First Universalist Church, founded in 1852, operated, at least periodically, from a building at Fifth and Cook streets in Springfield from 1858 to about 1900.
Although the local Universalists often went without a regular pastor — instead hearing lessons from circuit preachers — the church did bear the distinction of having a woman, the Rev. Carrie Brainard of Girard, preach a revival in 1886. Peter Ellertsen reported a Springfield Journal reporter’s reaction in his 1993 history of the congregation, For Better Things.
“She is highly spoken of as a successful minister,” the Journal said. “The Universalist church has in it more lady ministers than any other denomination and they are sustaining themselves far beyond all expectations.”
When the Springfield Universalist church disbanded around the turn of the 20th century, some members joined the nearby Congregationalist church. In turn, when efforts began in the 1950s to create a local Unitarian congregation, Ellertsen reported, several Congregationalists participated in the effort. The Abraham Lincoln Unitarian Fellowship was chartered in February 1953. “Universalist” was added to the congregation’s title following the national merger of the two organizations in 1966.
After originally meeting in members’ homes and later a former residence on Elliott Avenue, the ALUUC purchased a building at 514 N. Walnut St. in 1976 and continued to hold meetings there in 2013.
The congregation also continued a tradition that began in the 1950s, alternating pastoral sermons every other week with forums conducted by laypeople. The forums are “considered an indication of the fact that Unitarians feel the need for an intellectual approach to all living phenomena,” according to the church’s Logbook (quoted by Ellertsen). “A good slogan for the forum would be, ‘Bring Your Mind to Church with You.'”
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