Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent Ohio

Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent, Ohio is a Unitarian Universalist ("UU") church in Kent, Ohio. Founded in 1866,[1] the current building was completed by builder Joseph Gridley (1820-1902) in 1868 on land donated by philanthropist Marvin Kent and rests on a bedrock of sandstone.[3] Its 19 founding members were among the major movers and shakers of the then Village of Franklin Mills, and included abolitionists and Civil War veterans. They were: Dr. Aaron M. Sherman, M.D., who served as a Civil War surgeon (“contract surgeon” for the 46th Ohio Volunteer Infantry and who was stationed at “Lincoln General Hospital” in Washington, D.C.), a prominent civic promoter, served many terms on the local school board, co-founded the Rockton Masonic Lodge that occupies the historic 1883 summer home of Marvin Kent on West Main Street, served as a State Representative in the Ohio State House of Representatives and whose 1858 home first built by Zenas Kent (father of Marvin) for his daughter Frances and her husband George Wells was recently saved, moved and restored by local historic preservation activists, Arvin Olin, Ransom Olin, Nelson Olin, Joseph Stratton, who, in 1882, donated the large bell that is in the church belfry, Phillip Boosinger, Mary Boosinger, Rhoda Boosinger, James D. Haymaker (son of Frederick Haymaker, member of a family who had strong abolitionist leanings and a business partner of abolitionist John Brown, who resided in Kent for a time) and Mary Rosetta Olin Haymaker, J.G. Whitcomb, T.H. Marshall, Eliza Wright, A. Merrell, Almund Russell (a member of a prominent Franklin Mills abolitionist family), Sybil Bradley, Effie Parsons, Mary J. Parsons and Mary A. Furry. These 19 men and women gathered on May 27, 1866 to write and sign the church’s constitution in the historic 1836 Village Hall that would serve as an early place of worship before the church building was completed next door in 1868. It is the only church still using its original 19th century building in the city of Kent and in 1976 the site was designed as a "significant restored building site".[4] In the early and middle twentieth century when there were few women clergy anywhere in the United States, the church is notable for having several women ministers: Abbie Danforth in 1889, Carlotta Crosley in 1903, and Violet Kochendoerfer in 1972.[4] Membership is between 140 and 200 full-time adults as well as 100 children in its religious education programs.[1] The church runs a summer camp called Kent Hogwarts which is a Harry Potter-themed camp for young kids,[5][6][7] which emphasizes chemistry, poetry, singing and community service.[5] The church advocates social justice, environmental awareness, democracy and acceptance of diverse peoples including all religions.[8] The Kent church follows the seven basic principles of Unitarian Universalism.[8]

Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent, Ohio
41°09′22″N 81°21′36″W / 41.156°N 81.360°W / 41.156; -81.360Coordinates: 41°09′22″N 81°21′36″W / 41.156°N 81.360°W / 41.156; -81.360
Location228 Gougler Ave., Kent, Ohio
CountryUnited States
DenominationUnitarian Universalism
Membership140-200 adults[1]
100 children[1]
WebsiteUnitarian Universalist Church of Kent
Former name(s)First Universalist Church of Kent
Founded1866 (1866)[1]
Functional statusActive
Minister(s)Rev. Steven A. Protzman [2]

The church hosts funeral and memorial services,[9] concerts including classical and jazz music,[10][11] public meetings on local issues,[12] speeches advocating democracy,[13] and other community events. It holds an annual book sale.[14] In 2016, Rev. Melissa Carvill-Ziemer led the church on a course of structural expansion, seeking variances to expand its physical size.[15] As part of a renovation project, the ceiling of the sanctuary will be removed to expose the vaulted beams from the earlier roof as well as a stained glass window.[1]

Reverend Carvill-Ziemer was appointed chief minister in 2005.[8][15] In 2010, the church ordained Rev. Renee Ruchotzke and appointed her as its Affiliated Community Minister.[16]

Unitarian Universalists are accepting of all who come to worship ... There's room here for theological diversity ... There's room here for people who don't really know what they believe and what is hold for them and want to explore that.

