable package of files bundled in a zip file.

Preferred Citation:

item, folder title, box no., First Unitarian Universalist Church (Ann Arbor, Mich.) Records, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan

[item], [URL], First Unitarian Universalist Church (Ann Arbor, Mich.) Records, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.


Biography

In 1865, forty Ann Arborites invited Charles Brigham (1865-1877) from Massachusetts to become the first minister for the newly organized First Unitarian Church. Services were originally conducted at the old Court House but in 1867 the church purchased a building at Fourth and Ann Street. In 1882, under the ministry of Jabez Sunderland (1878-1898), a new Romanesque church was built at State and Huron Street, near the University of Michigan campus. The church would remain there until 1946 when the congregation purchased the Dr. Dean Myers home at 1917 Washtenaw Avenue. An addition was added to that residence in 1956. In 1995, the congregation began plans to build a new church, which was completed in 1999 on Ann Arbor-Saline Road at the corner of Ellsworth.

Throughout its history the church has been identified with the liberal religious tradition and has maintained close ties with the university community. In the 1880s, Minister Sunderland was attracted by religious movements in India and argued strongly for Indian independence. His wife, Eliza, was one of the first women to earn a doctorate from the University of Michigan and later went on to become a prominent educator and suffragist.

During the depression of the 1930s, Minister Harold P. Marley (1920-1942) was involved in a range of social issues. He was an active member of the American Civil Liberties Union and the church doors remained open for labor union meetings and controversial speakers who sometimes could obtain no other meeting place in Ann Arbor. An editorial in the student-run Michigan Daily in 1937 noted that this church is "a center of activity in behalf of true democracy . . . and a genuine force in our social thinking."

During World War II, the church was involved in providing human services for the influx of workers to the Willow Run bomber plant. Gilbert House in Ypsilanti was established to meet these needs. In the 1950s, Minister Edward Redman (1943-1960) was also active in his opposition to McCarthyism through his writings and participation in various organizations.

In the 1960s, the church with its new minister Erwin A. Gaede (1961-1979), supported the civil rights movement as well as the new women's movement. The Vietnam war, however, proved more divisive and eventually some members of the congregation chose to leave the church over this issue. Gaede counseled and wrote letters for those men applying for conscientious objector status during the Vietnam war, and remained visible in the community as a proponent of peace through his letters to the editors of various newspapers.

During this time, as well, (1969-1971) the Black Economic Development League and the Welfare Rights Organization (BEDL-WRO) were petitioning and demonstrating in area churches in the spirit of the Black Manifesto, to the effect that traditionally white congregations owed the league and the area's poor population financial support, and demanded $10,000 in cash and $21,000 in stocks from First Unitarian of Ann Arbor. The congregation was among the first to attempt to meet the demands.

In 1980, the church added "Universalist" to its name in a spirit of consolidation between two similar religious traditions. Today, the Ann Arbor church is one of 1,000 Unitarian-Universalist congregations nationally which include close to 200,000 members. In explaining the beliefs of the church, Kenneth W. Phifer (1980-2005) wrote, "Unitarian-Universalism is a religion based on the freedom of individuals to determine their own religious understanding, tolerance of others whose conclusions are different, and dependence upon reason in considering the meaning of life. The fundamental theology is that all reality forms a unified whole to which we owe respect and love."


Collection Scope and Content Note

The records of the First Unitarian-Universalist Church of Ann Arbor have been divided into seven series: Church History, Record Books; Church Reports; Yearly Files; Church Publications; Topical Files; and Ministers' Files.

Subject Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the finding aid database and catalog of The Bentley Historical Library/University of Michigan. Researchers desiring additional information about related topics should search the catalog using these headings.


