History of the First Universalist Church
of New Madison, Ohio

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Rev. Raymond Michel

September 1, 1965---The Reverend Raymond Michel, born in Pittsburgh, Pa., Graduated from Earlham College, Master of Divinity degree from Bangor Theological Seminary, answered the call to New Madison. During the pastorate of the Reverend Raymond Michel:
(1) The Fellowship room was repainted along with adding new wall lights.
(2) The carpeting throughout the 1st floor of the church was replaced.
(3) Ceiling fans installed.
(4) Closed the Church School.
(5) Bulletproof storm windows were installed.
(6) The slate shingles on the roof was replaced with asbestos.
(7) Constant leaking around the bell tower was always being repaired.
(8) The four parapets at each corner of the bell tower and over the south door were removed as they were leaning and now considered unsafe.
(9) The AUW changed to AUUWM (Association of Unitarian Universalist women and men) so as to include Unitarians and men. The dwindling number of members made the change beneficial and necessary. Also husband and wife could come to the same meeting.
(10) The choir loft and railing were enlarged.
(11) The door to the left of the pulpit was removed and sealed.
(12) The monthly “Talkback” discussions were in instituted.
(13) The temporary steps in the sanctuary were made permanent.
(14) November 12, 1989, an interim celebration for the 130th anniversary of the church was held.
The cornerstone was opened and the contents inventoried by Mr. Kenneth Baker. A carry-in Lunch was followed by a “Remember When” session in the afternoon.

1972---The Carillons left by the codocil of the will of Lola Lawrence in which The Rev. Wells Behee collaborated were now installed in the church.

The Reverend Michel resigned August 31, 1992 and was made minister emeritus in honor of his 27 years of service to our church.

September 1, 1992-August 31 1993---The Reverend H. Van Knight served one year as an interim minister. He instituted the “Congregation Feedback” following the sermon.

Rev. Kathryn Hawbaker

***September 1, 1993-August 31, 1998---Kathryn Hawbaker, born Wisconsin, graduate of Meadeville-Lombard was called to our church. Jointly, Eldorado and the New Madison churches were again honored by the denomination to ordain a minister in the late fall of 1993. The meal for guests was served in New Madison. The Ordination Service was conducted in Eldorado.
During Kathryn’s ministry with the New Madison Church:
(1) a microphone system was placed at the pulpit,
(2) the basement was painted and acoustical tiles were installed.
(3) The sanctuary was painted.
(4) Herbert Ketring put a wooden wainscot paneling in place around the Sanctuary.
(5) The bell tower was strengthened and rotten timbers were replaced.
(6) The bell itself was lowered and placed on a frame in the sanctuary.
(7) The bell tower louvered openings were enclosed.
(8) The name of the AUUWM was changed to the “ W’s” meaning that the two letters “U” placed together make a W(Unitarian Universalist).
(9) Dave Sanders initiated a series of “Brown Paper” workshops to develop a program for study of our attitudes and to set goals for growth.
(10) By suggestion of Mary Behee and action of Ken Baker the church began cooperation with the State Department of Highways for a two-mile strip on State Route 121 north of New Madison for a volunteer highway clean up.
(11) November 1996— the first web site was developed. 

Tara McDonald Tiner

September 1, 1998-August 31, 2000, Tara McDonald Tiner, born Tennessee, was called from Oklahoma to serve the church. She was a student at the Earlham School of Religion, Richmond, Indiana.
During Tara’s ministry in our Universalist Church:
(1) She assisted in helping the church receive a Chalice Lighters grant from the district.
(2) Building on the Brown Paper project, she helped to develop a program for congregational growth called “Herman.”
(3) She was often imaginative and creative in developing unique worship services.

Autumn 1999---The Reverend Wells E. Behee and his granddaughter painted the “Mural for all Religions” in the basement alcove. He formed a class for publicity on “Religions of the World.” 

Beginning with two Sundays in August of 2000 and commencing September 1, 2000---Mr. Behee served as chairman of a committee to obtain speakers for each and every Sunday service engaging a wide variety of Darke County community leaders of many faiths.

Also, in the Fall of 2000, the Church Board’s Committee commenced building a handicap ramp that is being completed in the summer of 2001. It was the suggestion of the Rev. Wells Behee that the handicapped be placed at the front door by widening the top step and the ramp going off to the side.

