Short video describing the history of Unitarian Universalism:


Pullman Memorial Universalist Church History:

Our church began with the Pullman Family who moved to Albion, N.Y. from Chautauqua Country, N.Y. in 1845. James Lewis Pullman and Emily Caroline Pullman had ten children of which George M. Pullman (1831-1897) was the third. James Lewis Pullman was a ‘cabinetmaker’ or builder of fine furniture. George worked some in his father’s business, but decided to go to Chicago where he gained a reputation for moving buildings. After saving his money, he bought the patent for a railroad sleeper car design and produced his first car in 1858. From this small beginning he became an industrial magnate and his name became synonymous with first class railroad travel.

Throughout the years he always maintained early friendships with people of the Albion area where he grew up. It was in 1890 that a friend of long-standing, Mr. Charles A. Danolds, suggested to George M. Pullman that a need existed for a Universalist Church in Albion. George Pullman immediately agreed and said he would build such an edifice in memory of his parents if the local Universalists could raise $5,000 to show their interest. As a result, at a meeting held in the Orleans County Court House on August 18, 1891, the Pullman Memorial Universalist Church of Albion, NY was legally incorporated. By December 25, 1892 it was reported that the $5,000 guarantee fund had been raised. During the year 1893 George Pullman visited Albion and selected the site and had his own personal architect, S S Beman of Chicago, draw up plans for the church building. On May 19, 1894 the cornerstone of the PMUC was laid by the Grand Master of the Masonic Lodge of New York State. The building of the church progressed rapidly during 1894. The famed Louis C. Tiffany was present for the installation of the windows made by his Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company. There are forty-one windows in the audience room. One of particular note is the figure of the prophet Jesus. On January 31, 1895 the church was formally dedicated with George M. Pullman present. He delivered the deed of the property to the congregation.

Little change has taken place in the building as designed by Beman, although at one time it had a red Spanish tile roof which leaked, making it necessary to repaint the interior.

The congregation has been served by thirteen full-time ministers and seven part-time ministers throughout the years. In 1961 the Pullman Memorial Church affiliated itself within the merger of the Unitarian Universalist Association. In 2008 we were certified as an official Welcoming Congregation by the Unitarian Universalist Association.

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Historic Wedding Ceremony

Bubbles surround Mrs. and Mrs. Diemer
Bubbles surround Mrs. and Mrs. Diemer

On September 30, 2011, Pullman Memorial Universalist Church was witness to its first legal gay marriage. On July 24, 2011, the New York state Marriage Equality Act took effect, allowing for persons of the same gender to wed. Passage of that law was a “fantasy dream come true” for at least two members of the Pullman church, who were able to obtain a license and joyfully state their vows before friends and family. Pastor Lee Richards performed the ceremony, which featured a fairy motif as part of the celebratory atmosphere.

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Historic Dual Ceremony

On October 9, 2011, the church held a ceremony to confer the status of Minister Emeritus upon the Reverend Richard Hood, marking the first time a minister in the church’s 120 year history was so honored. Rev. Hood served the congregation for thirty-five years, from 1971-2006. Officially serving as pulpit supply rather than as a called minister, Rev. Hood performed other ministerial duties as needed. During the same Oct. 9th occasion, Pastor Lee Richards was formally installed, the first called minister in 40 years.

The ceremony featured mini-sermons by Susan Daiss, M.Div.; Rev. Dick Hood; and newly installed Pastor Lee Richards. The music was especially notable. Musical pieces included “Pie Jesu” (from Requiem by Andrew Lloyd Webber) sung in Italian and “Liebst du um schönheit” (by Mahler) sung in German. Organ music included “Arioso” (by J.S. Bach), “Toccata” (from Symphony No.5 by Charles-Marie Widor), and “Old Hundreth.” A special offering was taken for the purpose of acquiring an AED – automated external defibrillator – and $437 was raised toward that goal.

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Modern Universalists draw their inspiration and find evidence of their philosophy in many cultural streams. Universalism is not exclusively Christian in origin, having roots in pre-Christian religions as well as the world’s religions. The basic pretext of our beginnings is the belief in universal salvation rather than the election of a few. Hence the name Universalists. From the sixth century on, however, this belief has been generally considered heresy.

