To Dedicate Unitarian Church Today with Special ServicesHistory of the Church
Dedication exercises will be held today of the Unitarian church of which Rev, J. Wade Conkling is pastor. The ceremonies will be held in the church at 301 West Peachtree Street, Rev. Conkling presiding.
Several attempts had been made to establish a liberal church in Atlanta that rapidly growing and aggressive center of the new south, but it was not till the early 80’s under the able and devoted leadership of Rev. and Mrs. George L. Chaney that these efforts were crowned with success. The First Unitarian church of Atlanta was organized on Tuesday March 27, 1883 in room No. 7, Kimball house.
At this auspicious meeting it was decided to secure a lot and erect a building. Before the close of that year a chapel was completed and regular services were being held. The new church home was called “The Church of Our Father” and in this name was dedicated April 23, 1884. The structure occupied by the congregation was one of unusual beauty. The building was of half-timber and half brick construction with high arched roofs covered with red tile. Windows were pointed and fitted with small panes of colored glass. Front and rear elevations had large wheel windows in stained glass. The interior was finished in Georgia pine, oil finish, which grew more beautiful as it became tempered by age. It was a cathedral in miniature and a shrine to many who found here their first church home. During Its fifteen years of existence the little church was particularly fortunate in having its pulpit filled by so many of the great and illustrious of the liberal faith. Its roster bears the names of James Freeman Clark, Edward Everett Hale, Julia Ward Howe, Brooke Herford, P. P. Tilden, James de Normande, Frances G. Peabody, Robert Collyer, George Batchelor and many others of equal prominence.
Mr. Chaney remained in charge of the Atlanta work till November, 1890, and was succeeded by Rev. W. R. Cole, who accepted the call of the church in July 1891.
The decennial anniversary of the organization of the church was celebrated on April 5, 1893. Mr. Cole resigned his office as pastor of the church on October 1, 1895. During the winter months the pulpit was filled by temporary supplies. On April 20, 1896, Rev. V. S. Vail, the third minister, was called to the pastorate of the church.
At a meeting of the church held on September 26, 1899, it was voted to accept an offer to the trustees from the Carnegie library, of $20,500, for the church property with all the buildings thereon. It was further voted to turn over to the A. U. A. the entire proceeds of the sale, and to take steps towards selecting a new site.
On November 10, 1899, Mr. Vail resigned as pastor to accept a call from the Unity church, Sioux City, Iowa.
The committee appointed for the purpose of selecting a new site for the church and to present plans for the same, reported at a meeting held January 8, 1900, that a lot on the corner of Spring and Cain streets had been purchased.
A call was extended at this time to Rev. Clarence Langston, of Boston, Mass. to become minister of the church. After the resignation of Mr. Vail, and until Mr. Langston assumed his pastoral duties, lay services were conducted by our fellow member, C. C. Chillingworth.
The first meeting in the new building was held on November 9, 1900 and the dedicatory services were held on the following Sunday, Dr. Samuel Eliot being present as the representative of the A. U. A.
A New Covenant and Constitution.
At the annual meeting on January 14, 1901, a new covenant and constitution were adopted and it was proposed to change the name of the church, which motion was lost.
At a meeting held on Sunday, April 17, 1904, more than three years later, the name was voted changed from “The Church of Our Father” to “The Unitarian Church of Atlanta.”
On May 15, 1905, Rev. C. A. Langston resigned as pastor of the church, and immediately joined the Episcopal church in this city.
Lay services were held through the summer months until a call was extended to Moor Sanborn, of New York, to become minister of the church, which position he held till August of the following year.
In October of the same year the church was honored by having as it pastor and leader one of the patriarchs of the Unitarian faith, the Rev. Rush R. Shippen, formerly minister of the Unitarian church of Washington, D. C. Rev. Shippen remained in charge of the church till June 1907.
In August, 1907, Rev. A. T. Bowser, of Wilmington, Del., accepted the call of the church as its minister, and remained in active work of the church till May 1, 1908.
In the fall of that year Rev. John W. Rowlett, late of the Texas M. E. conference, held several services and was extended a call to become the regular minister of the church. Mr. Rowlett took up his duties in September, 1909, and served the church as minister till September, 1911, when he resigned.
Dr. J. Wade Conkling, late a member of the Christian church in Kentucky and a volunteer for medical services in the Mission hospital of Deoghouer, Bengal, India, was asked by the pulpit supply committee to come with Mrs. Conkling and visit for a month in Atlanta and preach for the congregation. At a meeting held December, 1911, Dr. Conkling was called to be the minister of the church.
In the spring of 1913, the site at Spring and Cain streets was sold for a goodly sum and a new location at 301-303 West Peachtree purchased for a new home of the church. In October, 1914, the new plans being complete and all financial arrangements accomplished, the building of the new edifice was begun. William A. Edwards, an accomplished and able architect, furnished the plans. William J. Saywood, his experienced assistant aided him. Calvin Shelverton was the builder. The building speaks for itself, both in design and workmanship.
Source: The Atlanta Constitution Nov 7, 1915