* Atkinson Memorial Church, a Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Oregon City, Oregon *
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AMC Chronological History

May 25, 1844 Peter Hatch, a Congregationalist, Robert Moore, a Presbyterian, and Judge Osborne Russell, a Baptist, formulate plans for a church that will be an alternative to the already existing Methodist and Roman Catholic churches in Oregon City. The proposed church will prove to be the direct ancestor of Atkinson Memorial Church.
June 21, 1848 Reverend George Atkinson is given full charge of the church in Oregon City.
Jan. 25, 1849 Reverend Atkinson proposes organizing a Congregational Society and the members convenant together in establishing the First Congregational Society of Oregon City. No creed or test of faith is included since members are of diverse religious opinions.
Aug. 18, 1850 A thirty-six foot by twenty-one foot church building is constructed at Tenth and Main at a cost of $3,900.
Apr. 27, 1890 At a cost of $5,000 a second church building is erected that incorporates the first building in the rear.
July 21, 1892 The First Congregational Church of Oregon City is organized from the First Congregational Society.
1895-96 Under the leadership of Rev. John Whitman Cowan, church membership grows to 204. A branch church is established at Park Place.
1914 The old building of the Evangelical Church in Jennings Lodge is purchased for use as a branch Sunday School.
1915 A "Federated Council" is formed, including the Oregon City church and its branches in Clackamas, Jennings Lodge and Park Place.
1918 Spanish influenza epidemic forces a ban on all public meetings in Oregon City, including church services. After the Armistice ends World War I in Europe, church members take turns ringing the Oregon City church bells despite the ban. The ban was lifted November 16.
April 1919 Park Place branch church votes to close and 20 members join the Oregon City church. Membership stands at 200.
1921-22 Emphasis on strengthening the Oregon City church leads trustees to move the Jennings Lodge church to Grace Memorial Congregational Church. The Clackamas branch Sunday school becomes independent and the Park Place church closes, leading to the disbanding of the Federated Council.
Feb. 4, 1923 A fire is discovered in the south wall of the church and the building and most of its contents are destroyed. Among the furniture carried out is the pulpit chair which had been in use since the time of Reverend Atkinson. This chair remains on the platform of the present church. Church records survive because they were kept at the church clerk's home. Services were held in the St. Paul's Episcopal Church parish hall for seven months, with occasional meetings at the First Baptist Church.
Feb. 1, 1925 With the help of the fire insurance money, sale of parsonage, loans, etc., the present day church, designed by Portland architect Willard F. Tobey, is dedicated at the corner of Sixth Street and John Adams Street.
Feb. 15, 1925 Installation of the memorial stained glass windows, designed and installed by the Povey Brothers Glass Co., is completed and dedicated. Total cost of the completed new building is $75,782 - more than double the original estimate.
November 1926 Trustees, believing the roof is waterproof after the onset of fall rains, vote to release the construction company of further responsibility under its bond. Future trustees, ministers and congregants would rue this day.
Oct. 23, 1928 A Kimball organ of 500 pipes costing $5,534 is purchased and installed.
October 1929 Financial panic initiates the Great Depression. The Oregon City church is in debt for $22,500. The minister's salary is reduced from $3,000 to $1,800. A fund raising program secures pledges of $14,049.
1932-35 The financial crisis deepens; many families are forced to cancel pledges.
Jan. 14, 1937 Atkinson Memorial Congregational Church in Portland, in financial trouble similar to the Oregon City church, consolidates with the First Congregational Church of Oregon City. The name given the new church is Atkinson Memorial Congregational Church. Sale of the Portland church's property helps lower debt of the Oregon City church and permits necessary improvements such as installation of oil burning furnances. Membership of the consolidated church stands at 364.
August 1945 World War II ends. Church membership drops to 235.
1946 Dr. Evart P. Borden, after seeing the church through the dark days of the Great Depression and World War II, resigns. Dr. Borden had been trained as a Baptist minister and kept a Portland dental practice through the church's trying times. Rev. Horace Bachelder, a graduate of Yale University Divinity School, is called as minister of Atkinson Memorial Church.
August 1946 Trustees purchase a house fronting on Jefferson St., and adjoining the church property, for use as a parsonage by the Bachelder family.
1950 The Atkinson council, in an effort to raise money to liquidate the church's debts and fund repairs stemming largely from a leaky roof, sponsor a smorgasboard dinner. The dinner is so successful as a fund raiser that it continues annually for the next 15 years.
1955 Reverend Bachelder participates in the formation of the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches. Since the Oregon City church is far away from the other 100 affiliated churches, the church begins to cooperate with the Unitarian Association in religious education and summer family conferences. Church membership is reported to reach 760.
December 1956 A large group of congregants leaves believing that Atkinson is too liberal.
1958 The church building's smaller southwest tower is removed in the mistaken belief that it would cure a persistently leaky roof.
1961 The Unitarian Universalist Association is formed and Atkinson Memorial Congregational Church votes to become a member of this association.
June 29, 1966 Members of the fellowship oriented group within the church propose that the name of the church be changed and the building be sold and a more modern one erected in a new residential district. When this proposal is rejected, 40 members leave and form the South Park Unitarian Fellowship in West Linn.
August 1971 Reverend Bachelder resigns after 25 years of service to the oldest free church in the West, to become minister of the First Parish Church in Plymouth, Massachusetts, the oldest one in the East.
September 1971 Reverend Robert Bowman, a Unitarian Universalist, is called to become Atkinson's settled minister.
January 1972 Efforts are initiated to arrest a decline of membership from 760 in 1955 to 266 in 1971. They include circle suppers, a media discussion group, revival of the religious education program and strengthened connections with Clackamas Community College.
March 1975 Reverend Bowman dies suddenly of a heart attack. His death comes at a critical time for the congregation - a time when they are facing financial problems and waning membership.
September 1975 Reverend Richard K. Bellingham, a Congregational minister, is called as settled minister of Atkinson.
1975 - 85 Renovation work, including complete rebuilding of the roof, is done to the church building. Upon completion of the projects, done primarily by church volunteers, the building is placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
1993 -94 Atkinson celebrates its sesquicentennial year with several outstanding programs that culminate in the anniversary weekend of May 21-22, 1994.
May 22, 1994 Reverend Bellingham announces his retirement to take place Feb. 28, 1995.
September 1995 Reverend Ashley Cook, a Congregational minister, begins a two year term as interim minister.
September 1996 Reverend Cook announces she will leave in late November for a settled position and will not complete the two years at Atkinson.
January 1997 Reverend Nan Geer, a Unitarian Universalist minister from the Puget Sound area, begins term as part time consulting minister to Atkinson.
April 13, 1997 The congregation votes overwhelmingly to call Reverend Tim Haley, a Unitarian Universalist minister, whose term begins in late summer 1997.
Sept. 7, 1997 The Boones Ferry Unitarian Universalist Congregation church merges with Atkinson Memorial Congregational Church of Oregon City. The name given the new church is Atkinson Memorial Church.
May 2002 Atkinson Memorial Church elects to become singly affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association, and drops its dual affiliation with the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches.
August 2002 Rev. Haley leaves Atkinson and the Rev. Sue Turner, a Unitarian Universalist minister, is called as interim minister.
May 2003 After a year-long search, Dana Worsnop is called as Atkinson's minister. On December 7th, she is ordained as an Unitarian Universalist minister.


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Page last updated: Friday, September 24, 2010
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