Modified on: March 6, 2017
In Spartanburg Since 1954
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Spartanburg was legally founded as a fellowship on January 6, 1954. This was accomplished through the efforts of Thomas Ezell Tindall, his wife Edna, and eight friends, most of whom were members of Saxon Baptist Church. Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, the meetings were small informal discussion groups held in homes or rented space.
House on Blue Ridge Street
In 1965 the fellowship bought a house on Blue Ridge Street near Converse College and advertised our presence with a discreet sign on East Main. Sunday school for the children and a newsletter were successfully started. However, in 1968 a controversy erupted over the proper role of the congregation in regard to political and social issues. This resulted in a loss of half the congregation (twelve members), which represented more than half the budget. By 1971 the fellowship recovered its losses, having thirty-one active members and seventeen children enrolled in RE. By the end of the seventies, we had approximately forty-five members with an annual budget of $5,153.
Move to Henry Place
Realizing the impact of limited parking and physical space on membership growth, we raised monies and obtained member loans and a UUA loan to build the original structure of our church building on Henry Place. The first service in our new home was held on August 25, 1985. Initially, we contracted with the Rev. W. D. Hammond, a retired minister from Asheville, North Carolina, to deliver a sermon once a month. In 1986 our members voted to become a “church” rather than a fellowship. We then joined with the Clemson UU Congregation to call the Rev. Lee Huebert as a part-time minister. When the Clemson church decided not to renew the contract with Mr. Huebert for 1987-88, we formed a search committee and charged it with finding a half-time minister. The church did take a candidate through the entire candidating process to a final vote, which failed by a margin of two votes.The church then formed a new search committee to begin the process again. In 1989, the Rev. Joan Armstrong from Atlanta served as a monthly interim minister. She was the first minister to help us strengthen our committee work and work with volunteers.
The Rev. Gary Hyndman, 1990-1996
In July of 1990, we called the Rev. Gary Hyndman, a local Methodist minister, and hospital chaplain. While with us he entered into the UUA fellowshipping program and became a Unitarian Universalist minister. His half-time ministry became full-time by July 1992. During his tenure, a committee of past presidents modified our Board of Trustees to a model that includes a Council on Committees, which is responsible for programming and works with our Board. We also added two larger Religious Education rooms, hired a part-time director of religious education, purchased playground equipment, received a high-quality set of hand chimes that were donated for the children, and developed a strong Adult RE program. In the fall of 1993 our average attendance was about one hundred people, so we tried to implement two services. Our attempt was unsuccessful, and we returned to one service by spring of 1994. Many members felt that our sense of community had been lost during this attempt. However, very little preparation prior to implementing this format was provided.
The Welcoming Congregation
Also in 1993, we decided to begin the Welcoming Congregation process. During the first year of implementation, there was congregational support for completing the education program and voting on the designation, with Mr. Hyndman providing firm endorsements. During the second year pockets of discomfort arose from within several segments in the congregation about perceived requirements for the designation. The Board consequently decided, in consultation with the Gay/Lesbian Concerns Committee, not to pursue voting on this matter at that time. However, the Board gave written support for the GLBC Committee to continue educating the church-wide community to GLB issues and to provide programs that would enhance the feeling of inclusiveness for this population. In recent years we returned to the process, which led to a successful vote, and recognition by the UUA of our church as an official “Welcoming Congregation” in April 2010.
Meg Barnhouse as Interim
In September 1995 Mr. Hyndman informed us of his intention to resign. (He left the ministry of our congregation in January 1996.) Since Gary was our first called full-time minister, we learned much about how to define various roles between the minister and the lay leadership during his tenure. We then called the Rev. Meg Barnhouse, a Presbyterian minister, and local pastoral counselor, as our two-year interim minister. While with us, Ms. Barnhouse completed the first phase of the UUA fellowshipping program and some training in interim ministry. Our years with Ms. Barnhouse allowed us to study conflict resolution, to further define the role of the minister, and to better understand how the congregation and minister can work toward a common goal. She worked quite a bit as a facilitator of group processing, giving us feedback on how to deal with conflict in meetings.
The Chris Buice Years
As the result of our search process, we successfully called in the fall of 1998 the Rev. Chris Buice, a recent graduate of Earlham School of Religion in Richmond, Indiana, a Quaker-affiliated seminary. During Chris Buice’s three years with our congregation, we increased our membership to 111 members, representing a thirty-percent growth rate. Sunday attendance reached an average of seventy, and our number of families with children increased. As a result of this sustained growth, we bought a house with significant property as well as an adjacent vacant lot. This house (named the Hatcher House for deceased members Harold and Josephine Hatcher) is currently used for staff and administration. We also began development of a ten-year plan that included increasing our physical space to accommodate sustained growth. Chris actively helped us to build consensus on some challenging issues related to land purchasing and some social justice issues. Some results of these efforts include more confidence in our ability to deal with conflict and a basic concept for exploring and acting on social concerns. The Rev. Joan Kahn-Schneider was called as our interim minister after Mr. Buice left our congregation in 2001. She helped us in grieving the loss and looking at other ways to do the work and live the life of a church and congregation.
