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Archives and Special Collections: UUA Congregational Records

The UUA Congregational Records is our most used archival collection. This page provides a summary of the contents of this collection and tools to access material within this collection. 

Collection Overview

In 2014, the Unitarian Universalist Association entrusted Meadville Lombard with 450 linear feet of archival material documenting the history of 20th-century UU congregations. Stretching from the 1920s to the 1990s, these materials provide a rare glimpse into the lived Unitarian Universalism of congregations across the United States and insight into the ways the American Unitarian Association, the Universalist Church of America, and the UUA supported these congregations. 

This is one of Meadville Lombard’s most prized collections. We want to ensure that this rich source of material is accessible to the communities it documents. The collection has been open to researchers from the moment we received it. Over one hundred researchers have made use of these documents so far. From professional scholars, to seminarians, to lay UUs, these records have been used for books, research papers, congregational histories, sermons, and anniversary celebrations.

Collection Contents

The UUA Congregational Records contain a file about every single UUA congregation that existed during the twentieth century. Most files contain dozens of pages, with some larger congregational files numbering hundreds of pages. Documents within these files include field reports from regions, districts, and the national office; congregational histories; photographs; correspondence between the congregation and the UUA; paperwork filed to the UUA; sermons and orders of service; and other printed ephemera.

Using the UUA Congregational Records - Physical

If you are able to come to Chicago, email an archivist to schedule a visit. Researchers can request individual congregations or entire states or regions to access. 

If you can't come to Chicago, we can still help you! Even though onsite access is preferable, if you have specific questions or need scans of specific documents, we can help you. For assistance, email us at archives@meadville.edu

Using the UUA Congregational Records - Digital

Thanks to generous grants, we are currently digitizing the New York and Pennsylvania congregational records. Click the links below to access the records at a state level. From these links, you can find files for individual congregations. 

Useful Advanced Searches (Searches All Digital Collections)

Subject (topical) describes what the item or items are about. What is the general topic or subject of the material.
Subject (personal) describes who the item or items are about. This can be an individual’s name, a family name, or an organization or business name – including congregations. Not all items will have a Subject (personal).
Genre/Form describes what the item is in terms of physicality or purpose, as opposed to what the item is about. These terms describe a combination of the form (a characteristic of works with a particular format and/or purpose) and the genre (categories characterized by themes) into a single descriptive term. For example, “Orders of service” from a congregation have a particular format that reflects their use and cover common themes for religious communities.
Sermon or Speech topic describes what a sermon or speech is about. It is similar to Subject (topical), but specifically relates to the subject matter of a delivered address.
Denominational origin describes which religious body the item’s creator(s) were originally aligned with. For Unitarian Universalist congregations or individuals within the Unitarian Universalist community, this can be the American Unitarian Association, the Universalist Church of America, or the Unitarian Universalist Association. This is a great deal to do with chronology, whether the congregation came to be or an individual came to prominence before or after the Unitarian and Universalist merger in 1961.

Ask an Archivist

If you have any questions about the Meadville Lombard Archives and Special Collections, just ask!

We can help with...

  • Scheduling an archive visit
  • Accessing archival materials
  • Using our digital archive tools
  • Answering reference questions
  • Scanning selections of documents
  • Donating archival material to Meadville Lombard
  • Creating archives at your local congregation