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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

UNITARIAN SOCIETY OF CLEVELAND

UNITARIAN SOCIETY OF CLEVELAND

The UNITARIAN SOCIETY OF CLEVELAND was formed as a result of the decision by a majority of the members of the First Unitarian Church of Cleveland to move to SHAKER HTS. in 1951. The remaining 317 members voted to stay at E. 82nd St. and Euclid in the inner city. The new group was chartered within 2 months and bought the building from First Church. The first minister of the new society was Rev. Jesse Cavileer, who, because of his interest in the inner city, attempted a liberal ministry of outreach in the declining neighborhood. After 5 years, Rev. Cavileer resigned to become, for a time, minister of the Unitarian Church of Glasgow, Scotland, and Rev. Emerson Schwenk came as minister, serving until 1962. He was succeeded by Rev. Dennis Kuby, and Kuby by Farley Wheelwright in 1967.

At the height of racial tension in the late 1960s, black Unitarians across the nation formed the Black Unitarian-Universalist Caucus, and in 1969, after long and heated discussion, the Unitarian Society of Cleveland voted to give the building at E. 82nd and Euclid to the local BUUC. There was some criticism of this action on the grounds that integration was reverting to separatism. The society remained at E. 82nd St., sharing the facilities with the BUUC for over a year. In 1971 the society purchased a vacant synagogue on Lancashire Rd. in CLEVELAND HTS. For several years after Wheelwright left in 1971, the society was the "church without a minister." With the calling of Rev. Chris Bailey (1982-88), the Unitarian Society of Cleveland once again had a regular, full-time minister. In 1995 Rev. Peggy Clason served as minister.