Unitarian Universalism emerged from two different religions: Unitarianism and Universalism. Both Unitarianism and Universalism started in Europe hundreds of years ago. The beliefs and practices of both flourished from the start in what was to become the United States. The denominations formally organized state-side in the late 1700s/early 1800s. The Universalist Church of America was founded by 1793, and the American Unitarian Association by 1825. In 1961, these denominations consolidated to form the new religion of Unitarian Universalism. (Find more information at www.uua.org.)
Du Page Unitarian Universalist Church - 1955 to Present
Breaking away from a Protestant Church in 1955, 24 people and their minister, Eugene Kreves, met at the home of Marian Hankinson. They were determined to form a new liberal church committed to civil rights, civil liberties, and world peace. What follows is a chronicle of growth, evolution and progress.
Rev. Eugene Kreves resigned from the Congregational Church in Lisle and met with 24 former members of that church in the home of Marian Hankinson on Jan. 18 to discuss the possibility of organizing a liberal church, committed to civil rights, civil liberties and world peace. In April, they were recognized as a fellowship by the American Unitarian Association.
On April 10, 48 people signed a charter and called Eugene Kreves as their first minister. On May 4, their first annual meeting, a constitution and By-laws were adopted for the officially named DuPage Valley Unitarian Church. Officers were elected with Stan Weller as President. Meeting briefly in the basement of the Yackley Bldg. in Lisle, the Church soon rented the Bronsonville school on its present site, putting in many hours of labor to make it suitable for a Church and Sunday School, the latter under the experienced guidance of Dorothy Ferguson.
The Third Unitarian Church of Chicago donated the Thomas Paine Memorial Pulpit to our Church in honor of Rev. Eugene Kreves' commitment to justice and world peace. It is still in use today. New hymnals, We Sing of Life, were purchased. The Church joined the American Humanist Association.
In 1958, with inadequate Sunday School space and a growing membership of 113, the congregation rented Sunday morning space at the Ben Franklin School in Glen Ellyn. Later the congregation supported the merger of the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America. A women's group was organized, and to reflect their support, named it the Unitarian-Universalist Women's Association, or the UUWA. During these years Rev. Kreves shared his ministry with an Aurora UU Fellowship.
In 1962, the Church purchased the Bronsonville School at public auction for $5500. The original building is now the Founders Room. A loan of $33,000 funded an addition under the guidance of Elliot Politser. It was completed and dedicated in 1965. The UUWA raised the money to furnish a kitchen in the former Minister's study, now the bathroom off the Founder's Room.
Two lots were acquired on either side of the Church, one for a parking lot and the other on the north for a nature area. A landscape plan was drawn up by Tony Tyznik of the Morton Arboretum and faithfully followed by Marge and Paul Lobik, the wildflower garden later named for Marge. During this time the UUWA corresponded with Friends of the Hibukusha (survivors of the atomic bombing of Japan) and sent money to purchase a commercial sewing machine for Mrs. Iwamoto, permitting her to start a sewing school in her home.
The Kreves family sold their Naperville home to a black family to begin racial integration in the Naperville schools. They moved to an apartment while Corinne continued to teach in Naperville's Mill St. Elementary School to help support them. The UUWA sponsored a six-session workshop entitled “Rearing Children of Goodwill,” presented by the National Council of Christians and Jews. In 1974 the Church started sharing its facilities with a Montessori school for the next six years.
The UUWA prepared church dinners and also dessert and coffee for the Men's Discussion Group until “women's lib” became popular, and the men were left to provide for themselves. A big all-church project was to sponsor a Vietnamese family to locate in the area. A new large parking lot was completed.
Rev. Eugene Kreves retired. Rev. William Mundy was called as the new minister. Pat Connet, from the congregation, was hired as Director of Religious Education. She was in that position until 1987 and left due to ill health.
With Gene and Corinne Kreves returing to visit and celebrate the Church's 25th Anniversary, Rev. Kreves was named Minister Emeritus. The pulpit was restained and dedicated with a plaque to Rev. Kreves, and the Founders Room was officially named.
The Rev. William Mundy resigned. Joe Gano, then President of the Congregation, kept the church running until Rev. Jerry Wright was hired as interim minister 1982-1983. The bronze sculpture, “Birth of the Future,” created by Kim Macarus, and funded by David and Doe Macarus, was presented to the Church for use on Sunday mornings for the congregation to share their Joys and Concerns.
In 1983 the Ecumenical Adult Day Care Center was organized by 14 Naperville churches. On the planning committee and first Board, Lois Schnizlein requested that the name Christian be changed to Ecumenical instead. She also served as the second president, representing our church.
The Church called The Rev. Dr. Kendyl Gibbons as its third settled minister. Joyce Oyen and later Julie Stewart were hired as administrative staff. In 1987 Bonnie Brewster was hired as a full time pianist. In 1988, the first part time professional choir director was hired, Jim Yarborough, followed by Kim Lyons. For several years there was no choir due to budget constraints. The Directors of Religious Education, Mary Beth Cherwin and Sally Vein, served consecutively for several years. Rev. Gibbons guided and was assisted by intern ministers starting in 1986 with Christa Landon, followed by Eva Hochgraf and Michael Brown.
