NEWTON, NJ - The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Sussex County announced that it will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Fellowship on Sunday, September 28, beginning at noon.  The celebration, to be held at the Fellowship Hall, located at 1 West Nelson Street in Newton, will include a potluck luncheon, music, and conversation with members and friends. 

The Fellowship meets every Sunday at 10:30 a.m. from September to June.  Their part-time minister, Rev. Mary Tiebout presents programs twice a month alternating with guest speakers covering a wide variety of topics.  In addition to the adult service, a vibrant Religious Education program is provided for the children.

The white frame building housing the Fellowship holds a prominent position in the history of Sussex County.  At one point, it was a Grange Hall, and it is even believed to have had connections with the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. 

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Unitarianism developed in Europe at the time of the Protestant Reformation.  Early Unitarians maintained that the unity of God should not be divided into the trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Beyond that, the first Unitarians tended to hold fairly traditional Christian beliefs.

In the United States, Unitarianism first took hold in New England in the early 1800s, principally among liberal Congregationalists, as a reaction against the strict Calvinism of the time.  Ralph Waldo Emerson, humanitarians Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton, and presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson were all Unitarians.  There were many Unitarians on the forefront of the anti-slavery movement.

In the early 1800s another religion, called Universalism, also challenged the Calvinist emphasis on a grim and punishing God.  Universalists believed, and many still do, that God is a loving creator who forgives the sins of all.  Northern Baptists were especially drawn to Universalism.

In the 20th century, Unitarianism and Universalism moved further away from traditionalism, rejecting doctrine and dogma, concluding that the individual must make free and personal choices about the meaning of existence.

In 1961, the Unitarians and Universalists officially merged into the Unitarian Universalist Association, based then as now in Boston.  Soon afterward in October 1964, a small band of Sussex County residents who had been attending the 300 member Morristown Unitarian Fellowship decided to found a separate group.  The group met in rented quarters until 1978, when they were able to purchase the West Nelson Street building.

The present day 65 member congregation focuses on the spiritual needs of their membership as well as the needs of the surrounding community, the county and the state.  Members serve the community through groups such as Manna House, Family Promise, People Help, National Alliance for Mental Illness and Sierra Club among others.  Unitarian Universalists remain dedicated to the goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all.

 For more information about UUFSC visit their website at www.uunewtonnj.org, see them on Facebook, or call 973 579 7210.  Visitors are always welcome to services.