The Lighthouse-inspired U.U.F.R.
Commentator Thea Marshall has explored the oldest church on the Northern Neck. In this Neck Tale, Thea talks about one of the Neck’s newest, the lighthouse-inspired home of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Rappahannock. It’s the only home for UU’s in all of the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula.
A while back, I wrote about one of the oldest churches on the Northern Neck, the one with the unique architectural feature, a wicket door. Today’s tale is about the newest church on the Northern Neck. It’s in White Stone on a road called James Wharf. Its architecture was inspired by a screwpile lighthouse. And sitting atop its red roof is not a golden dome but a lantern room, built by Shirley and Tom Kinney, two of the founding members of UUFR, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Rappahannock. The structure it sits atop is the only home for Unitarian Universalists in all of the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula. The land it’s on was bought by a handful of founding fathers and donated to the Fellowship. Why a lighthouse-inspired home for the Unitarians? Well, Robert Weekly, President of the Fellowship, says it fits in with the enlightenment ideas of Unitarian Universalist principles, which include a “free and responsible search for truth and meaning”. The building was dedicated a little over a year ago; the lanternhouse, hoisted to the roof just a few months ago. A butterfly garden, a memorial grove and a labyrinth are taking shape.
There’s nothing new about Unitarian Universalists. They were among our countries founders: John and Abigail Adams, Ethan Allen, Benjamin Franklin. And Thomas Jefferson said that, if there was a Unitarian church near Monticello, well, he would have attended it.
The story of Unitarian Universalists goes back to 16th century Transylvania, where Unitarian congregations were established for the first time in history. Members across the centuries have included just plain folks to the world’s most admired people, from writers and scientists to presidents and educators. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright was a member of a UU congregation in Madison, Wisconsin, and designed their meetinghouse. I wonder what he would think of the octagon-shaped lighthouse-inspired building on James Wharf Road.
UUFR founding families began meeting about 10 years ago on back porches and rented spaces and now in a home of its own it continues the community involvement that began in its earliest back-porch days. As regular contributors and supporters of groups that include the Haven, the Free Health Clinic and Interface, the UUFR recently launched a free and unique English as a Second Language program for the immigrant community of the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula. Part of this mission is to inspire spiritual and intellectual growth, which is reinforced by the informed and provocative sermons and programs led by its lay members and visiting ministers. A recent program explored the many aspects of love. Perhaps inspired by one of the Unitarian Universalist’s long-ago members, Ralph Waldo Emerson, who wrote “Give all to love. ‘Tis a brave master. Let it have scope. Follow it utterly. Hope beyond hope.”
This is Thea Marshall.