  • Ann Arbor (Mich.)
  • Unitarian Universalist churches -- Michigan -- Ann Arbor.
  • Women -- Michigan -- Ann Arbor -- Societies and clubs.
  • Women -- Religious life -- Michigan -- Ann Arbor.
  • Churches -- Michigan -- Ann Arbor.
  • Unitarian Universalist churches -- Michigan -- Ann Arbor.
  • Ann Arbor (Mich.) -- Churches.
  • Sermons.
  • Photographs.
  • Digital file formats.
  • Brigham, Charles H. (Charles Henry), 1820-1879.
  • First Unitarian Universalist Church (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
  • Marley, Harold Parsons.
  • Brigham, Charles H. (Charles Henry), 1820-1879.
  • Gaede, Erwin A.
  • Marley, Harold Parsons.
  • Redman, Edward H.
  • Sunderland, Jabez Thomas, 1842-1936.
  • Phifer, Kenneth W.
  • Kevorkian, Jack.
  • Ku Klux Klan (1915-)
Contents List
Request materials for use in the Bentley Library
Container / Location Title
 
Church History 1883-1998, 2014-2015 [series]

The Church History series includes brief histories prepared for various events in the life of the church and two anonymous histories believed to be authored by former ministers. More formal histories include the 1985 account by Minister Edward H. Redman of his own ministry to the church, and a comprehensive 1990 history by congregation member Marjorie Reade entitled, "The Story of Our First Hundred Years." Included in the series material are the notes and correspondence of Marjorie Reade with fellow congregation-member Ruth Bordin concerning the history of the church, and between Marjorie Reade and Alice Sunderland Wethey, granddaughter of Minister Jabez Sunderland, concerning the history of the Sunderland family. Also included are notes and correspondence regarding the sharing of church history with other organizations, including the national Unitarian Universalist Historical Society. Digital files regarding the Sankofa project are included within the series, documenting the church's transition following the retirement of Kenneth Phifer. The series concludes with articles and letters of recognition concerning the church's 1990 125th anniversary celebration. The 150th anniversary celebration is documented by lectures, sermons, photographs, and printed material in various digital file formats.

Box   1  
Ann Arbor Magazine 1986
Box   1  
Anonymous Histories 1883-circa 1990
Box   1  
Celebration of the Living Church 1982
Box   1  
Church Property

(includes 2 undated reports regarding history and maintenance and undated landscape architecture plan)

Box   1  
Constitution, By-Laws, Directories, and General Information 1944-1980 (scattered)
Box   1  
Miscellaneous Notes and Correspondence Regarding Church History 1987-1994
Box   1  
Notes and Correspondence of Ruth Bordin and Marjorie Reade (regarding church history) 1984-1989
Box   1  
Notes and Correspondence of Alice Sunderland Wethey and Marjorie Reade (regarding Sunderland history) 1990
Box   1  
Recollection of the Ministry to the First Unitarian Church of Ann Arbor of Rev. Edward Homer Redman 1943-1960 1985
Box   1  
The Story of Our First Hundred Years, by Marjorie Reade 1990
Box   1  
History by Marjorie Reade 1965-1980
Box   1  
125th Anniversary celebration miscellaneous 1990
 
150th Anniversary Celebration
 
Printed Material
  Online  
2014-2015 [access item]
Box   1  
2015
  Online  
Photographs 2014-2015 [access item]
 
Videos

(All five videos were received on a single DVD. A photograph of the DVD has been included in the ZIP file for the "Dawning Future Discussions Panel" video.)

  Online  
Dawning Future Panel Discussion [access item]
  Online  
Commissioning Service May 17, 2015 [access item]
  Online  
Kenneth Phifer Sermon 2015 [access item]
  Online  
Klein Lecture from Bill Shulz 2014 [access item]
  Online  
Congregation Photograph Time Lapse [access item]
Box   1  
Things remembered ..., Thomas G. Overmire, ed. 1998
Box   1  
Photographs

(portraits, church gatherings and church building)

  Online  
Sankofa Transition Project 2006-2007 [access item]
 
Church Record Books 1867-1952 [series]

The Record Books are general compilations of church records, containing budget information, lists of church members, and minutes of the board of trustees. These early general summaries of church events and records are continued in function by the later Yearly File series.