— Pastor Melissa Carvill-Ziemer in 2007[8]

Church leaders have advocated against racism,[17][18] and marched with other interfaith leaders for racial justice.[19] According to a demographic analysis by Google, the city of Kent is the "most racist" in northeastern Ohio.[17] Carvill-Ziemer advocated against white privilege.[20] In 2010, Ziemer and fellow Unitarian Universalists from Kent traveled to Arizona to protest the state's immigration legislation; she was arrested in Phoenix for allegedly blocking traffic in front of a sheriff's office.[20][21] A judge later found her not guilty and she was released.[22]

The church has a long history of social action. In 1900, minister Abbie Danforth created and led the Portage County suffrage association and chaired a two-day conference on women's suffrage.[23][24][25] Danforth had studied at Canton Theological School and had been ordained in 1878,[26] just 15 years after suffragist Olympia Brown, who was the first woman ever to be ordained in the United States.[27][28] In the late 1960s, the church served as a site for a local food co-op that later became the Kent Natural Foods Co-op.[29][30]

In the 1960s and 1970s, the church was active in the anti-war movement.[4][31][32][33] After the May 4, 1970 shootings on the Kent State University campus, the church:

  • refused to pay its telephone tax.
  • defied Mayor Leroy Satrom and County Prosecutor Ron Kane's order forbidding more than five people to meet by holding a memorial service for the slain students.
  • passed resolutions censuring President Nixon, demanding civil liberties from the mayor and county prosecutor, and demanding the immediate withdrawal of troops from Southeast Asia.[30]


