November 9, 2013


Church marking bicentennial

ChurchJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
Unitarian-Universalist Church of Cortland board members, from left, Marion Lutz, Ana Koval and Bess Koval stand on Friday in the historic church. The congregation is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year.

Staff Reporter

The Unitarian-Universalist Church of Cortland is celebrating 200 years of continual existence.
Founded as the First Charitable Universal Religious Society by a small group of Universalists in November of 1813, the congregation eventually settled on constructing a permanent place of worship, after years of services at temporary sites.
Completed in July of 1839, the 174-year-old Cobblestone Church still stands at the corner of Church and Elm streets, hosts a weekly congregation of about 25 individuals and can boast a colorful past, with visits from a slew of important historical figures.
The building has a rich history in social activism, with visits from a slew of influential historical figures over the years.
Harriet Beecher Stowe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King Jr. among many others have all visited the church during its history, giving speeches about abolition, women’s rights and civil rights.
Ana Koval, who lives in Chicago but is back in town for the bicentennial celebration, first came to services at the Church when she was 5 years old.
“I come here for the community and the spiritual growth,” said Marion Lutz, president of the church’s board of directors. “We’ve built lifelong friendships here.”
“The church is all about diversity,” said Ana Koval, whose mother, Bess, serves on the board of directors and has been a member of the congregation for the past 51 years. “When I come back to it, it’s very comfortable. It’s a welcoming group of people.”
Bess Koval, who has compiled an exhaustive history of the church and congregation, said that she is often aware of the church’s history when she comes for Sunday services.
“It strikes me,” she said of the building’s past. “I’ve been here a long time, and having gone through all the material. It has a lot of history.”
The church’s service this Sunday will feature a sermon from Rev. Richard Gilbert, a prominent Unitarian-Universalist minister.
His address will marry the past and the present in a sermon entitled; Universalism: A Faith Whose Time Has Come.
The 10:30 a.m. service is free and open to the public. All those interested are encouraged to attend.
The church is planning a series of events for the remainder of the year to celebrate the bicentennial, which have to be scheduled.


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