History of UUEA
The First Universalist Church in East Aurora was founded in 1843. Its building on Main Street is now home to the Wesleyan Church. Elbert Hubbard was a supporter of the Universalists and worked with their minister, Rev. John Sayles, on village political reform and various intellectual endeavors. The group ceased activities in the late 1920’s.
In response to a need for a liberal church school, the Unitarian Fellowship of East Aurora was created in 1955. Later, the fellowship chose to affiliate with both the Unitarians and the Universalists. Members met in local homes and finally in the Conable’s barn on South Street.
In 1960, an 1828 house slated for demolition was donated to the Fellowship, which was moved to 46 Grey Street. The Unitarians and Universalists, having shared a philosophy of religious tolerance and religious questioning, joined to form the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1961. That same year, the East Aurora Fellowship was incorporated as the Unitarian Universalist Church of East Aurora, and remained at the Grey Street address for 42 years.
The building at 46 Grey Street was built about 1828 on the corner of Hamburg Street and Douglas Lane. When Douglas Lane was to be widened to accommodate the new shopping plaza, the developers Raymond and Melvin Hoffman, gave the house to the UU Church of East Aurora as its first permanent home. The Grey Street lot was purchased and the house was moved to the back of the property until a basement could be dug. The house was then dragged forward onto the foundation.
In January 1961, the building was dedicated at an afternoon service, which included the Reverend Paul Carnes from the downtown church, the Reverend John Kolbjornsen of Amherst, and the Superintendent of the NYS Convention of Universalists, the Reverend Howard Gillman. The present pulpit, a gift from the Buffalo and Amherst congregations, was used for the first time. Hand carved of walnut; it was originally in the First Universalist Church at Washington & Swan Streets in Buffalo. UUEA is the fifth congregation that it has served.
The “footprint” of the cellar was larger than was necessary for the house, so for the first few years there was a deck at the back. In 1965 an additional church schoolroom was built over the area. In 1972 the basement was again enlarged to accommodate a Tracker Organ which had been a gift of the Perry Universalist Church upon its closing. The organ was moved and restored by members and in 1975 it too was dedicated.
In the late 1980’s the adult congregation moved its services to the second floor while the basement was lovingly renovated by another group of church volunteers. In the 1990’s UUEA committed itself to larger space for worship and religious education and to handicapped accessibility. The age of the structure, coupled with the building code and the size of the lot, made renovation toward these goals impossible. In 2002, the congregation sold 46 Grey Street to the Vogels for an expansion of their West End Gallery and embarked upon a journey toward their second home.
Also in 2002, UUEA purchased the property at 94 Buffalo Road, and the house was renovated to provide meeting rooms, offices and classrooms. A fully accessible sanctuary was added to the existing house. Dedication of the new church building took place October 3, 2004. We are excited about achieving our goal of increased space for worship and religious education.
Rev. John M. Higgins Ph.D. was our Minister Intern for the 1993-1994 church year. Rev. Martha Munson served our congregation from the Fall of 1994 to 2005 as a part-time minister.