HUUC a Quarter Century Ago

by Mike Roberts, Church Historian

Reverend Elinor Artman, borrowing from Charles Dickens, described 1992 as “the best of years and the worst of years”. The worst of years was caused by the deaths of two very active members of the church. On March 24th, Muriel Steelman passed away at age 75. Muriel had joined the church in 1955 and served several terms as President of the Board of Trustees. She had also been a strong contributing member of the Clara Barton Guild for decades and had been a member of the group which started the church’s Religious Education (RE) program. Muriel was born and raised in England and married Donald Steelman. In her will, she left a sizeable endowment to the church.

Later in the year came the passing of Clara Hasemeier. Clara had joined the church about 1933 with her husband, Frank Andress. After his death, she married Alfred Hasemeier. Clara Hasemeier was also a very active member of the Service Committee and the Clara Barton Guild. The latter might have been expected as she was named at birth Clara Barton Graef. She joined the church when it was still located on Essex Place, moved with it to Salem Acres and was still a member when our current Heritage Church was opened. Clara was 100 years old when she passed away from complications of a broken hip.

Reverend Artman thought the best of the year was indicated by the increasing size of the congregation, as many new members were added to the church rolls. She reported that as of late summer 1992, twenty-three new members had been added to the Heritage family. Attendance at services in January was averaging 85 adults and by fall of 1992, 83 children were enrolled in the RE program and attendance was averaging between 55 and 60 each Sunday.

News of interest included:

Connie Booth, music director, was actively involved in raising money to buy 100 copies of the new UU hymnal, “Singing the Living Tradition.” Each book cost $25 and Connie commented that the hymnals would be a gift of music used for years of Sundays by hundreds of current and future Heritage churchgoers. How prophetic! The books were eventually purchased upon their publication in the spring of 1993.

A poetry Sunday was offered on November 11. Participants could write their own poem and have it read by someone else, read their own work, or read a poem by another writer. The activity was organized by Bill Lyon.

A survey was done to determine what direction the RE Program should take. This was prompted by the retirement of Sue Riggs, RE Director. The survey developed the following goals:

  1. Continue to provide an educational program which excites and inspires spiritual development.
  2. Involve adults in the church school program through volunteer opportunities, “Children’s Focus”, intergenerational services and the newsletter.
  3. Establish a new church school class for older youth.
  4. Establish a lending library for children’s literature dealing with religious questions.
  5. Provide opportunities for social action.

Garry Wilson wrote the following tribute to Sue Riggs: “A personal and special thanks goes out to Sue Riggs, our outgoing RE Director. As a teacher of several levels over the past 2 years, I can’t say enough about Sue’s outstanding effort. Materials, ideas, phone calls, etc. were always handled with a sharp eye for details. Speaking for our entire RE team, I want to say how easy and comfortable Sue made our duties. Sue, your future professors are about to encounter an organized, motivated student! Best of luck and let us know if we can help you!”

1992 also marked the purchase of new chairs for the sanctuary. A committee was formed to study the purchase of the chairs and Joann Gray reported back to the Board of Trustees and the congregation that three different models had been considered. The committee made a recommendation and that model was unanimously accepted by the congregation. The total cost of 140 new chairs was $7,364. This was partially offset by the sale of 57 of the old chairs which netted $3,420. In addition, the Clara Barton Guild contributed $3,000 to the project. Four of the older chairs were purchased by church members to memorialize past members and several others were retained as mementos of the past. [These are the blond wood “captain’s chairs” that can now be found around the octagonal table in the Great Hall. ~ Ed.]

Leadership of the church was vested in Sandy Gaither as board President during the first half of the year. The gavel was passed to Jean Crocker-Lakness for the second half of 1992. Those who served on the board were Andrea Benchley, Lynn Eddy, Pat Mastin, Carol Kiefer, Tom Adkins, Les Nomeland, Julie Kane, Loren Curtis and Rae Jane Araujo.

Image: Rev. Elinor Artman, Heritage’s interim minister in 1991-92 (and later Heritage’s called minister)

Image from the Unitarian Universalist Retired Ministers and Partners Association.