UUCP History

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Early History in Rutherford, NJ

The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Palisades has its roots in the Unitarian Society of Rutherford, which was founded in 1891 by four forward-thinking individuals, including the father of renowned poet William Carlos Williams.

Early meetings of the Society were held in the upstairs room of the Rutherford Fire House and were so well attended that plans for construction of a building were soon underway. Known at the time as Church of Our Fathers, in 1894, the building was dedicated and used continuously by the congregation until it was sold by the Society in 1977.

During this period, the Society was truly a cultural force in Rutherford, hosting many plays and concerts in addition to religious gatherings. As Rutherford evolved from a genteel Victorian town to a working-class community, the Society went through changes as well. At its high point, membership was so large that groups split off to form other Unitarian societies. At its low point, special canvasses were held to pay the heating bills.

From 1905 to 1927, Elizabeth Padgham, served as minister of the Society. At a time when there were few if any women ministers in this area, she also served as President of the New Jersey Clergy Association.

In the 1960’s the Society served as a center of activity for the civil rights movement in the area. By the 1970’s, membership had decreased to the point where the building was sold. It was decided that the money from the sale of the building would be used to start a racially diverse congregation in the Englewood-Teaneck area of New Jersey. In September 1988, the Reverend Lee Reid was appointed by the Extension Department of the Unitarian Universalist Association to organize a new congregation.


UUCP Begins in Englewood, NJ

The first service of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Palisades was held on March 19, 1989 at Flat Rock Brook Nature Center, in Englewood, NJ. The transition from the Rutherford UU society to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Palisades had some challenges, but by 1993 the new congregation was independent and began to flourish.

In March 1995, the congregation called Lee Reid as its first Minister. A year later in November of 1996, Rev. Reid was hit by a car on her way to a Board of Trustees meeting and died several days later. Her loss was profound and deep.

In the following years, the Congregation has worked with part-time ministers to meet the spiritual, social and fellowship needs of its members.


Moving Forward

In partnership with our current minister, the Rev. Paul Dodenhoff and members and friends of the congregation, we are re-visioning our Racial and Social Justice program, re-evaluating our mission, and looking at new ways to reach out to make a difference in our local community.