In 1990, an article appeared in the Daily Item to announce that a group was meeting with the hope of starting a Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregation in Northumberland, PA, the home of Joseph Priestley. The meeting was conducted by Rev. John C. Morgan, a District Extension Minister, sent by the Joseph Priestley District of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) to start congregations in central Pennsylvania.
Twelve people met at Cynthia Bullington’s house on the park in Northumberland. In consultation with Rev. Morgan, a group formed. The small group met in individual’s homes for a year, and in 1991 began holding services in the Joseph Priestley Memorial Chapel.
The historic chapel, built in 1834, was in the process of being renovated by the Priestley Chapel Associates, a group that had been formed in 1979 to preserve the chapel. Funds had been raised and many projects had been completed. As the new congregation began meeting there, the final stage of work was in progress.
Because the chapel had only one room and no restrooms or kitchen, the group rented the ground floor of the house next door to the chapel and later bought the house. Affectionately called “the Mansion”, the small house was used for adult and children’s classes as well as meetings and social events.
In the fall of 1991, Rev. John Ickes became the group’s consulting minister in a quarter-time position. Committees were formed, by-laws were drawn up, and a name was chosen for the congregation – the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Susquehanna Valley (UUCSV). In early 1992 a mission statement was adopted. February 16, 1992 was designated Charter Sunday. The chapel was packed for the special service, and thirty-one people signed the membership book. By the end of 1992 there were sixty charter members. In March, formal application was made to affiliate with the UUA.
The congregation eventually outgrew the small house next door and moved to 80 King Street, which had more space for meetings and religious education. The building was called the “King Street Commons”. As the congregation grew, the chapel became too small for its services. In 2008 the congregation sold the house on 80 King Street and began renting space in a building at 265 Point Township Drive, Northumberland, PA. On September 20, 2017, UUCSV became the official owner of the building on Point Township Drive.
We are proud to be celebrating our 25th anniversary in our permanent home!