In the spring of 1987 Ed Clark began Spring retreats at George Williams College campus on Lake Geneva. These retreats are still being held as well as Fall retreats begun in 1995. In 1988 the Church supported the Pro Choice Alliance and provided escorts to the Aurora Abortion Clinic, encouraged by Sandy Gustafson. With membership up to 200, a second Sunday service was begun. An Adult Forum was started to meet during one of the services.
Parochia Unitariana Dopca, a Unitarian church in Romania, became our partner church. An Endowment Fund was established. In 1987, after receiving a two-phase plan from an architect for a building addition, a building fund was begun. Lois Schnizlein was the building chair, and the addition was completed and dedicated in 1991. The first phase addition was completed with additional classrooms, kitchen, bathrooms on the lower level, office space, minister's study and a large reception hall, to be called Kreves Hall. A three-level lift was still needed. The singles collected $259.72 in pennies for a lift fund. The newly published hymnals, Singing the Living Tradition, were purchased, many as memorial gifts.
Marcia Jett was hired as Director of Religious Education. A Library and Book Store were started under the leadership of Mary Frost Lathrope and was named for her after her death in 1996. The senior high school class donated bookshelves to the Book Store and Library. Intern Patrick Price came for half a year, followed by Lisa Friedman.
The Church joined other Naperville churches to organize a counter-demonstration to the KKK. Kendyl Gibbons spoke for the Church and many members attended. Lois White was our intern minister in 1995, followed the next year by Carol Dole and finally Whitney Herriage. In 1996, Vickie Hellyer was hired as our next professional choir director.
The Church jubilee year of 1996-97 was filled with programs and sermons, ending in an inspirational workshop of 2 days which concluded with the DuPage AME Choir. The lift was completed and dedicated in April of 1997. The membership reached 300. Kreves Hall was air-conditioned by a family gift in memory of Mary Frost Lathrope.
Rev. Kendyl Gibbons resigned to answer a call to the First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis. Rev. Mary Hnottavange was chosen to be our interim minister. She served for 2 years.
In 1999, the Church became a Welcoming Congregation to all sexual orientations. The groundwork was laid by Lois White and continued after her death by Maryka Bhattacharyya and Barbara Briggs, to achieve this designation. Lois' extensive personal library was donated to the church library. The Church took part in the Habitat for Humanity project.
The Church called Rev. Jack Bryant to be its fourth settled minister. He organized a booklet “Beginning the Journey” for use in a four-session orientation for prospective members. On Miracle Sunday, money was raised for building improvements, including new windows, lights and carpeting in the sanctuary and Kreves Hall, and a newly renovated Clara Barton room. Jack resigned in June 2001. Neil Shadle became Interim Minister in September 2001.
About 30 women took part in the Central Midwest District Women's Spirit “Women and Religion,” joining with women from Hinsdale and Geneva to host the January 2002 conference in Lisle. Melanie Murphy was co-chair from DUUC. After 18 years of service in the church office, Joyce Oyen resigned to begin a new phase in her life in California as “Mrs. Chuck Holman.” In May 2002, the church called Whitney Herriage to be its fifth settled minister. The long-term plans Whitney envisioned for DUUC were not realized as she resigned for medical reasons in Spring 2004. Lisa Presley became our interim minister in September 2004.
Planning began for DUUC’s golden anniversary. The April 2005 events brought hundreds of past and present members and friends together for a series of dinners, presentations and small group gatherings. The Rev. Eugene Kreves returned to join the celebration as did the congregation’s first president, Stan Weller.
The congregation called Emmy Lou Belcher as its sixth settled minister in May. In June 2005, our beloved Director of Religious Education Marcia Jett died from complications caused by a brain tumor.
The Committee on Ministries held two Unity with Diversity workshops to foster communication as the church continued to grow and draw new members from a wide range of backgrounds. A banner at the church’s entrance declaring DUUC’s support for civil marriage prompted a bomb scare hoax by a local resident one Fall 2005 Sunday. The evacuated adults and children held services and religious education classes on the grass across the street.
2006 - 2008
DUUC member and interim DRE Steve Cooper was selected as the director of religious education. In May 2006, the Congregation voted to approve the restructuring of the Board of Trustees to better reflect and serve the various committees and recognized church-sponsored activities. Members also voted to explore planning and funding an expansion project on the church’s existing grounds.
In November 2006, the Goods and Services Auction broke the previous year’s record tally. The Membership committee introduced a dynamic new series of classes for visitors and new and existing members alike: Exploring Unitarian Universalism includes sessions covering UU history, beliefs and values.
In 2007 the church expansion project moved into the capital campaign phase. The November 2007 Auction was hugely successful as was the kick-off silent phase of the capital campaign. Three dozen members participated in the annaul Crop Walk and, for the second year, our youth participated in an event to raise awareness of the homeless by sleeping outdoors in chilly Fall weather.
In 2008, the Building Committee continued to work with city and county officials to gain the go-ahead for breaking ground for the new sanctuary. The Capital Campaign Committee inched closer to its goal of $2.0 million by year end. The congregation expanded its reach in the community with PADs assistance, a plan for helping a new Bridges family become independent and began exploring the UUA-led No More Turning Away project to end homelessness. The November auction, It's Easy Being Green, raised a record amount for the church.