Meg Barnhouse Returns as Settled Minister
In August 2002 the Rev. Ms. Meg Barnhouse accepted the call to become our settled minister. During her tenure, we grew from 90 members to 163 members. In 2005 we broke ground on a new building with sanctuary and ground floor which was completed in 2007. We hired a half-time church administrator and professional child-care workers. We continued to deepen in our commitment to social justice, passing a by-law that laid out a process by which we could take a stand as a congregation on important matters like anti-racism and marriage equality. We became certified as a Welcoming Congregation. The Park Hills Elementary School agreed to partner with us in 2003, and we sent tutors, lunch buddies, and teachers’ helpers over there in succeeding years. We also raised money for supplies, uniforms, and scholarships for the students, 97% of whom are on federal assistance. Sharing the undesignated monies in every offering plate 50-50 with a different organization every month, we deepened in generosity. Our volunteer coordination team invited friends, members, and visitors to find their ministry within the congregation and the community. We grew in fellowship also, having begun a small-group ministry program in which about 50 of our members became involved. The room that used to be the sanctuary is now a fellowship hall where people gather to converse before and after services. Our new director of Lifespan Faith Development was hired in the summer of 2008. We gave the children and youth the Hatcher House for their use, and the kids began using the curriculum Spirit Play.
Three Years of Interim Ministry
Meg resigned in 2009 to accept a call as the interim minister at the UU congregation in Princeton, NJ and since become the settled UU minister in Austin, Texas. The Rev. Don Rollins came as our interim minister in the fall of 2009. Under Don’s guidance, we adopted a mission statement that emphasized Caring Community, Freedom of Religion, and Social Justice, and we spent two years looking at a number of different ways to “do church.” In 2011 the Rev. Linda Bunyard joined us and continued the interim ministry begun by Don, while we completed a successful search for a settled minister. During these interim years, we developed a very effective team of Pastoral Care Associates to minister our members and friends who are ill or otherwise in need of assistance.
Rev. Michelle Buhite
Rev. Michelle came in the fall of 2012 and rapidly became a respected and well-liked minister. Our new LFD director came a few months later. Rev. Michelle has focused on establishing our UU identity through worship (including vespers), Lifespan Faith Development, and social justice. A new mission statement and covenant agreement have added to our sense as who we are as UUs. The minister inaugurated the use of a three-year cycle in our worship, LFD programming, and covenant groups, which includes a focus on (1) UU principles, (2) UU sources, and (3) UU history and heroes. We also restructure our committee and council organization. Rev. Michelle keeps in close touch with our congregation, even when she is on vacation, with regular “Meditations” in the weekly Happenings and the Minister’s Corner in the Unison.
Soon after arriving in Spartanburg, Rev. Michelle became involved in the community interfaith Thanksgiving event and in 2014 was co-chair of the committee to move that event to a larger, neutral community venue. She is also working with the Spartanburg County Foundation to develop the Kirk H Neely Compassion Fund. In 2014 Rev. Michelle was part of an interfaith coalition to kick off and administer a Community Read and Discussion project, with plans to make it an annual opportunity for interfaith dialogue. Her participation in events and services in the Spartanburg area, along with our social justice project called “Backpack Buddies,” have added significantly to our presence in the community. In early 2014 we sent a large group to the “Truthful Tuesday” protest in Columbia, SC. We also during this time received our designation as a “Green Sanctuary” and we are involved in the Spartanburg “Green Congregations” program.
Along with our celebration of our sixtieth anniversary as a congregation in Spartanburg, these events and programs have strengthened our sense of ourselves as Unitarian Universalists. Rev. Michelle left in June 2015 to accept a position in her native state of New York.
Rev. Sally Beth Shore
In June 2015 the Board announced the hiring of the Rev. Sally Beth Shore as a one-year contract minister, and she began work on a half-time basis on September 1. She will be here full time starting in January. Rev. Shore is a native North Carolinian with degrees in Environmental Science and is a graduate of Meadville-Lombard UU Seminary. The leaders, members, and friends of the church are looking forward to a fruitful year.
In the summer of 2015, Hatcher House was extensively renovated. Staff offices were moved to Hatcher and all LFD/RE classes were housed in the main building.
(by UUCS Member, Monnie Cannon)