American Universalism had its origins in the works of Dr. George DeBenneville, who first preached in Pennsylvania in 1741; John Murray, an anti-Calvinist; and Hosea Ballou, an original Universalist thinker. Murray became minister of the Independent Christian Church of Gloucester and in 1779 this became the first organized Universalist Church in America. It was Hosea Ballou who in 1805, in his book “Treatise of Atonement” gave Universalists their first consistent philosophy.

The Winchester Profession of Faith, written by Universalists at a convention in 1803, humanized Jesus, largely withdrew from trinitarian theology and re-emphasized salvation for the “whole family of mankind.” The Bible was recognized as “containing a revelation of the character of God.” In 1899, after wrestling with Darwinism, Universalists brought their statement up-to-date and in 1935 it was again modernized, this time with the important phrase “our faith in the authority of truth, known or to be known.” No doctrinal statement however, has ever been put forth to be used as a credal test. In May, 1961 the Universalist Church of America merged with the American Unitarian Association to become the Unitarian Universalist Association.

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1994 Pullman Memorial Centennial Newspaper Publication

This 4-page special publication, produced to celebrate 100 years of the free spirit, includes excellent articles on the history of PMUC. It covers information on George Pullman and his parents, details how money was raised to build the church and the story of its construction and dedication, the Ladies Aid Society and Pullman Girls, a chronology of the congregation, and much, much more. It contains many photos and is a fascinating read. This special commemorative publication – produced in 11×17 format –  is now available below in pdf format.

Pullman Memorial Centennial Newspaper Page 1

Pullman Memorial Centennial Newspaper Page 2

Pullman Memorial Centennial Newspaper Page 3

Pullman Memorial Centennial Newspaper Page 4

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From Our Archives

Transcribed in 2012 from the original handwritten notes, dated 1921. Please note that multiple dashes (- – – – -) were used in the original document to represent portions of the speech delivered extemporaneously.

Address Given by Fred W. Tanner:

Mr. Toastmaster, Ladies & Gentlemen

On being called on to speak here tonight I find myself in the position of the young Bridegroom who was called on to speak at some social function. He arose and placing his hand on his blushing bride said Mr. Toastmaster Ladies and Gentlemen I want it distinctly understood that I have had this thing thrust upon me.

So I have had this forced upon me as you all know, speachmaking is out of my line. What I have to say will be necessarily brief. At least I do not intent (sic) to talk as long as a certain minister preached, that I read about recently.  –  a visitor – – – – –

(dashes and blank lines by author)

It has been suggested to me that I give a little history of this society. There are many here tonight as just familiar with the history of this society as I am. But there are others who have come into our Parish in recent years that would like to know its early history. I think you all know that this is the 26th anniversary of the dedication of this church. But the society is some older. I think everyone present knows that this church was built and given by Geo. M. Pullman in memory of his Father & Mother. The first concret (sic) action leading up to this was taken at Mr. Pullman’s Summer home “Castle Rest” – 1000 Islands in the summer of of 1890. In a statement to Mr. Chas. A. Danolds, an old friend & acquaintance of Mr. Pullman and one of the leading Universalist is (sic) this locality, Mr. Danolds suggested to Mr. Pullman that if he would subscribe $5000.00 another $5000.00 could be raised toward the erection of a Universalist Church in Albion.

Mr. Pullman replied that if a society could be formed and a fund of $5000.00 raised as a guaranteen for the physical maintenance of the church he would undertake to build such a church.

From that moment enthusiasm ran high among Universalists of this locality. Several meeting were held and a general conference was called to be held in the Court House in Albion July 15-16-1891.  Wm A. Tanner, who was my father, was made chairman of that meeting and F. E. Kittridge[1] was elected secretary.

All the leading Universalist ministers of Western N.Y. were present including J. K. Nason of Buffalo, Dr. Asa Saxe of Rochester, D. I. M. Atwood[2], Pres. Canton Theological Univ.

A temporary organization was effected and following officers elected trustees C. A. Danolds, Wm Hallock, Sheldon Warner, Wm A. Tanner, Mrs. S. S. Spencer[3], Mrs. F. E. Kittridge[4], Mrs. Geo. J. Reed[5]. Trea. Wm Hallock, Sec. F. E. Kittridge.

