We the members and friends of the Chatham Unitarian Universalist Meeting House strive:
To nurture a safe community that encourages intellectual, spiritual, and religious freedom and celebrates all the passages of life,
To welcome diversity and pluralism as essential for our connection with all humanity,
To provide fellowship, friendship,and fun, and to support a creative artistic and musical environment,
To sustain and promote a vital religious and spiritual life education program.
On a bright clear Sunday in October 1996, a small group of thirty seven enthusiastic Unitarian Universalists and their newly-hired minister marched from their old meeting place at the Creative Arts Center to their beautiful new Meeting House, the former Christian Science church, situated prominently on a hill overlooking Chatham’s Main Street. The only question was, how could a congregation of thirty seven pay the bills?
Miraculously, within two years, the group grew to a congregation of almost two hundred. It was big enough now to pay the mortgage, the minister and a Director of Religious Education, and to support a wide variety of spiritual, social and service programs. But, at two hundred, the congregation also remained small enough so “everyone knows your name.”
The growth in membership and in the diversity of programs was so dramatic that today it’s called the “Miracle on Main Street.” And so it was.
Jim Robinson, minister of First Parish Brewster
Church, was at a U.U. meeting in Boston in 1988 when someone
hinted to him that they thought there were enough Unitarians
and Universalists on Cape Cod to form some new Fellowships.
He agreed with them but thought no more about it until at another
meeting in Boston someone else said the same thing to him. He
decided that they were really serious about this and appointed
Milton Adolphus to look into the matter.
some sessions in Boston for those interested in forming new
Fellowships. From a list provided by Headquarters he sent
out letters telling of two meetings, one in Chatham and one
in Dennis. The one in Dennis never got off the ground, but
the meeting held in Chatham on September 21st, 1986 at Alice
and Harold May's house had 11 people present.
Those at the meeting besides Milton Adolphus were Virginia
and Warren Cordes, Martha and Kenneth DeVoe, Alice and George
Fischer, Marie and Bob Howard, Alice May, Jeanette Piper and
Louella Wood. After much discussion it was decided to go ahead
and try to start a fellowship.
A second meeting was held at the DeVoes on October 19th.
Jim Robinson and the Adolphus's were there as was Ken Warren,
minister of the Barnstable Church and another person from
that church. The others attending were Virginia and Warren
Cordes, Martha and Kenneth DeVoe, Alice and George Fischer
and Louella Wood. The Fischers told us that they were really
not interested in belonging to a new Fellowship. As that would
only leave five of us who were interested, Jim Robinson asked
them as a favor to him to stay with it for a few months, and
they agreed. We planned another meeting with notices to those
we thought might be interested.
On November 12th we met at the Shawmut Bank (now the Sandwich
Cooperative Bank) on route 28 in Chatham and 17 people attended.
Peter Fleck was there at Jim Robinson's invitation. Jim was
there as well as the Adolphus's and Ken Warren. The others
present were the Cordes, DeVoes, Fischers, Ruth Humby, Jeanette
Piper, the Rogers and Louella Wood.
At this meeting Milton asked for volunteers to organize the
Sunday Services. Ken DeVoe was the first to offer and said
that he would be willing to plan the programs and get the
speakers. Ruth Humby offered to tape music for the services.
None of us knew at the time that she was an experienced pianist
and organist. It is amusing now to remember some shrugging
of shoulders and wondering what she knew about music. Alice
Fischer said she would locate a meeting place and Martha DeVoe
said she would be willing to be treasurer. No one would accept
the leadership so Milton had to continue as such.
Alice was able to get the Creative Arts Center for our first
church service. We put ads in the various papers and 24 people
came. Peter Fleck conducted the service and everything went
well including the music and the singing, although we had
no piano. Alice warned us that we were to be particularly
careful not to touch any of the art work and that we were
to leave the place exactly as we found it. In spite of our
care the board of the Creative Arts Center was disturbed by
what they considered the large number of people present and
were unwilling to let us use the room again. We had the feeling
from the way they acted that they considered us in the same
category as the Moonies and didn't want anything more to do
Desperate for a place to meet, the Cordes very generously
offered to let us use their home, which we did for a number
of Sundays. We still had no one heading up the Fellowship.
