Notes on Two Hundred Years (and More)

The Barn

by Douglas H. Parkhurst 

It was just twenty years ago this month, in March 2002, that the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Danbury (UUCD), then known as the Unitarian Universalist Society of Northern Fairfield County (UUSNFC and also called the Barn by members), took the action that confirmed its anticipated move from West Redding back to Danbury. The First Universalist Society/Church was organized in Danbury in 1822 and had three permanent homes on and near Main Street from 1833 to 1966. The Unitarian Fellowship of Ridgefield was formed in 1964 and for two years rented space in the downtown there. The two groups merged in 1966 as the UUSNFC and met in other rental space in Danbury before the purchase of the Barn property in West Redding in 1970. 

By the late 1990s interest was growing among members of the UUSNFC to relocate to a larger and more visible location in Danbury. A Comprehensive Planning Committee (CPC) was formed to explore this possibility. The CPC met regularly to weigh the pros and cons of this change, what steps would be needed to accomplish it, and to determine how to proceed. The Rev. Dr. Daniel O’Connell, Society minister at the time, gave his full support and encouragement to a plan to move. 

In early 2002, the process of relocating was in full motion. This is an excerpt from the minutes of a Board of Trustees meeting held on February 20th: 

“Bruce Berg [a CPC member] was invited to give his presentation on the CPC’s proposed meetings with the congregation….and if this proposal passes on March 9, the architect must be chosen very shortly. There will be immediate need for many committees to give feedback on their space needs in the new building. There would be discussion about what feelings from the Barn do we want to take with us. There must be [consideration of] meeting immediate needs as well as future expansion. The Board members asked for clarification on many issues.” 

The proposed informational meetings and group discussions were conducted soon after. Questions were asked and answered and opinions shared. On March 9, 2002, a congregational meeting was held to address the issues and come to a final decision. Here is an excerpt from the minutes of that meeting. 

“The congregation…was meeting to make a decision about the selling of the Barn and buying of property on Clapboard Ridge Road….Ross [Fenster, President of the Board of Trustees] pointed out that a 2/3s vote was required to pass this resolution….Don Schober, chairperson of the CPC, made the motion to sell/buy. Marilou Parkhurst seconded it. There was some discussion and clarification of issues, most of which had been covered in the informational meetings….Henry Lewis called for the question and Betty Lewis seconded. 

The voting took place and motion was carried to support the resolution by the following numbers: 85 total votes, 79 yes,  4 abstaining,  2 no,  20 absentee ballots. 

The meeting was adjourned…with a champagne and chocolate toast.”

One year later at a congregational meeting on March 16, 2003, with the physical move to Danbury only months away, the members of the UUSNFC voted to change the name of the Society. This process began during summer 2002 and continued into the autumn. Informational meetings were held and comments and suggestions were solicited. More than fifty people provided input. In the end, five choices were presented by the Name Change Consideration Committee chaired by Wayne Raulerson. 

They were, in alphabetical order: 
1. Unitarian Universalist Church of Danbury 
2. Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Danbury 
3. Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Danbury 
4. Unitarian Universalist Society of Danbury 
5. Unitarian Universalist Society of Northern Fairfield County (no change) 

This writer remembers the meeting well. The attendance at the Barn was almost a full house. Opinions were offered and reasons given. The final selection came down to a choice between numbers 2 and 4 above. The name Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Danbury was adopted and remains so today.