On Aug 18-1891 a meeting was held at the C.H. (courthouse) in Albion for the purpose of legally organizing & incorporating the society according to the laws of N.Y. State. A committee consisting of S. S. Spencer, John A. Dibble & J. W. Wright[6] was appointed to present a list of By Laws & report a list of Officers. The Com. Reported that the name of the organization shall be known as the Pullman Memorial Universalist Church of Albion & this Society dates from that time which was Aug 18-1891. The following trustees were elected – C. A. Danolds, John Lattin, Mrs. Joseph Hart, Sheldon Warner, Mrs. S. S. Spencer, Wm A. Tanner, J. D. Billings, Adelbert Chapman, Mrs. F. E. Kittredge, Trea. Geo. J. Reed, Sec. F. E. Kittridge.

Then began the struggle to raise the $5000.00 guarantee fund. It may seem to some of you that the raising of $5000.00 for the erection of a Universalist Church here should have been a easy thing to do. But it was not by any means and the soliciting committee worked hard until Dec. 25 1892 when the money was all pledged & Mr. Pullman notified of the fact. There were between 100 & 200 donors to M_t (match?) Fund in amts 5-600. On Apr. 13 1893 Mr. Pullman came to Albion to select a site for this church. He immediately chose this spot and wished to purchase also the adjoining lot upon which our parsonage now stands. But through the influence & religious bigotry of one of the prominent residence (sic) of this village Mr. Pullman was not able to purchase that lot & had to change the church plans.

The corner stone of this church was laid on May 19 1894 by Renovation Lodge 97 F. & A. M. of Albion of which Mr. Pullman was a member as was also his Father James L. Pullman. The sermon was preached by Rev. Royal H. Pullman D.D. of Baltimore, Brother of George M.

The building of the church progressed rapidly during the summer of 1894 and the Society began to look for a pastor. On Oct. 14-1894 a unanimous invitation was extended to Rev. Charles Fluhrer D.D. Of Grand Rapids Mich to become pastor of the P.M.U.C. The pastorate to begin with the dedication of the church and on Nov. 19-1894 a letter of acceptance by Dr. Fluhrer was received by the sec. of this Society.

This church was dedicated Jan. 31-1895. Rev. Royal H. Pullman D.D. delivered the sermon & Rev. James M. Pullman DD of Lymn Mass. delivered the installation sermon.

During all these years from the time the society was legally organized until this church was dedicated, church services were held every Sunday in the Court House, a good share of that time under the Superintending of the State Missionary, Rev. Daniel Wright. I Think it took a little stronger faith in Universalists to attend in the Court House than it does in this beautiful edifice. At least the congregation was materially enlarged after this church was dedicated and services held here.

Of the first temporary Board of Trustees of the Society there is one survivor, Mrs. George J. Reed, and of the first legal Board of Trustees there are no survivors. Mr. Adelbert Chapman, whoes (sic) untimely death occurred in an auto reck (sic) last Fall, being the last one.

I was elected Trustee of this society in J.–1894 and have served continuously ever since, being the only surviving member of the Board of Trustees at the time this church was dedicated. The Board being composed at that time of the following named persons

C. A. Danolds, S. G. Nott[7], S. E. Warner, Stephen Hallock, John Lattin, Mrs. Joseph Hart, Mrs. F. E. Kittridge, Mrs. S. S. Spencer, and F. W. Tanner[8]

This Parish has been extremely fortunate in the selection of its ministers having had but four in 26 years. The calling of Dr. Charles Fluhrer as its first Pastor was calling the right man at the right time. Religious bigotry and intolerance were rather strong in this Village at the time and I am sorry to say has not entirely died out. But Dr. Fluhrers strong character & personality stood four square against and such attacks and won for him the respect and confidence of his fellow townsmen. Dr. Fluhrer was followed by Dr. Arthur Grose who was with us four years. Then came Dr. Charles H. Vail who served us faithfully for nearly ten years. And now what shall I say of our good Mr. Mr. (sic) Wood. A story comes to my mind at this time of a certain man who was a great lover of fast horses. – – – – –

(dashes and blank lines by author)

Mrs. Wood.
[1] Frank E. Kittridge (the text’s author switches spelling between Kittredge and Kittridge but mostly uses an “i”)
[2] Isaac Morgan Atwood (D. possibly meaning Dean, but also could have meant Dr. – Atwood held a D.D.)
[3] Mrs. Seth S. Spencer
[4] Mrs. Frank E. Kittridge
[5] Likely Mrs. Maude Reed
[6] Justus W. Wright
[7] Sylvester G. Nott
[8] Fred W. Tanner

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