July 1, 2001---A special Homecoming for the centennial year of the building of our present church building was celebrated in conjunction with the sesquicentennial year of the village of New Madison. The Reverend Mike Tipton of Lyons, Ohio was the featured speaker. Mr. Kenneth Baker conducted the worship service.

At this date of June 23, 2001, Barbara Moore (Mrs Charles Moore),Wells and Mary Behee are presently the senior living associates of the church having served and contributed to the church 49 and 48 years since 1952 and 1953 respectively.

The Reverend Wells Behee will be celebrating his golden anniversary of ordination into the Universalist ministry in two years--2003.
The Reverend Raymond Michel has served the longest term as minister of the First Universalist Church for 27 years.
This church has ordained or participated in ordaination in as many as three ministers (1) Mr. Rowland by the State Convention, (2) Mr. Behee, the first to be ordained in this church by Denomination consent, and (3) Miss Hawbaker by the Denomination.
New Madison hosted the preordination festivities and the Ordaination was enacted in the Eldorado Church.

The church that once was cannot stand still.
Our Church must always change. Like every organization, it must grow, expand, build, or it will die and close its doors. “Change into non-existence or Change with another step forward.”
Reminiscing about a glorious past existence and that things were wonderful, our friendships as they have been were so sublime can destroy by putting us into complacency. The Change we choose is our choice today. But there will be change. We hope for a bright future for our church remembering that the past is never good enough for the future.


Sunday, July 12, 2001---Annual Parish Meeting.
This author believes this meeting is the turning point in the life of the church. With 22 persons attending, this was the largest percentage of membership in years. The annual meeting had more enthusiasm than I have seen in the past 35 years. Only one person was negative and tried to rain on our parade. Even persons who 3 years earlier were negative to the possibility of growth have switched to a positive position.

Three years earlier, David Sanders presented the “Brown Paper” workshop to evaluate our attitudes and prospects as to church growth. It was certain that most of the congregation were far down in the well and so no hope for the church. They were without FAITH. Dave was running a gauntlet up a rather steep hill to stir some minds. Without quite finishing the series of workshops, he moved to Louisiana. The long row of sheets of "brown paper" hung on the wall for a long time constantly pricking and prodding and reminding us that there might be possibilities.

Continuing from "brown paper,” the new "Herman Project" (the last step in the unfinished “Brown Paper) set specific goals to reach and committees appointed to perform them. Those papers (white this time) have hung on the walls for the past year. They were a constant stab at our inaction. 

March 18 and then on July 1, 2001 Centennial Home Coming Sunday ---The Rev. Mike Tipton of Lyons Universalist Church, a Universalist preacher from Lyons, Ohio preached an inspiring sermon which stirred life and enthusiasm into the souls of the congregants.

Christel Brooks, our moderator, has provided very positive leadership during the past year.

The recent all parish church survey as to the expectations of congregation stimulated individual thought. At this annual meeting, all these cited factors and others as well were like dangling strings that came together into a rope. The congregation, knowing the financial struggle it will be, stepped forward with the necessary FAITH with a vote to call a 1/2-time minister to dedicate two full weeks of each month to this church. A ministerial search committee was appointed with hopes of having a minister commencing January 1, 2002. 

August 19, 2001 The Centennial Celebration Service of the laying of the cornerstone was commemorated. The Rev. Wells Behee led the Service and delivered the Rededication address. The Worshipful Master, Mr. Harold Hoover of the Fort Black Masonic Lodge delivered a message from the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the State of Ohio. Mr. Hoover also gave a short talk explaining the Masonic Ceremony of the Laying of the cornerstone.

Like The Rev. Thomas S. Guthrie during his pastorate, in December 1859 gave the first sermon in the frame church, The Rev. Wells E. Behee during his pastorate in 1959 prepared and conducted the centennial program for the frame church. And like The Rev. Thomas S. Guthrie, who gave the first prayer in the new brick church December 29, 1901, The Rev. Wells E. Behee in 2001 prepared and led services for the centennial laying of the cornerstone of the brick church and prepared the 4 Services of centennial celebrations of the brick church held in May, July, August, and December.