Some of us felt that Bob Howard, who had now joined us, might
be a good person for this position and he was approached one
Sunday. He accepted and did a wonderful job as our first president.
He was followed in later years by Richard Montague, Ken DeVoe,
Lew Rogers, Roger Strawbridge and Sandra Ellis.
Peter Fleck was willing to preach once a month and there
was always a large turnout when he did. We considered him
our minister in residence. For the other Sundays Ken DeVoe
tried to have at least one other minister, filling in with
speakers, often from the Cape Cod Community College.
Eventually we found a place to rent within our means, the
Monomoy Youth Center on Depot Road. We purchased 30 comfortable
chairs and a year or so later a piano for Ruth Humby, who
was our pianist. They had two old pianos in the Youth Center,
one a grand piano which found its way to the dump, and an
upright piano whose keys would often stick and had to be lifted
up when she played. We all chipped in for a piano and were
able to raise $1800. Ruth got a good buy through a piano tuner
she knew and from then on we had delightful music. As a memorial
to Milton Adolphus, the organizer of our Fellowship and who
had died, a pulpit was built by Harry Ellis in his workshop.
Over the years the Monomoy Youth Center became increasingly
unsuitable for our services. Children's programs during the
week left the place with numerous attractive but also very
annoying decorations, not at all in keeping with our serious
church services. Many places were investigated and finally
we found that the Creative Arts Center was no longer against
our renting their room. A financial arrangement was agreed
upon and we moved over there piano, pulpit, chairs and all.
The years at the Creative Arts Center were good years. We
enjoyed the excellent paintings as a background to our services.
We had monthly social events with picnics in the summer and
candlelight and pot luck suppers in the winter. We had lots
or fun at these events and became very well acquainted with
each other. We were a warm, friendly and enthusiastic group.
Although we welcomed new people our numbers never grew much
beyond 35 or so members. We lost some members each year and
We were all saddened by the death of Peter Fleck in 1995.
In his memory we purchased a bench for the Hospice garden
in Barnstable and held a ceremony there to dedicate it.
Many in the Fellowship felt that in order to survive we had
to do something to promote growth. Ruth Fleck encouraged us
in this. In the fall of 1995 the board had a session with
David Pohl, head at that time of the Ballou Channing district.
He returned in the winter and led the congregation through
a series of discussions and decisions about our future. These
ideas were tossed around for several months. Ruth Fleck generously
offered to finance a part time minister and we hired Ed Hardy,
a student minister at First Parish Brewster.
Before Ed even had a chance to preach any sermons the Christian
Science Church in Chatham came up for sale. What an opportunity!
Could we possibly buy it? Most of us decided it was a great
idea but entirely out of our reach financially. Then we all
paraded through the church and fell in love with it. But how
could a small group like ours of 37 members swing it?
Terry Sweetser, now head of the Ballou Channing district,
met with the board on the second day in his new position.
He gave us the first hope of a way to make it a possibility.
We had board meetings every few days led by Sandra Ellis,
our president and more meetings with Terry and also with Ruth
Fleck. Enthusiasm rose. We began to think in terms of its
really being a possibility. With the promise of financial
and other help from the Brewster Church we began to see the
light. The board made a survey among themselves about how
much money each of us were willing to contribute and our hopes
rose further. A survey was made of the rest of the congregation
and our hopes went still higher. Bank loans were investigated
and became a possibility. Even though we did not have the
track record they usually required. It amazed all of us that
we were finally able to swing it. On October 3, 1996 the church
And so, on October 6, 1996, on a bright and clear Sunday,
we, a small group of enthusiastic U.U.s, marched from our
old meeting place to our new Meeting House led by a bagpiper
and Ed Hardy pushing our pulpit. We were greeted by an equally
enthusiastic group of U.U.s from the Brewster Church.