Our Roots

Toward the Beloved Community
Toward the Beloved Community
winner of the 2016 Unitarian Universalist Historical Society Award, written by historian and church member Cindy Cumfer in celebration of First Unitarian Church’s 150th anniversary.  Cindy is a now-retired Oregon attorney whose practice focused exclusively on advising nonprofit organizations.  She has a PhD in history from UCLA and taught nonprofit history at Reed College. Her book Separate peoples, One Land won the 2007 Award for Best Tennessee History.  Her writings have appeared in The Journal of the Early Republic, Oregon Law Review, and Tennessee Women: Their Lives and Times.   

Anniversary histories are often largely congratulatory, meant to celebrate the organization.   But author Cindy Cumfer has done much more with this volume by placing the church in the context in which it operated in terms of national and local events and ideas, and in connection with what was happening in the larger Unitarian and Universalist movements.  Says Ms. Cumfer, “The church and the world exist in a mutually reinforcing relationship, in which what happens in the world informs the church and what the church does impacts the world. I was curious to see how this played out at First Unitarian.”  

Unitarian Universalist Association’s (UUA) president Peter Morales praises Cindy’s book:  “This volume is no dull antiquarian history of one congregation.  The focus is on Portland, but the story is really about our liberal faith adapting and evolving.  Here is a story of real people engaging with changes in culture, race relations, economics, and theology.”  And former UUA president John Buehrens adds, “This is a fascinating, well-written history, filled with unsung heroes and heroines …  Read it and be inspired!”

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  of Toward the Beloved Community ($20 per copy, includes shipping & handling).


>Read a brief history of Unitarian Universalism

>Learn about today's Unitarian Universalism:
Voices of a Liberal Faith
(a short video produced by the Unitarian Universalist Association.)

>Listen and Watch: A Brief History of First Unitarian Church   

>Read: History of the First 25 Years of First Unitarian Church, 1867-1892  
by Rev. Earl Morse Wilbur, first Associate Minister. This fascinating excerpt from Wilbur's book tells the story of a spunky group of pioneering women who called themselves The Ladies' Sewing Society, and how in 1865 they set about establishing the First Unitarian Society of Portland. 

Meet Rev. Thomas Lamb Eliot, our first minister.

Thomas_Lamb_EliotRead the Dec. 20, 2009 Oregonian article by John Terry about the arrival of one of Portland's most eminent citizens, and first minister of First Unitarian Church:

>"On Christmas Eve 1867 the city of Portland received one of its best presents ever: Thomas Lamb Eliot." Eliot, our first minister,  played a significant role in the development of the city. He and his family arrived in Portland on Christmas Eve, 1867: A Special Present to Portland
The next article, by Portland writer Ted Katauskas, (which appeared in the March, 2011 issue of Reed magazine), is a fascinating glimpse into the machinations of influential Portlanders who fought over the Will of church member Amanda Reed, and the establishment of Reed College---including our own Rev. Thomas Lamb Eliot (photo) who had a hand in the process and a dream of his own to fulfill:

>"On May 11, 1912, thousands of people converged on a muddy cow pasture on the east side of the Willamette River to witness a momentous occasion—the laying of the cornerstone of the Arts and Sciences building (now known as Eliot Hall), the first permanent structure on the Reed campus. Excitement among Portland’s citizenry ran so high that organizers secured a train of 11 cars to carry the throng to the remote location Fighting for Amanda's Dream

>Read about Universalism in Oregon   --by Cynthia Cumfer

The Universalist movement in Oregon has been virtually ignored by historians. For more than two decades from 1869 to 1892, the organized Universalist movement in Oregon was located in rural areas and small towns. Universalists arrived in Oregon with the early pioneers and settled in rural areas and small towns around the state but there was no organized Universalist movement until 1869... 
Watch this video about our history in Portland or use the links on the left to read about our rich heritage.