 
Annual Record Books
Box   1  
1867-January 1901
Box   1  
January 1901-January 1912
Box   1  
January 1912-May 1935
Box   1  
June 1935-September 1948
Box   1  
October 1948-June 1952

(1952-1986 continued as part of Yearly File series)

Box   1  
Scrapbook 1906-1924

(bulletins, newspaper clippings, and "Unitarian Calendars")

Box   2  
Treasurer's Book
Box   2  
January 1900-April 1908
Box   2  
May 1908-January 1915
 
Church Reports 1888-1889, 1948-1997 [series]

The Church Reports series includes the Annual Reports (1948-1997), originally called Annual Proceedings, then Yearbook, which became semi-annual reports in 1974. These reports contain the minutes of the annual meeting and yearly reports from various church committees and organizations. Researchers seeking specific groups and committee reports, particularly for early organizations, should also look in the Topical Files series.

Box   2  
Annual Reports 1948-1997 (2 folders)

(incomplete)

Box   2  
Miscellaneous Reports 1888-1889

(minister's, Unity Club, King's Daughters Ladies Union, Sunday School)

 
Yearly File 1859-1979 [series]

The Yearly File includes minutes, mailings, budget miscellanea, and occasional correspondence. These files are most complete for the period 1956-1973 but scattered files exist before and after that period.

Box   2  
1859-1940
Box   2  
1941-1955
Box   2  
1956-1965 (10 folders)
Box   3  
1967-1973 (8 folders)
Box   3  
1974-1979 (scattered)
 
Church Publications 1880-1997 [series]

Church Publications are arranged chronologically and include flyers, bulletins, newsletters and orders of service. The newsletter provides a good overview of church activities and frequently includes writings by the minister.

Box   3  
Directories (extremely scattered) 1964-1997
 
Flyers, Bulletins and Mailings
Box   3  
1880-1899
Box   3  
1900-1919
Box   3  
1920-1929
Box   3  
1930-1939
Box   3  
Miscellaneous circa 1908-1996 (2 folders)
 
Newsletters
Box   3  
1928-1929
Box   3  
1930-1931
Box   3  
1932-1936
Box   3  
1949-1956
Box   3  
1957-1959
Box   3  
1960-1963
Box   3  
1965-1975 (10 folders)
Box   4  
1976-1983 (8 folders)
Box   4  
1984-1990 (scattered)
 
Order of Service
Box   4  
1959-1961
Box   4  
1966-1971 (2 folders)
Box   4  
1974-1989
Box   4  
Wheels Within Wheels: Manual on Organizational Structure and Procedures of First Unitarian Church of Ann Arbor undated
 
Topical Files 1923-1989, 2007 [series]

Topical Files include material on various church organizations as well as important church events. "Adult Discussion Group, 1966-1970" and "Minister Review (Edwin Gaede), 1972" document the political climate of the church during the Vietnam war. "Unity Hall Lectures, 1933-1942" includes only a few copies of lectures but this file shows evidence of the wide range of labor and political groups which used the hall during this period. Surveys and questionnaires and their resulting reports can be found in the files, "Minister Search, Pulpit Committee, 1960-1961" and "Committees and Other Church Organizations, Questionnaire Committee, 1966" and in the Minister Search information packets of 1979 and 1994. These information packets were sent to prospective candidates for minister and assistant minister, respectively, and contain various publications, photographs, sermons and reports. They offer to the researcher broad overviews of the climate and activities of the church.

Other church groups represented in this series can be found in the Committees subseries, including the Social Action Committee, which had a BEDL-WRO subcommittee, and the Long Range Planning Committee, also called the Development Committee. The BEDL-WRO subcommittee file contains audio tapes of the 1970 appeal to the congregation by Charles Thomas Jr. for "reparation" to African-Americans. Also included in the Committee subseries are the financial records of the Jackson Fund, a substantial endowment, made by congregation members George L. and Florence Hazelton Jackson in 1955, which has continued to provide funding throughout the years to the church via investment returns.

