I have a deep sense of gratitude and reverence to be part of the liberal religious tradition. The Newport Unitarian Church was founded in 1835. The current building stands as a memorial to William Ellery Channing, born in Newport and the first person to articulate Unitarian theology in America. The cornerstone bearing the words “Faith, Hope, Charity” was laid in 1880, the centennial of Channing’s birth.
The community took the leap of faith in building a Memorial and the funds were secured by international subscription. The donations came from congregations all over the United States as well as England, Ireland, and other European countries as far as Channing’s inspirational message had reached.
Many dignitaries gathered for the Centennial Celebration in Newport including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Bronson Alcott, and Julia Ward Howe. The newspaper reports of the time state that the building of the church was a cause for celebration not only for Unitarians, but for all people. Governor Van Zandt recognized even back then that these “doors will open for worshippers of all beliefs and every land.”
During the Rededication Ceremony for the steeple and bells, when members of our Association and local community came to celebrate with us, I said:
“Through our living, may we too be held by such faith, One and Universal, seeking liberation from all that divides us from ourselves, other people, and all living beings. We are stewards of this place not only for ourselves but for the generations to come so that Channing Memorial Church will continue to be a beacon of liberal religion; a place where people of a diversity of backgrounds and beliefs gather to create community, to reflect upon life, and to actively engage with the issues of the times.”
Over the course of my ten years serving Channing Memorial Church in Newport, RI the buildings underwent significant historic restoration and improvements.
- Repaired Stained Glass Windows
- Accessibility Improvements
- Refinished Pine Sanctuary Floors
- Steeple taken down and rebuilt stone by stone
- Rare chime bells re-tuned and set expanded