October 7, 2001 Mr. Paul William Britner BA,JD (Juris Doctor/Doctor of Jurisprudence), raised in Indianapolis, Ind.; lived in Colorado; moved to Maryland; and now a student at Earlham School of Religion was first introduced by Wells E. Behee to the congregation. His sermon was “Job and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Bad Day” but this is a memorable day to this church.

December 2001 Permission was granted by the Church Board for the request by Wells Behee that Paul Britner be permitted to conduct Sunday Services twice a month commencing in January 2002. 

April 7, 2002 In a congregational meeting chaired by Christel Brooks, Paul Britner was unanimously accepted to be our minister of this church by a vote of 26 enthusiastic members and 1 abstention. He will serve ˝ time while attending Earlham School of Religion. He presented a very dynamic program for growth and community involvement which we look forward to developing. 


March to April 2002 Following years of discussion about the need to create a banner for the church to be used in district and national conventions, there was an aborted effort to make one. Because this effort failed, Wells Behee designed a banner; Mary and Wells purchased and assembled the materials; and Wells drew and painted the artwork thereon. With the assistance of Mary Behee, Ginnie McNeil, and Lynell Soares, the banner was sewn to completion for display. 

April 5 & 6 The banner was first unfurled and paraded by Dede Wissman at the Heartland District Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana. 

On April 14, 2002 in Sunday morning worship service, the banner was donated by Wells and Mary Behee to the church, and Christel Brooks, President, graciously accepted it on behalf of the members. 

May 2002 The Church Banner was paraded and displayed at the National Convocation of Universalists in the Universalist Church, Westfield Center, Ohio. 

June 13, 2002 The Church Banner was paraded by David Ashcraft among the 300+ other UU banners during the lst plenary session of the General Assembly at Quebec, Province of Quebec, Canada, and it was displayed among all the banners from June 14 to June 17, 2002. The Banner now has an international association by being flown in one international, one national, and one district meeting. 

April 26-27, 2003 Heartland District Convention, Louisville, Kentucky by Dede Wissman.

June 19, 2002 Charles Godsey reports that the lawn area southeast of the church has been completed as a parking lot. 

July 21, 2002. LENGTHY ANNUAL PARISH MEETING SIGNALS A YEAR OF GREAT PROGRESS. Christel Brooks is re-elected Moderator/President of the congregation.

Large View

First Universalist Church, New Madison, Ohio in September 2002 

The handicapped ramp and the lighted outdoor sign board have been installed, the roof line over the right side door has been altered and the tower shutters have been remodeled under supervision of Charles Godsey, Chairman of the House and Properties Committee.
(Photo by Wells E. Behee and touch up by M. Kris Rantz) Appendix--It is often asked, “Why the multitude of Universalist churches of the 1800’s disappeared?” I have learned that they failed because churches were built and held occasional services as itinerant ministers were available. This means only once or twice a month or even fewer. One minister may serve six or seven churches at a time, going from church to church as he was able and as he was called. Also, these itinerant ministers were better at organizing churches than maintaining them. The community of a truly functioning church is not structured by such intermittent programming.

It is further asked, “Why then did New Madison and Eldorado survive?” It is my belief that each church had a core of strong families that held the church together. New Madison had Barton, Brawley, Burkett, Downing, Flaig, Hageman, Harter, Hindsley, Mikesell, Noggle, Ray, Thomas.
Eldorado had the Stayton, Kimmel, Disher, Blackford families. So we, today, should honor the strength and determination of these and others of our religious ancestors who have had the conviction, strength, and fortitude to withstand the pressures which a minority religion must endure. These strong Families gave stability and perpetuity to these two churches. To them, we give special gratitude and esteem. 


History is who we are and why we are the way we are. ---David C. McCullough 

As a wise present is the seed of a fruitful future, a great past is a seed of a hopeful present.---Dr. Blackie 

The Past is not good enough for the future ---Wells E. Behee 

Buddhism       Zoroasterianism

Taoism               Confucianism
Judaism       Christianity

God is UNIVERSAL unconditional all-encompassing Love. Being like
a Perfect Father, God has the WISDOM and FORESIGHT
not to punish but to discipline his children with the purpose to
eternally rehabilitate everyone of them.

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