The history of Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church begins in the early 1950s, when the Rev. A. Powell Davies, the progressive Unitarian minister of All Souls Church in Washington, organized a committee to spread Unitarianism to the rapidly growing suburbs of the District of Columbia. A group of All Souls members who lived on the Maryland side of Washington found space for religious services in temporary buildings on the University of Maryland, and the College Park Unitarian Center, as it was then known, held its first service on October 17, 1954.
At first, Rev. Davies acted as minister of the College Park center, with his sermons piped into the Maryland gathering via telephone line. Over the next few years, College Park attendees formed a governing Board of Trustees, a religious instruction program, and incorporated the group as an independent congregation. In 1957, the center called its first settled minister, the Rev. David Osborn.
Church growth in the early days was rapid, and in 1960, the congregation purchased the five-acre site on Powder Mill Road in Adelphi, a few miles from the University of Maryland. The center needed a name change because it had moved outside of College Park, and the congregation voted to rename itself after the Paint Branch, a nearby stream that is part of the Anacostia River watershed.
In 1963 construction began on the new site, and in early 1965, Paint Branch moved into its first permanent structure (the building to the left of our current Meeting Room which is now called the Religious Exploration (RE) Building. Services were held in the largest room in the new building, with classes in the other rooms and church offices on the lower level.
During the 1960s, many Paint Branch members joined the cause of civil rights, with Rev. Osborn and others attending the 1963 March on Washington and the 1965 Freedom March on Montgomery, Alabama. Music, arts and social groups flourished among the congregation. We reached a count of 261 active members in March 1967 -- with a "School of Religion" enrollment of more than 300 children.
In 1970, Rev. Osborn departed Paint Branch and the following year, our congregation called the Rev. Richard Kelley, who would serve us for two decades and still holds the title of Minister Emeritus. (The Kelley Room in the RE Building is named after him.)
Congregational activities during the 1970s spanned the range of societal concerns of the era, and included the establishment in 1975 of an ecumenical Women's Center, one of the first of its kind in Maryland. In 1977, Paint Branch joined the Community Ministry of Prince George's County, which organizes overflow homeless shelters in church buildings during the cold winter months (now called Warm Nights).
As early as the late 1960s, Paint Branchers started talking about constructing a separate building for adult services. But financial struggles put that dream on the back burner for some time. Still, in the 1980s the money and the plans came together, and our current Meeting House, joined to the original building by an accessible wooden deck, opened in 1991.
The Rev. Rod Thompson served as PBUUC's third settled minister from 1992 to 1998. During his time here, Paint Branch went through the self-examination steps to become a Welcoming Congregation to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons. Many church members took an active role in GLBT equal-rights issues during this time.
In 1999, PBUUC called a married couple, the Revs. Barbara Wells ten Hove and Jaco ten Hove, to serve as co-ministers. Four years into their time with us—in the early morning hours of December 9, 2003—a fire tore into the rear half of our RE Building. No one was in the building at the time, fortunately, but it was a mess.
Our insurance covered the basic repairs and replacements, but we held a capital campaign to pay for improvements that were not part of the original 1965 building, including a wheelchair-accessible bathroom and a geothermal heating/cooling system to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. The RE-building, as we called the project, was mostly complete by the time we celebrated the 50th anniversary of our congregation in October 2004.
In 2009, the Rev. Diane Teichert began serving as our minister. Due to illness she was unable to continue her role, and during 2014 the Rev. Russ Savage became our Caretaker Minister for 1 year after Rev. Teichert indicated that she would not be able to return to her full-time role. Our Interim Minister, Rev. Evan Keely, has been at Paint Branch since mid-2015 while we search for a new permanent minister – scheduled to be complete during early 2017.
Paint Branch celebrated our 60th anniversary in 2014. We are a warm, open, nurturing and explorative congregation working to practice being the people we believe we should be. We have a strong tradition of social justice efforts and seem to thrive when working together in all manner of activities.
We invite you to join us.