Box   4  
Adult Discussion Group 1966-1970
Box   4  
American Unitarian Youth 1946-1948
Box   4  
Anniversary and Dedication Celebrations 1941-1989
Box   4  
Article of Incorporation 1955
Box   4  
Art Objects 1960-1968
 
Building Campaign
Box   4  
1945

(includes plans)

Box   4  
1952

(includes blueprints)

Box   4  
Celebration of Living Church 1982
Box   4  
Certificate of Recognition circa 1980s
Box   4  
Certificates of Dedication 1950-1959
Box   4  
Church Attendance 1944-1948
Box   4  
Church Library 1923-1936
 
Committees and Other Church Organizations
Box   4  
1990 Committee 1988-1990
Box   4  
Board of Trustees 1967-1979
Box   4  
Committee Personnel 1945-1956
Box   4  
Denominational Affairs Committee 1956-1976
Box   4  
Endowment Fund Advisory Committee 1970-1974
Box   4  
Finance Committee 1958-1977
Box   4  
Hospitality Committee 1957-1959
Box   4  
Investment Committee 1955-1959
Box   4  
Jackson Social Welfare Committee 1961-1974
Box   5  
Liberal Religious Youth 1954-1959
 
Long Range Planning Committee
Box   5  
Miscellaneous 1952-1964
Box   5  
Reports and Minutes 1963-1964
Box   5  
Membership Committee 1958-1976
Box   5  
Merger Committee 1958-1959
Box   5  
Miscellaneous committees 1954-1979
Box   5  
Music Department 1956-1977
Box   5  
Newsletter Committee 1956-1959, undated
Box   5  
Project Transition circa 1971
Box   5  
Public Relations Committee (Promotion Committee) 1956-1957
Box   5  
Questionnaire Committee 1966
Box   5  
Religious Education 1976-1980, undated
 
Social Action Committee
Box   5  
1962-1973
 
BEDL-WRO (Black Economic Development League-Welfare Rights Organization)
Box   5  
Miscellaneous 1969-1971
Box   5  
Audio tapes of appeal with index to tapes and other notes November 23, 1970
Box   5  
Conscientious Objector Statements 1967
 
Finances
Box   5  
Audit Reports 1960, 1964
Box   5  
Budgets 1951-1974
 
Canvass
Box   5  
1958-1960
Box   5  
1966-1971
Box   5  
1971-1980
Box   5  
Jackson Funds 1955-1990
Box   5  
Miscellaneous 1956-1982

(includes correspondence)

Box   5  
First Unitarian Society Reports 1885-1903
Box   5  
Laymen's League 1920-1942 (2 folders)
Box   5  
Minister Review (Edwin Gaede) 1972
 
Minister Search
Box   5  
1978-1979
 
Information Packets
Box   5  
1979
Box   5  
1994
Box   5  
2007

(includes compact disk)

 
Pulpit Committee
Box   6  
1960-1961
Box   6  
Notebook 1960-1961
Box   6  
Reed Stuart (In Memoriam: Reed Stuart) 1910
 
Religious Education
Box   6  
1960-1965
Box   6  
1966-1967
Box   6  
1967-1968
Box   6  
1969-1972
Box   6  
Unitarian Ministers Association 1948-1953
Box   6  
Unity Club Secretary's Book 1893-1900
Box   6  
Unity Hall Lectures 1933-1942
Box   6  
University Student Outreach 1931-1954
 
Universalist Conventions of Michigan
Box   6  
Record Book 1866-1927
Box   6  
Record Book 1952-1953
Box   6  
Zoning Complaint 1990
 
Ministers' Files 1865-1998 [series]

Ministers' Files includes correspondence and sermons of Charles Brigham in the 1860s through Kenneth Phifer in the 1980s and 1990s. The files of Harold Marley (1929-1942), Edward Redman (1942-1960) and Erwin Gaede (1961-1979) are especially abundant. Minister Marley's ACLU activity and his political convictions are well documented. Minister Redman's file contains copies of sermons broadcast on local radio stations during the 1950s as well as correspondence--arranged topically--on behalf of the Fund for Religious Freedom (a group opposed to the California Loyalty Oath for Churches) and regarding the Unitarian Student Group, for example. While both the Marley and Redman files contain some information on Gilbert House and their work with families at the Willow Run bomber plant, the researcher interested in those subjects should also consult a separate collection - Willow Run Area Recreational Project. Minister Gaede's correspondence, arranged chronologically, consists of almost a foot of material. Researchers interested in material on Minister Sunderland or his wife Eliza should be aware that the Bentley Library also holds their personal collections (see Sunderland, Jabez Thomas and Sunderland, Eliza Jane Read).

