A spiritual community for all: advancing justice and embracing diversity with love and acceptance

First Church History


1895 Rev. Quillen Shinn first arrives in Houston.
April 30, 1899 Rev. Shinn stays for two weeks, leaving behind a membership list for Unity Universalist Church.
1907 Rev. Shinn dies.
1908-1911 Rev. Charles H. Rogers becomes the first settled minister.
February 14, 1914 Incorporates as First Unitarian Church of Houston
1914 Ladies Aid is renamed “Women’s Alliance”
1917 Unity House (located on Bagby/Rosalie) becomes congregation’s first home
1930 Unity House is sold
1931 Parcel on Southmore/Fannin purchased for $20,000; a member donates pre-fab building for social gatherings; services held at the Warwick Hotel
1934 Congregation builds one-room church building
1938 Rev. John C. Petrie becomes minister and first Regional Director of SW Conference
1939 Addition built for church school; newsletter begins
1940 Adult choir program begins; first member canvass
October 1948 Congregation hires architect Tom Graecen to develop plans for lot on Fannin.
1949 Rev. Petrie resigns his ministry.
January 1950 Rev. Horace F. Westwood is called by the congregation.
March 1952 New building is completed.
June 7, 1954 First Church votes to desegregate services (the first church in Houston to do so).
January 1960 First Church votes to approve merger of Unitarians and Universalists
October 1960 Emerson Unitarian Church opens as “spin off.”
1964 Second story addition built for church school
March 1967 Fire destroys electronic organ and part of sanctuary; pipe organ is purchased.
1969 Peace Committee forms in response to Vietnam War.
1970’s Several new groups formed: men, women, gay, youth, young adult, singles
1972 Rev. Westwood retires; jail visitation program begins.
January 1973 Rev. Webster Kitchell is called by the congregation.
1974 The church's first woman Board President, Jackie Cronquist, is elected.
1981 Rev. Kitchell is called by the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Santa Fe, New Mexico
1982 Rev. Robert Schaibly is called by the congregation.
1983 Church becomes sanctuary for Central American refugees.
1987 Houston Area Teen Coalition for Homosexuals (HATCH), an organization dedicated to empowering GLBTQ adolescents, founded at First Church.
1990 Congregation purchases grand piano; Channing Concert series develops.
1994 First Church becomes a Welcoming Congregation.
1998-2000 Rev. Gail Lindsay Marriner is called as Associate Minister; her role is redefined as Co-Minister
2000 Chalice Circles and Care Team initiated.
2002 Rev. Schaibly retires; Board appoints Rev. Marriner a Co-minister with Interim Minister Rev. Bruce Bode.
2004 Rev. Jose Ballester is called as Team Minister.
February 2008 By mutual agreement between the ministers and the Board of Trustees, Rev. Ballester and Rev. Marriner depart from First Church.
August 2008 Rev. Dr. David Keyes is called as Interim Senior Minister of First Church.
August 2010 Rev. Dr. Daniel O'Connell is called as Senior Minister of First Church.
January 2013 Northwest Community Unitarian Universalist Church merges with First Unitarian Universalist Church, becoming the Copperfield Campus of First UU Church.
July 2013 Thoreau Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fort Bend County merges with First Unitarian Universalist Church, becoming the Thoreau/Stafford Campus of First UU Church.
May 2014 We vote to renew our commitment to the Welcoming Congregation Program at our Annual Meeting.

Copyright © 2009 - 2017 First Unitarian Universalist Church, Houston
Updated: April 20, 2015