History of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Petoskey Michigan (UUCOP)
In 1993, an ad was placed in the Petoskey News Review asking if there were others in the surrounding community who were interested in starting a UU church. Several persons answered the ad in the affirmative. Some were new to the area and others were members of the Church of the Larger Fellowship of the UUA, an organization for UUs who have no physical church home available in their area.
The first UUCOP meeting was attended by about 20 people. Thus began our present congregation. A core group of 10 of those present began to meet in homes to worship and organize. Their focus was on developing a place where individuals and families could explore common questions of humanity without fear and guilt, where there is racial, cultural, and sexual diversity, and where people with diverse sexual orientations were welcomed.
In 1994 UUCOP elected its first president and “steering committee”. The UU District organization paid to send two of our members to the UU Association headquarters in Boston for training in the development of a new fellowship. They also paid for a survey of our area to determine the feasibility of establishing a UU congregation here. The Traverse City UU congregation as well as the district gave us much advice and support.
Through the advice of the UU District Office, in 1995/6 we were able to hire our first part-time minister which we shared with the Ludington group for a period of one year. In October 1996 we held our Charter Membership Service with 20 persons signing as members. Later, we hired ministerial interns from the UU theological seminary at Meadville, Illinois. They came two Sundays a month. During their time with us, we wrote our vision/mission statement. From 1997-1999 we hired retired pastor, Rev. Jack Middaugh to help us with our services.
Since that time we have not had a regular minister, but have managed to hold our own worship services by hiring visiting ministers and speakers and developing our own services. We have several traditional services that appear on our schedule each year. We hold a water service, Justice Sunday, a membership service, Dia De Los Muertos, Solstice service, and a flower service to name a few. Of course, our UUCOP potlucks and summer picnics are enjoyed by all.
We have been wanderers looking for a home. In 1994 we moved from members’ homes to the Jewish Temple in Petoskey. We enjoyed our stay there but found that it was impossible to settle on a regular Sunday schedule. Consequently, we moved to the Concord Academy. There we were able to have a room for worship as well as a room for Sunday school and child care during services. Then, in 2000, the school was put up for sale and we moved to the Petoskey Club. While at the Petoskey Club we furnished Sunday dinner once a month for the clients. Eventually, the Petoskey Club board members objected to the use of their facility by a church and we were forced to move again. UUCOP members were kind enough to offer us their homes on an interim basis, and we were very grateful to them. Around this time, we purchased a beautiful piece of property on Wildwood Road and made several improvements, with hopes of establishing our church home there. Starting in 2002 we met in the lower level of the Petoskey Public Library. Since then, we’ve met in the Terrace Inn of Bay View and at the Oden Community Hall and now we are currently holding our services at the Red Sky Stage on Mitchell Street in Petoskey.
The UUCOP was considered an “emerging congregation” for quite a while before pursuing membership in the Unitarian Universalists Association of Congregations (UUA). We officially joined the UUA in 2012. We continue to maintain around 35 official members in our congregation.
We serve the local community by participating in and helping to host special events, giving to various local charities and cleaning up a section of Michigan’s highway in the MDOT Adopt-a-Highway Program. We are a member of the Partner Church Association and we donate regularly to UU organizations in India.