The Kenneth Phifer sub-series contains material related to some of the important events that he dealt with as a Senior Minister of the church. Phifer collaborated with local churches and organizations to reject hate groups and help create a better sense of inclusion in the community. Materials in several folders document the Ku Klux Klan rally in Ann Arbor in 1997. Another topic of note in the sub-series is the medically assisted suicide. Merian Frederick was a church member who was assisted by Dr. Jack Kevorkian. A group of folders notes Phifer's research and support of Frederick's decision.

 
Charles Brigham [subseries]
Box   6  
Pastoral record book 1865-1877

(includes list of contributions and Bible class members)

Box   6  
Memorial service 1879
 
Jabez T. Sunderland [subseries]
Box   6  
Biographical Materials Assembled by Alice Sunderland Wethey 1990
Box   6  
Writings and correspondence 1882-1929
 
Harold Marley [subseries]
Box   6  
Artwork by W.W. Nichols 1929

(pen and ink drawing of Huron St. church)

Box   6  
Writings and correspondence 1928-circa 1982 (1 folder)
Box   7  
Writings and correspondence 1928-circa 1982 (2 folders)
Box   7  
ACLU activities 1931-1935
Box   7  
Eulogies by Harold Marley circa 1935
Box   7  
Articles and news accounts 1927-1942
Box   7  
Washtenaw Progressive activities 1938-1940
 
Scrapbooks of Published Articles
Box   7  
1925-1945
Box   7  
1945-1960
Box   7  
1960-1972
 
Edward H. Redman [subseries]
Box   8  
Articles 1944-1946
Box   8  
Attendance Graph 1945
Box   8  
Building Blueprints undated
Box   8  
By-Laws and Policy 1944-1945
Box   8  
Church Committees 1945-1949, undated
Box   8  
Civilian Chaplaincy Committee 1943-1945
Box   8  
Democracy in Transition by Ralph Fuchs, Materials 1955-1960
 
Finances
Box   8  
Budget 1944-1945 (2 folders)
Box   8  
Quarterly Reports 1943-1958
Box   8  
Miscellaneous 1949-1956, undated
Box   8  
The Unitarian Service Pension Society
Box   8  
George L. Jackson
Box   8  
Member Lists 1944-1952
Box   8  
Michigan Area Council of Liberal Churches 1956
Box   8  
Michigan Area Unitarian Council 1950-1952
Box   8  
Midwest Unitarian College Seminar 1945-1946
Box   8  
Midwest Unitarian-Universalist Ministers Association 1958-1959
Box   8  
Miscellaneous Correspondence and Sermons 1943-1985 (4 folders)
Box   8  
Public Relation Committee 1946, undated

(includes membership pamphlet)

Box   8  
Pulpit Announcements undated
Box   8  
Sale of Church 1944-1946
Box   8  
Transfers of Membership 1951-1960
 
Willow Run Area Recreational Project
Box   8  
Correspondence 1943-1945 (2 folders)
Box   8  
Reports 1943-1944
 
Unitarian Student Group
Box   8  
Administration 1944-1953
Box   8  
Fair Employment Practices Committee 1945
Box   8  
Programming 1945-1946

(includes surveys of students)

Box   8  
Student Lists 1943-1955
 
Erwin Gaede [subseries]
 
Correspondence
Box   8  
1961-1967 (5 folders)
Box   9  
1968-1979 (10 folders)
Box   9  
Letters of Support 1970
Box   9  
Installation of Dr. Erwin Gaede 1961
Box   9  
Politics and Ethics: Machiavelli to Niebuhr 1983
Box   9  
Sermons and other writings
 
Kenneth Phifer [subseries]
Box   9  
Sermons 1994-1995
Box   9  
Sock of Ages, poem by Jane Phifer 1992
Box   9  
Publications
Box   10  
A Good Death - Paper for Ohio River Clergy Study Group September 30-October 3, 1996 (1 volume)
Box   10  
Racial Justice 1996-1998 (3 folders)
Box   10  
Regarding the death of Merian Frederick (3 folders)

(contains notes on Phifer's relationship with Jack Kevorkian)

 
Miscellaneous [subseries]
Box   9  
1906-1931
Box   9  
Sermons undated (3 folders)

(arranged alphabetically by title)

Box   9  
Sermons, miscellaneous and fragmentary