Our History Quilt
The Quilt Story
Dedicated on the 100th anniversary of the Church Building
a description given by Margaret Essex & Joan Bernstein
on July 12, 1981
Stitches in time “In Deed,” stitches took a lot of time, and some blocks were quite challenging. Thanks to all the women and the one gentleman who volunteered their time to make this dream a reality. Some of the blocks have the signature of the person who sewed them; others are mentioned below.
The church’s history begins with the beautiful block in the center that commemorates 100 years of Liberal Religion. This block was designed and completed in its entirety by Florence Choate.
The blocks for the ministers and many others were designed by Kathy Haynes. The first one is the Rev. William Looker Gibbs who served here for 40 years. Originally a New Yorker, he started his circuit pastorate at Manchester, East Liberty, and Horton. He organized the Sunday school the year he came. The class met in the schoolhouse under the supervision of Hiram Tuttle. Within Rev. Gibbs’ first five years, the church building was built. Unfortunately, there is no block representing Religious Education.
The Dark Years are called that because the church was without a minister. Under the capable leadership of Dora Bernstein, the church had speakers and student ministers. Although the congregation didn’t meet regularly, the doors of the church were never closed.
The Rev. Verna Armstrong came in 1929, and during her pastorate the parsonage was built. The story goes, her husband played the violin. Dr. L.D. Case came in 1934. He and his wife were very interested in the young people and had church camps for them. This was the start of the Liberal Religious Youth.
Then came Rev. W.O. Bodell who served eight years, and then returned after Argyl Houser to put in three more years. He started the Men’s Club which contributed much to the church for five years.
The Rev. Argyl Houser was here for two years and was instrumental in starting the Kupples Klub which we kept going for nearly 20 years. Bob & Marge Choate were the strength of the Kupples Klub and when they moved away, we folded.
The Rev. Alfred Judd and his family, young and energetic, were here for four years. Then we had the Rev. Joseph Schneiders who was here for one year and ordained here.
Following came Ruth Smith, our minister for twenty years who was also ordained here. Her husband, Donald, was a farmer and they had four sons. Ruth remained a member after her retirement and was much loved. We will always remember what she contributed.
Modes of transportation during the early times were horse driven buggies and horse driven sleighs in the wintertime. They were tied to the hitching rails that still stand on the west side of the church. Apparently, there were enough horse sheds out back so that each family had its own stall. These blocks were designed by Audrey Waite.
The Ladies Aid was organized in 1869, long before the church was built; and we are still active. We like to think we are the sunshine of the church.
The bell was given as a memorial by the La Dow Kennedy family in the early twenties and christened “Divine Love.” This block was designed and made by Joan Bernstein.
The next block is an important part of our philosophy: “Deeds Not Creeds.” Our logo is the Flaming Chalice with the double friendship circle. It takes many things to hold the church together such as the By-laws and the UUDOM Convention every fall. This block was done by Steve Hosmer. He was the chairman of the convention when it was held here in 1977. The theme was the apple. The Bible, designed and made by Florence Choate, played an important part in our church services.
For outreach, we have UNICEF for which the children collect money around Halloween time. We donated to the Clara Barton Diabetic Camp for girls and to the Red Cross.
The next blocks were designed by Velda Smith who had an artist’s touch. The furnishings of the church include the altar on which sat a beautiful bouquet of flowers brought in by Clarissa Smith ever Sunday morning. This bouquet was also done by her. The pulpit and organ were purchased by the Men’s Club by planting a field of wheat and selling it in the early 50’s. We also have a beautiful tree of life with its symbols of different religions. This was designed by Velda Smith and sewn by Joyce Choate. The four back lights upstairs in the church were given by the Donald Smith family in memory of parents, and the two front lights by Mary Coman in memory of her mother, Bernice Flint. The choir creates beautiful music, so much appreciated, in our services. And who could forget the caroling at Christmas time? These blocks were done by Grace and Sally Mulnix.
The Community Center, used for card parties, rummage sales and family gatherings used to be the little one room schoolhouse with teacher Shirley Kelley perhaps ringing the bell for children to come.
We included a couple of humorous blocks. We had a big tree out back where the raccoons found their way into the church belfry, or so we thought. A few years ago the tree was cut down, but the raccoons fooled us and returned anyway. Wesley Smith got the mother in a live trap along with her babies and took them to his farm to be let go. Then, not to be forgotten, we have the janitors. We have decided the only way out is to move away.
