History Page 2

By the late 1950’s, civil rights and race issues were coming into sharp focus for the congregation. At the annual meeting in 1959, several resolutions were adopted that included that the life of the Civil Rights Commission be extended, that Unitarian churches be urged to achieve full integration, that the congregation be life members of the NAACP, and that the House Committee on Un-American Activities be abolished. In 1964, near the time of the race riots, the following announcement was run in the Courier News: “The First Unitarian Society of Plainfield rejoices in the passage of the Civil rights Bill. As always, we welcome people of all races.” In addition to race issues, the church was involved with voter registration, protesting police violence, addressing poverty and education issues in Plainfield. In the 70s, 80s and 90s, the congregation was involved with women’s rights, gay and lesbian issues, homelessness, mental health, and anti-war (peace) campaigns.

Today, social justice issues continue to be a relevant and important aspect of congregational life. The congregation has a successful Food Ministry including a monthly food pantry. The congregation serves over 250 hot meals to hungry or homeless people in the community on major holidays. We have partnered with Project Hope and other organizations to address teen violence and gang membership. The church has ongoing relationships with Iris House, a local organization that provides testing, counseling and education for the HIV/AIDS community, the UU-United Nations Office, UU Service Committee, and many local organizations in Plainfield that work to improve the lives of Plainfield citizens. In addition, we have a mental health ministry in partnership with Bridgeway, an organization that works with those who suffer with or have recovered from mental illness. In 2016, FUSP was honored with the Ambassador’s Award from the Governor’s Council on Mental Stigma.

In the spring of 2018, the congregation voted to make a legacy gift of their building.  On November 4, 2018 Heritage Sunday was celebrated including many city dignitaries, former ministers and members.  It was during this service that the Mayor of Plainfield, Adrian Mapp, pledged to use the legacy gift of the Park Avenue building and grounds for the benefit of the surrounding community.

In May of 2021 the congregation unanimously approved a resolution adopting as an 8th principle “Journeying toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.” This important work will be the core of our mission going forward.

Ministers that have Served the First Unitarian Society of Plainfield

William P. Tilden 1893-1890 Raymond Baughan 1969-1977
Hobart Clark 1890-1896 Scott Alexander 1978-1988
Alfred C. Nickerson 1896-1912 Alfred Henrickson 1988-1989
Arthur E. Wilson 1912-1914 M. Campbell Gross 1989-1995
John Baltzly 1914-1918 Paul Sawyer 1995-1996
Wilson M. Backus 1918-1919 Al Boyce 1996-2001
Alson H. Robinson 1919-1944 Kathie Davis Thomas 2001-2003
H. Mortimer Gesner 1945- 1960 David Leonard 2003- 2007
Nicholas Cardell Jr. 1961-1962 Tony Johnson 2008- 2009
John Evans 1963- 1964 Dr. Tracy Sprowls 2009 -2016
Carl Westman 1965-1968 Ann Marie Alderman 2016-