Blog Posts

A little more about our beginnings …

Our church founder Mr Garvin was an interesting man of his time. Born in 1860 into a Quaker farming family, he had moved to Lancaster by age 14, when he began working in a local store. He rose to be the manager there and finally the owner; under the Garvin name and in improved quarters at a new site, the store flourished. Mr Garvin died in 1936 but his store remained a mainstay of downtown Lancaster before finally succumbing to the suburbanization of retail commerce in 1975. Mr Garvin was thus a self-made businessman. He was also a progressive one, taking a strong hand in modernizing downtown Lancaster.

Of course it is a fine thing for a merchant to improve his neighborhood, but it also benefits the merchant. In piously Protestant Lancaster, sponsoring a Unitarian church was a different kettle of fish. The shrewd Mr. Garvin cannot have failed to recognize that in erecting a Unitarian church by a prominent architect in one of the loveliest neighborhoods of Lancaster he was quite boldly advertising a new product in the religion department, and he probably anticipated that it would encounter serious competition from the established brands. Here Mr. Garvin’s Quaker background, with its proudly nonconformist heritage, may have helped him to act on his generous impulse when he learned that new parents who had suffered the loss of their child were further afflicted when their church refused its rites of burial because the child had died unbaptized– for this is in fact the origin story of the church. The original name — the Church of Our Father — invokes the special role of parenthood, and the sacred bond of parent and child receives further elaboration in the remarkable stained glass window in the church vestibule. Because of later additions and remodeling, the vestibule is now little used, and congregants typically enter the sanctuary from the opposite side. It is worth a detour to view the vestibule window, however, since it differs sharply in style from all the other windows in the church and has an interesting history of its own. We’ll get to that! In the meanwhile you can learn more about our history when you visit the Behrens Library. Look for Unitarian Universalist Church of Lancaster 1902 – 2002 — A Century of Free Faith.

Something old, something new …

Well, yes. A blog post is how we keep up with what’s new. Of course it is. But, deep down, doesn’t keeping up with what’s new ever feel a little – well, old? We’re here to help. Our congregation has been through at least one name change, one denominational merger, two world wars, the culture wars, and who knows how many congregational meetings. And we know that the best way to be ready to take on whatever comes next is to understand where we’ve been. Us – we’ve been right here for over a century, and in the Behrens Library you can be refreshed and inspired by the love, labors, and achievements of our church and its traditions. Just the other day I came across a once famous book by Ralph Waldo Trine, called In Tune with the Infinite (1897). Our copy was given to us by our church founder M.T. Garvin on July 1st, 1919, “[i]n commemoration of the World’s greatest war for Freedom and Democracy and the League of Nations signed June 28th to preserve the peace and advance the cause of human Brotherhood and also to welcome home our store Boys who valiantly devoted themselves to this great cause on the soil of France”.

The book is a work of religious philosophy representing the New Thought movement, a part of a broader turn in early 20th-century religion to a sometimes startling mix of modernity and science with mysticism and spiritualism.