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.
Under the leadership of Rev. John Whitman Cowan, church membership grows to 204. A branch church is established at Park Place.
The old building of the Evangelical Church in Jennings Lodge is purchased for use as a branch Sunday School.
A “Federated Council” is formed, including the Oregon City church and its branches in Clackamas, Jennings Lodge and Park Place.
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.
Park Place branch church votes to close and 20 members join the Oregon City church. Membership stands at 200.
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.
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.
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.
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 furnaces. Membership of the consolidated church stands at 364.
World War II ends. Church membership drops to 235.
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.
Trustees purchase a house fronting on Jefferson St., and adjoining the church property, for use as a parsonage by the Bachelder family.
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.
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.
A large group of congregants leaves believing that Atkinson is too liberal.
The church building’s smaller southwest tower is removed in the mistaken belief that it would cure a persistently leaky roof.
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.
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.
Reverend Robert Bowman, a Unitarian Universalist, is called to become Atkinson’s settled minister.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Reverend Ashley Cook, a Congregational minister, begins a two year term as interim minister.
Reverend Cook announces she will leave in late November for a settled position and will not complete the two years at Atkinson.
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.
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.
Rev. Haley leaves Atkinson and the Rev. Sue Turner, a Unitarian Universalist minister, is called as interim minister.
After a year-long search, Dana Worsnop is called as Atkinson’s minister. On December 7th, she is ordained as an Unitarian Universalist minister.
Reverend Marcia Stanard is called as Atkinson's settled minister.
Members of Atkinson Memorial Church vote to change the name of the church to Unitarian Universalist Congregation At Willamette Falls.