Years Name Notes
1866-1876 Andrew Willson [31]
1876-1879 J.S. Gladhill [31]
1879-1884 Edward Morris [31]
1884-1889 R.B. Marsh [31]
1889-1891 Abbie Danforth [31]
1891-1895 O.G. Colgrove [31]
1895-1897 H.K. Regal [31]
1897-1898 A.I. Spanton [31]
1898-1900 Abbie Danforth [31]
1900-1901 F.M. Hayes [31]
1902-1903 Carl Henry [31]
1903-1908 Carlotta Crosley [31]
1908-1916 Ira A. Priest [31]
1916-1918 Martin Fereshtian [31]
1918-1920 John M. Grimes [31]
1920-1922 Edward Lewis [31]
1922-1925 Harry Wright [31]
1925-1928 F. Osten-Sacken [31]
1928-1929 James Houghton [31]
1929-1933 Carl H. Olson [31]
1933-1934 Ralph Boyd [31]
1935-1936 Edward Day [31]
1937-1942 Charles A. Hallenbeck [31]
1943-1962 John Flint [31]
1962-1965 Bjarne Kjelshus [31]
1965-1968 Peter T. Richardson [31]
1970-? William Schulz [31]
1972-1978 Violet Kochendoerfer [31]
1992-2004 Julie-Ann Silberman-Bunn
2004-2005 Sonya Montana
2005–2016 Melissa Carvill-Ziemer [8]
2017 Anya Drew Johnston
2018–present Steven A. Protzman
2010–present Renee Ruchotzke, Affiliated Community Minister [16]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Matthew Merchant (May 26, 2016). "Kent's Unitarian Universalist Church celebrates 150 years: Church will host speakers, concerts through april to observe anniversary". Record-Courier. Retrieved August 25, 2016. ... On May 27, 1866, just after the end of the Civil War, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent was founded in the town of Franklin Mills. ... The current building ... sanctuary's false ceiling will be removed ...
  2. ^ "Minister & Staff". Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent.
  3. ^ Robert R. Fildes, March 1994, (historical archives at Kent State University), The History Of The Congregation And The Church Building, Retrieved September 12, 2016, "... donated by Marvin Kent. ... sandstone ..."
  4. ^ a b c S. R. Thulin (August 16, 1979). "UNITARIAN-UNIVERSALIST CHURCH (KENT, OH) RECORDS, 1880-1977". University Libraries. Retrieved September 26, 2016. . ... structure is the oldest existing church in the city of Kent ... Three women ministers ... Reverend Abbie Danforth ... appointed in 1889, Reverend Carlotte Crosley (1903 - 1908), and Reverend Violet Kochendoerfer (1972 - 1978) . ... members were very active in local, state and national affairs ... particularly prominent in the Peace Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. ...
  5. ^ a b Diane Smith (April 10, 2003). "Sponsors sought for Kent helmet program". Record-Courier. Retrieved August 25, 2016. ... The Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent and Kent Social Services ... third year. ... children learn the magic of chemistry, poetry, song and community service. ... .
  6. ^ NICOLE SWEENEY ETTER (May 20, 2013). "'The only place I can really be me': Summer camps help kids build their Unitarian Universalist identity". UU World. Retrieved August 25, 2016. ... Helena Esparza gets an archery lesson from "Merlin" at KentHogwarts, a Harry Potter-themed summer camp run by the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent, Ohio. ...
  7. ^ JOHANNNA JAINCHILL (December 16, 2005). "Harry Potter Events: Fancy a Little Quidditch?". New York Times. Retrieved August 25, 2016. ... KENT, OHIO -- Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent, 228 Gougler Avenue, 330-673-4247; www.kentuu.org. -- What: Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, ...
  8. ^ a b c d e Christopher Hook (July 18, 2007). "Congregation embraces lesbian minister". Kent Wired. Retrieved August 25, 2016. ... Melissa Carvill-Ziemer ... seven guiding principles ... she is a lesbian. ... church community has been very supportive. .. physical infrastructure of the church as well as a different approach to Sunday services. ...
  9. ^ Regina Brett (February 15, 2012). "Kent 'folk hero' was more than he appeared". Cleveland News. Retrieved August 25, 2016. ... Like many, John was stunned by the crowd at Robert's memorial. Nearly 200 packed the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent on Saturday morning. ...
  10. ^ Classical Musical Staff (April 5, 2016). "The Cleveland Orchestra Goes Multimedia and 8 Other Classical Music Events Not to Miss This week". Cleveland Scene. Retrieved August 25, 2016. ... Ayreheart ... Kent Unitarian Universalist Church (228 Gougler Ave. in Kent). ...
  11. ^ Greg Burnett (February 5, 2015). "Jazz is front and center around Greater Cleveland including: Forecast and a jazz brunch at Vosh in Lakewood". The Plain Dealer. Retrieved August 25, 2016. ... Cuyahoga River Concert series. Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent, 228 Gougler Ave., Kent; ...
  12. ^ BOB DOWNING (May 14, 2015). "Ohio Utica Shale: Portage County group kicks off community rights charter plan". Akron Beacon Journal. Retrieved August 25, 2016. ... It will hold four public meetings to discuss the proposal: ... May 29, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Kent's Unitarian Universalist Church, 228 Gougler Ave. ...
  13. ^ "David Cobb to speak on Creating Democracy". Record-Courier. April 5, 2010. Retrieved August 25, 2016. ... David Cobb, spokesperson for Move to Amend, will speak on "Creating Democracy and Challenging Corporate Rule at 7 p.m. April 5 at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Kent. ...
  14. ^ Colette M. Jenkins (April 27, 2012). "RELIGION NOTES: National Day of Prayer to be observed Thursday". Beacon Journal. Retrieved August 25, 2016. ... Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent — ... Annual book sale. ...
