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Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church

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Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church
LocationBethesda, Maryland
CountryU.S.
DenominationUnitarian Universalism
Membership756
Websitewww.cedarlane.org
History
StatusChurch
Founded1951 (1951)
Architecture
Functional statusActive
Architect(s)Pietro Belluschi
Clergy
Minister(s)Rev. Abhi Janamanchi, Senior Minister; Katie Romano Griffin, Assistant Minister; Kenneth MacLean, Minister Emeritus
Rev. Abhi Janamanchi

Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church is a Unitarian Universalist church located at 9601 Cedar Lane in Bethesda, Maryland. The church describes itself as a liberal religious community and is active in community service and social justice projects. The church is officially a "Welcoming Congregation" (openly welcoming to all sexual orientations and gender identities) following the guidelines of the Unitarian Universalist Association, of which it is a member. Cedar Lane was instrumental in developing a curriculum on sexuality for middle school aged children that is used widely throughout the denomination. Four times a year, the church hosts a "Spirit Experience" that emphasizes interfaith and multicultural worship. Cedar Lane has weekly Sunday services and offers religious education classes for young people during the school year.

History[edit | edit source]

Origins[edit | edit source]

Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church grew out of the All Souls Church, Unitarian located in Washington DC.[1] All Souls was founded in 1821[2] and began experiencing record growth in the post-World War II era.[3] Under the leadership of Rev. A. Powell Davies, All Souls founded five new churches in the surrounding community, including Cedar Lane, which held its first service in September of 1951.[4]

The building[edit | edit source]

Originally housed at the Chevy Chase Women's Club in Chevy Chase, Maryland[5], the church purchased land in Bethesda, Maryland in 1955. Noted architect, Pietro Belluschi, was hired to design a church building for the site, which was dedicated in May of 1958. The building has been expanded over the years to allow for increased office and classroom space. The building has won several awards, including one from the American Association of Architects for its relationship to its natural surroundings.[6] A 51 rank, four-manual pipe organ was constructed in the choir loft in 1987.

Early years[edit | edit source]

By 1962, Cedar Lane was the fourth-largest church in the denomination with 1,765 members. Cedar Lane worked to found two additional churches in the area, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Rockville and the River Road Unitarian Universalist Church, in 1956 and 1959 respectively. During the Vietnam Era, Cedar Lane's weekly coffeehouses were a gathering place for area teens, who were drawn by the live music performances and the growing community of anti-war activists.

Ministers[edit | edit source]

Cedar Lane has had 5 senior ministers over the years:

  • John Baker (1953 to 1960)
  • Robert Zoerheide (1961 to 1971)
  • Kenneth Maclean (1972 to 1992 )
  • Roger Fritts (1993 to 2011)
  • Abhi Janamanchi (2013 to present)

Religious Education[edit | edit source]

The Religious Education program at Cedar Lane proved to be extremely popular from the outset. When it launched in 1952, organizers expected 58 children to enroll, instead they got 170 children the very first week. [7] The surprised congregation did not have enough staff or space to meet the demand, which led to some classes being held in hallways and cloakrooms until a larger building could be secured.[8]

Sophia Blanche Lyon Fahs (August 2, 1876 – April 14, 1978) was ordained at Cedar Lane Unitarian Church in 1959, and worked at Cedar Lane from 1937 until she retired in 1964. Fahs is known for her progressive approach to Unitarian religious education.

The popular "Our Whole Lives" (OWL) curriculum of sex-education for middle-schoolers was developed at Cedar Lane. Former Cedar Lane Religious Education Director, Roberta Nelson, famously defended the Unitarian-Universalists' proactive stance on church-based sex-education in a TV interview with Bryant Gumbel.[9]

Engagement[edit | edit source]

Cedar Lane's ministers and members have been involved in progressive liberal activism since its inception. The first Montgomery County (Maryland) chapter of Planned Parenthood began at the church. Cedar Lane was a founding congregation for Action in Montgomery, which has worked for fair housing policies, better medical care for low income families and construction of numerous affordable housing units.

Cedar Lane has an active social justice ministry, focusing on immigrants and refugees, racism[10], the environment and gender issues. The church is an accredited Green Sanctuary Congregation, as recognized by the Unitarian Universalists Association.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Staples, Laurence C. (1970). Washington Unitarianism. Washington DC: All Souls Church, Unitarian. p. 130.
  2. Staples, Laurence C. (1970). Washington Unitarianism. Washington DC: All Souls Church, Unitarian. p. 6.
  3. Staples, Laurence C. (1970). Washington Unitarianism. Washington DC: All Souls Church, Unitarian. p. 120.
  4. Staples, Laurence C. (1970). Washington Unitarianism. Washington DC: All Souls Church, Unitarian. p. 130.
  5. Marshall, Bruce T. (2010). Unitarians and Universalists of Washington, DC. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing. p. 76. ISBN 978-0-7385-6651-1.
  6. Marshall, Bruce T. (2010). Unitarians and Universalists of Washington, DC. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-7385-6651-1.
  7. Marshall, Bruce T. (2010). Unitarians and Universalists of Washington, DC. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing. p. 84. ISBN 978-0-7385-6651-1.
  8. Marshall, Bruce T. (2010). Unitarians and Universalists of Washington, DC. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing. p. 85. ISBN 978-0-7385-6651-1.
  9. Unitarian Universalist Assocation (1999). The World: Journal of the UUA. The Association. p. 42.
  10. Currie, Jasti (May 2013). "The Civil Rights Movement In The Shadows Of The Nation's Capital: The Desegregation Of Glen Echo Park, 1960". MSU Student Collection: 62.

External links[edit | edit source]


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