Stop 3. Union Church

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The congregation of Union Church was founded in 1853 by John G. Fee, who was its first pastor. From the beginning, Union Church, has followed an inclusive Christian tradition with an emphasis on the dignity and worth of all people. Begun as an abolitionist and religious witness in a slave-holding state, the congregation values and embraces diversity, attracting persons with a broad spectrum of beliefs. The Dalai Lama spoke during worship services when visiting Berea in 1994. Although Union is no longer the Berea College church, ties between the college and the church remain strong. In 1920, when the congregation undertook the construction of its present building, Berea College donated the land and 40% of the construction funds. The raised Doric temple portico in the Greek Revival style adds elegance to the brick structure.

The arts play an important role in worship at Union Church. A Steiner organ was installed in 1977, and since the 1950s handbell choirs have been added to vocal choirs. The Peace Bell, created by local potter, Jeff Enge in honor of Union Church member Carl Eschbach (1904-1998), rings each Sunday. A twin bell hangs in Berea’s sister province in Kiyosato, Japan and is also rung in the hope of peace for all nations. Local fabric artists, notably Mildred Sticker and Virginia Piland (whose work has graced the National Cathedral) provided banners and frontals that are changed seasonally. Among Piland’s donations is a triptych of quilts representing Christianity, Judaism, and Islam and the embracing nature of this church. The chandeliers were made by local blacksmith Bob Montgomery, and local glassblower, Michelle Weston. Among the interesting paintings in the church’s collection is one created by local artist, Alfredo Escobar, during a sermon about the many faces of God. Another artistic treasure is the series of six stained glass windows in the Cowan Chapel. Created by Lisa Ann Hillerich, they represent Creation, Recreation/Incarnation, Exodus, Christ on the Cross, Prophets, and Pentecost. The chapel is open for meditation each morning. Rotating exhibits include the art created by members and youth groups on retreats.