First Unitarian Society in Newton

About Us / History and Building / Social Change and Division

Working through Social Change and Division

The turbulent upheavals and social change that characterized the 1960s and 70s, were reflected both in the denomination and at FUSN.

"Immediately after the racial violence in Newark and Detroit in the summer of 1967, the Unitarian Universalist Commission on Religion and Race convened an emergency conference on "the Unitarian Universalist Response to the Black Rebellion." This conference was held in New York in October, 1967. The chief event of the 1967 conference was the formation of the Black Unitarian Universalist Caucus (BUUC), which was an attempt on the part of the black participants in the conference to set their own priorities and goals. This Caucus led to the formation of the Black Affairs Council (BAC), a committee that served as a coordinating agency for Unitarian Universalist efforts in the fields of race relations and black empowerment." Unitarian Universalist Association, Black Empowerment Controversy. Records, 1968-1979

The UU Black Affairs Council sought to foster economic development in black communities, asking UU congregations to invest 50% of their investment portfolios in bonds to fund such work. The society's minister, the Rev. Clyde Dodder, took the lead in a proposal to committing a portion of FUSN's endowment funds to BAC bonds. At a time of shrinking membership and declining finances, members took a series of votes in meetings held over a period of three years. Deliberations reflected a tension between a commitment to racial equality and concerns about use of the legacy given by the society's forebears. In an era of rapid change, the role of the church was considered and questioned as members wrestled with this issue. Some long-time members left the church when it was initially voted to invest 50 percent of the unrestricted endowment in BAC bonds, although a subsequent vote reduced the investment from 50 percent to 25 percent.

As the turbulent decade drew to a close, further divisions occurred as a result of the Vietnam War controversy and the turmoil of the period. It took many years for the church to rebound. Its membership, its pledge income, and its endowment had all decreased considerably.

Continued: Renewed Health and Vigor


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