A Brief History

Universalist National Memorial Church is one of a kind in the nation’s capital. It is a parish drawn diversely from the metropolitan Washington area, yet was built to serve as the national representative of the Universalist Church of America, which merged in 1961 with the American Unitarian Association to form the Unitarian Univeralist Association of Congregations. UNMC is now a proud member congregation of the UUA, an association of more than one thousand congregations across the continent, bound together not by a common theology, but by a common covenant to seek truth in freedom. Each congregation within the UUA is self-governing and self-financing.  The Board of Trustees adopted a resolution on strengthening the church’s affiliation with the UUA in April 2003.

Our particular community is both liberal Christian and Universalist; that is, liberal in that there is no creedal test to become a member of this church, Universalist in that we affirm that no soul is forever lost from the all-conquering love of God, Christian in that the focus of our religious journey is the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. The mission statement adopted by the congregation of this church states that we seek to create a loving community for worship and service in the spirit of Jesus Christ, to welcome all and respect individual beliefs as we grow together.

The Universalists were so named because they made universal salvation the cornerstone of their Christian faith, a religiously democratizing proposition, traceable to the 3rd century theologian, Origen, and the apostolic age. Strongly rooted in New England and in the society produced by the American Revolution, later Universalists were prominent social reformers and leaders in education, publishing, and business. In Washington DC, the Universalists were a presence before the Civil War, before relocating to the present site in 1929.

The building, designed by Francis H. Allen and Charles Collens of Boston, who were the architects for the Riverside Church in New York City and the Rockefeller Chapel at the University of Chicago, has its roots in Romanesque architecture derived from English, French, and Italian traditions. The acoustics are considered excellent, and the stained glass windows unique.