For 16 years, our church had a family camping weekend to finish the season before two months of vacation. This block was designed and made by Joyce Choate. She was in charge of church camp several times. Since the campgrounds have been part of Wesley Smith’s farm, this has been special to us.
We have three blocks of signatures, 123 names with 39 more to be added, and one memorial block with 37 names. Thanks to Margaret Essex who had a big part in organizing, buying material and stitching this beautiful quilt that we hope with be cherished for many years to come.
The Quilt Story Continued
Dedicated on August 27, 2006
By the members of the AUUW, adapted
Eve Bardas came from New Mexico as a settled minister in September 1982. She was the last minister to live the parsonage. She was strongly concerned about incarcerated women in the Jackson jail and quite often called on us to donate clothing for them. Her favorite hymn was “Will The Circle Be Unbroken.” She stayed with us for two years then moved back to New Mexico.
Peace Camp is a Religious Education summer program for the children. Activities reinforced the values of the UU church in ways that were fun. The children played conflict resolution games and pretended to be animals to learn respect for the environment.
Larry Hutchinson was an interim minister who stayed for two years. He and his wife Nancy lived in Clayton, Michigan. He loved the land and the rural make-up of the church. He was poetic and Nancy was musical. One of his favorite hymns was “The Church by the Side of the Road.” Nancy loved to play the piano with Ron Rhees at the organ. She started an exercise class that many congregants enjoyed.
Church Buddies, formerly known as Secret Friends is an RE program that takes place in February. An adult is paired with a child and leaves messages and small gifts secretly in a bag in the church to that child throughout the month. The children have fun guessing who their friend is. Names/Pairs are revealed at a special breakfast the last Sunday.
Richard Venus was interim minister. He worked on a newspaper in Hillsdale and spoke a few times at church. When the congregation discovered he had been a minister, we convinced him to serve as an interim. He stayed an extra year and went to school for his fellowship while he and his wife Marcia lived in Adrian.
Two memorial blocks recognize members who passed away during these 25 years.
Michael LeDuc arrived as a settled minister with his wife Donna and stayed for three years. He was an outspoken supporter of civil liberties. Donna was very active in the RE program. When they had a baby girl, they decided they missed their home in Massachusetts and returned there.
The Jackson Peace Keepers was organized by members of this church. Originally formed to protest the imminent US invasion of Iraq, the Peace Keepers have broadened their mission and now work for peace and justice in our world and in our community through education and dialogue.
Jean Wahlstrom was an interim minister for one year. She subsequently served in Portland, Maine and then in Phoenix, Arizona. Her ministry emphasized worship, pastoral care, and membership.
The Rainbow Family Alliance was founded by our church during the ministry of Susan Smith to support gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons in our church and community. Like PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) it is an advocacy and social group.
Harold Beu was an interim minister for two years. A divorcee with a little girl, he met Julie Mack, a journalist for the Jackson Citizen Patriot, and they married their two families together and now live in Kalamazoo. His ministry featured personal narratives and stories from Native American to Zen experiences.
Susan Smith came to the church as a settled minister with her husband Robert. Robert worked at a major bookstore and played several musical instruments. Susan’s focus was congregational growth. She was the only minister who gave her sermons extemporaneously from the pulpit and they were good ones. Susan promoted civil rights. We experienced her sense of fun by blowing bubbles in church and doing the Hokey-Pokey to celebrate the change of seasons. The Smiths adopted two young girls who were sisters and a whole new life took shape for them. After five years with the church, they decided it would be best for the girls if they moved to Florida.
Jill Terwilliger was an interim minister who lived in Kalamazoo with her husband Charles, a professor at Western Michigan University. Jill commuted the miles for two years. Her mission was to cultivate a religious community which embraced and strengthened each member. She and Charles had a baby girl and when she left, she accepted a settled ministerial position in Portage, Michigan, close to home.
Cynthia Landrum was a settled minister with her husband Peter Morrison, also a minister. UU religious education for children, youth, and adults are her passion. Shortly after they arrived they had a daughter. Peter served churches in Lyons, Ohio and Mt. Pleasant, MI. After 14 years, they moved to Massachusetts.
The last block represents our path to the future. We hope good things are in store.