  15. ^ a b "DS Architecture / Universalist Unitarian Church -- 228 Gougler Avenue" (PDF). Board of Zoning Appeals, Kent, Ohio. April 18, 2016. Retrieved August 25, 2016. ... Melissa Carvill Ziemer, ... stated she served as the minister of the Universalist Unitarian Church. She said she has been serving for about eleven years and about eight or nine years ago, they realized they needed to expand in order to accommodate the growing congregation. ...
  16. ^ a b "Community church news announced". Indiana Gazette. January 23, 2016. Retrieved August 25, 2016. ... Ruchotzke was ordained in 2010 ... Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent ... affiliated community minister ...
  17. ^ a b BRADFORD HANSON (August 5, 2015). "Ohio: Christianity Unites Blacks and Whites to "Fight Racism"". National Vanguard. Retrieved August 25, 2016. ... local clergy ... tear down the walls of racial divide ... Google research data identified as the most racist in Northeast Ohio ... representatives from ... Unitarian Universalist, ...
  18. ^ Colette M. Jenkins, Beacon Journal, July 31, 2015, Clergy marching in Kent to denounce racism, demonstrate solidarity, Retrieved September 13, 2016, "... the alliance includes representatives from ... Unitarian Universalist, ..."
  19. ^ Tom Feran (July 31, 2015). "Diverse faith groups in Kent march against racism Sunday". Cleveland News via The Plain Dealer. Retrieved August 25, 2016. ... At least four predominantly white Christian congregations ... interfaith march against racism ... Kent churches formally committed ... the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent ...
  20. ^ a b Word Alchemy (August 4, 2010). "Arrest Arpaio, not the clergy!". Daily Kos. Retrieved August 25, 2016. ... Rev. Melissa Carvill-Ziemer of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent ... surprised me were her reports of white privilege. ...
  21. ^ JEFF ST. CLAIR (August 5, 2010). "Ohio pastor arrested in Arizona protest: Melissa Carvill-Ziemer says immigration policy unjust". WKSU News. Retrieved August 25, 2016. ... Arizona's new immigration law ... pastors representing Unitarian Universalists in Ohio joined a protest ... were arrested ... Melissa Carvill-Ziemer is pastor of the Kent Unitarian Universalist church. ...
  22. ^ DONALD E. SKINNER (January 31, 2011). "Cases dismissed for many Phoenix protesters: Court dismisses cases against 17 UUs, finds three others not guilty for SB 1070 protests". UU World. Retrieved August 25, 2016. ... Those who have been found not guilty by a judge are ... Rev. Melissa Carvill-Ziemer of the UU Church of Kent, Ohio; . ...
  23. ^ Roger J. Di Paolo (July 31, 2016). "PORTAGE PATHWAYS: Susan B. Anthony got cold shoulder from Portage press". Record-Courier. Retrieved September 12, 2016. ... Voting rights advocates formed a Portage County suffrage association ... 1900 ... leaders ... Rev. Abbie Danforth, pastor of First Universalist Church of Kent, one of the first women to serve in that role.
  24. ^ Guenvuer Harper Burnell (March 25, 2008). "Digging into History". Kent Kapers II. Retrieved September 12, 2016. ... signature quilt sewn in 1890 by the women of the Unitarian Universalist Church ... women's suffrage rally held in November of 1890, for which the Kent Opera House was rented. ... chaired by Abby Danforth who was the minister of the UU church at the time. ...
  25. ^ Abbie Danforth, Washington State Library, August 8, 1910, Letters from Abbie Danforth, Retrieved September 12, 2016, WSL Manuscripts; MS 171, Box 2, ... womens suffrage; clubs and organizations
  26. ^ Catherine F. Hitchings (1985). Universalist and Unitarian Women Ministers (2d ed.). Unitarian Universalist Historical Society.
  27. ^ Note: Brown, like Danforth, was a Universalist.
  28. ^ "Some famous Universalists include Clara Barton, Olympia Brown, ... Universalism, UUA.org, August 1, 2007. . Retrieved August 27, 2007. Archived February 4, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ "Kent Natural Foods Co-op History". Kent Natural Foods. Retrieved September 12, 2016.
  30. ^ a b "History of the UU Church in Kent". UU Church in Kent. Retrieved September 12, 2016.
  31. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac "UNITARIAN-UNIVERSALIST CHURCH OF KENT, OHIO RECORDS". Kent Library. July 18, 2007. Retrieved September 12, 2016. ... Kent Unitarian-Universalist Church and its members were very active in local, state and national affairs, and were particularly prominent in the Peace Movement of the 1960s and 1970s.
  32. ^ University of Massachusetts (archives), Thomas M. Grace Erie Community College, 2016, Kent State: Death and Dissent in the Long Sixties, Retrieved September 13, 2016, (see page three:) ". ... The exception to the urban, blue-collar cohort was Joan Flint, the daughter of a Unitarian Universalist minister in Kent. ... "
  33. ^ University of San Diego, Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice, William F. Schulz, Ph.D., Retrieved September 13, 2016, (see page 12: Interview with William F. Schulz, Ph.D.) "... most influential event in my growing up ... student at Oberlin ... I happened to be a student minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Kent, Ohio, at the time of the Kent State shootings ..."

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