2. Congregation Histories : Minnesota
The First Universalist Church of Minneapolis
Universalism in Minneapolis traces its history back to 1850, eight years before Minnesota became a state. A church building had already been completed in 1855 (and still stands) on the highest point of land overlooking Nicollet Island when Minneapolis laid out its first streets.
W. D. Washburn was a chief founder of the church when it was formally incorporated in 1859, and a faithful member for fifty years. From the Washburn family and the Crosby family also early members of the church) came the present day Pillsbury and General Mills companies.
Dorilus Morrison was Chairman of the Board of Trustees and was elected as the first mayor of Minneapolis when it was incorporated as a city in 1867. George Chowen, a member of the Board, was Hennepin County’s first Registrar of Deeds.
Dr. Carl Olson, minister of the church from 1939 until 1965, chaired the city’s first Urban Redevelopment Commission. He also led the congregation in building its present building, which was completed in 1949.
The tradition of leadership and public service remain an important priority for the church today. Unity Settlement Association continues to initiate and support novel projects of civic improvement and social change. A weekday nursery school, church school, social concerns, adult classes and forums, and a host of social activities make the church an active center of religious concerns for the congregation’s 685 adult members and 200 children.
In over 125 years there have been just five ministers of the First Universalist Church including the present minister, Dr. John Cummins. Dr. Cummins, the son of a Unitarian Universalist minister, has received degrees from Bowdoin College, Harvard and the University of Chicago. Continuing the Church’s tradition of long pastorates and liberal leadership, Dr. Cummins has been twice President of the United Nations Association of Minnesota. As a lifelong pacifist, John Cummins was active in the anti-war movement and draft counseling. Prior to that, he participated with Martin Luther King at the racial watershed of Selma and Montgomery, Alabama. He is currently Ministerial Settlement Representative for some fifty Unitarian Universalist congregations in the upper Midwest.