Emerson UU's Earliest History
We were founded on May 1, 1982 and at that first potluck meeting, we decided on our name. Everyone came prepared to share something from a famous Unitarian; Ralph Waldo Emerson got the most support so Emerson Unitarian Universalist we became. Twenty-five people signed the application for fellowship status, which was approved by the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). At first, our meetings were held every other Sunday in the community room of the DeKalb Federal Savings and Loan on Johnson Ferry Road. In those days, the children held their classes in stairwells and the kitchen!
By 1984 our space needs had become critical. We found "a little yellow church" on Holly Springs Road, which we purchased, along with 1.6 acres from the Methodists. Though we did not own the historical cemetery in front of our little yellow church, we thought of it as part of the charm of our site. We understand there had been a church on our site since Civil War times. Ours dates from the turn of last century -- the previous church had burned.
We had a lot of fixing up to do and folks pitched in to repair, polish and be sure we had heating AND air conditioning. It was ready to be dedicated on December 12, 1986. During those first years, our services were led by guest ministers and speakers from our congregation. From 1986-1995 we also had two part-time ministers, Joan Armstrong and Terre Balof.
The Extension and Expansion Period
By 1998, after being without professional ministry for three years, we were getting a little weary so we applied to the UUA for Extension Ministry status. Through that process, we got a small three year stipend so we could hire a full-time minister.
The Reverend Dr. Glenda Gray came to candidate with us; she planned and preached at a service, met our Board of Trustees, and met with the committees. We voted to ask her to become our Extension minister and she accepted. At the end of the three year Extension grant, the congregation called Glenda as our settled minister. We had steady growth over the years that Glenda was with us; growth in membership, growth in activities, growth in social action and justice, and spiritual growth. She usually facilitated classes on what she called Theological Thursdays, classes such as: Thoreau as Spiritual Guide, World Religions, UU Theology, Sermon Preparation, and Everyday Spiritual Practices.
Religious Education and Music Ministries
Another area of wonderful growth has been in our Religious Education (RE) department. Since Beth Kline was hired as our part-time Director of Religious Education, she has helped grow our RE program into one of which we are quite proud. Our first expansion project involved adding a mobile classroom to serve the overflowing demand for religious education.
In 2001 the opportunity arose to purchase the almost 4 acres of land south of us. The congregation voted to buy the land and launched a capital campaign drive to fund the purchase. The land has a house which was rented out for a while. Due to space needs in 2003, we stopped renting and moved RE into the house, naming it Quest House. The young folks loved it, and we quickly began to exceed the capacity!
Music continued to be a major draw for Emerson. In 2004, Emerson welcomed Dr. Kathy Mittelman as our Choir Director. With the large number of individuals in the choir, and with the music gifts of other Emerson members coordinated by Kathee Tomlin, music became a strong ministry at Emerson.
Emerson’s Second Called Minister
When Glenda Gray retired in 2008, Emerson welcomed Interim Minister Rev. Marni Harmony while the congregation searched for a new full-time minister. In 2009, Emerson held its first Heart in the Park, our public witness event for Marriage Equality. In May of 2010, the congregation warmly welcomed the Rev. Jeff Jones to as Emerson’s second full-time minister. As Emerson continued to grow, we initiated a Small Group Ministry program called Listening Circles in which groups of up to ten people participate in facilitated programs of spiritual growth. About half of Emerson is involved in our Listening Circles.
The Move to Canton Road
Emerson’s space needs continued to be our primary need. After many years of exploring various options, and with accessibility as a driving factor, in May 2014, the congregation moved into its new home on Canton Road. With significantly increased space, we now offer increased Adult Religious Exploration for our members and friends.
After focusing on our internal needs for so long, Emerson is now exploring ways to act on our values in the larger community.
We hope you will join this exciting and growing congregation.