History

In 1866, John Moors, a representative of the American Universalist Association, came to Pittsfield to see what interest could be sparked to form a church.  He found several interested persons – recently moved to Pittsfield – who had been charter members of the Unitarian Church in Brooklyn,  New York.  They agreed to work toward the establishment of a Unitarian Church in the Berkshires.  On April 14, 1887, an organizational meeting of the new “Unity Church” was held and by-laws were approved the following week.  Land on North Street was purchased and a new Church building was dedicated on January 1, 1890.  The Reverend William Wallace Fenn, a recent graduate of Harvard Divinity School who had been leading services on an interim basis, was called as the new congregation’s first minister.  He later became the Dean of the Harvard Divinity School.

After Mr. Fenn’s departure in 1891, a series of ministers came for short periods until 1905 when Earl C. Davis became the Pittsfield minister.  He remained until 1919.  During his tenure, the congregation sold its building at 339 North Street and relocated the Church to 45 Linden Street.  The Linden Street property remained home for the Church until 1920 when Peace Party House on the corner of Wendell Avenue and East Street was purchased by the American Unitarian Association and made available to the Pittsfield Church.

During the 1920’s and 1930’s a series of ministers were called to serve the Pittsfield Church:    Charles R. Joy, Elliot L. Moses, George B. Spurr, Henry Pinkham, Henry G. Ives; and Truman   Hayes.

In 1939 and 1940, the economic conditions of the Church became so bleak that members decided to discontinue formal services.  In 1945 the A.U.A. sold the building which the Church had used on East and Wendell.

Although the church was inactive, several members of the Church, including members of the Women’s Alliance, continued to meet over the next decade and in 1950 the A.U.A. approached them in an attempt to reactivate the Church.  In the fall, David Kibby was called as minister, with the requirement that 50 charter families would be found in one year.  That goal was reached in seven months.  The building at 11 Wendell Avenue, which had served as a parsonage, was refurbished and the Church’s name changed from “Unity Church” to the “Unitarian church of Pittsfield”.

In the early 1950’s it became apparent that a new building was needed.  One of the properties considered was Daniel England, Sr.’s house at 175 Wendell Avenue.   Built in 1911 at a cost of $150,000, it was the most expensive house in Pittsfield.  Church members voted to sell the building at 11 Wendell Avenue to the Knesset Israel congregation for $43,000 and to purchase the England property.  The cost was $25,000 and an additional $16,000 was used to renovate the building for church use.  The first service was held at 175 Wendell Avenue in September 1954.

Another name change occurred in the 1960’s when the Church became the “Unitarian Universalist Church of Pittsfield”, reflecting the merger of the national Unitarian and Universalist congregations.

After the reconstitution of the church in 1950, several ministers served the congregation:  in 1950, David Kibby; in 1961, Hvezdon Kafka; from 1970 to 1977, William Baughan. Thereafter, a series of visiting ministers filled the pulpit until Peter Weller was called to serve as part-time minister.  The ministers since then have been: in 1992, Barbara Haugen, and in 2002, Phlox Laucher.

At present, the pulpit is usually filled twice a month by ministers. Rich Hayes serves in this way for the entire church year. Another, Nannene Gowdy, was interim minister in the past and is now in the pulpit and on call to serve the needs of the congregation from May to December. Between December and May, other ministers are available.