First Universalist (Shinn Memorial) Church (Chattanooga, Tennessee)

Chattanooga - full

The First Universalist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, was established in 1907. The church was built by funds collected to honor Quillen H. Shinn (1845-1907), Universalist minister and well-traveled missionary. The Dr. Shinn Memorial Association had been founded soon after his death to collect funds for building a Universalist church building in a southern state. The Memorial Association collected $7,336 from various individuals and $2,654 raised by the National Young People's Christian Union (YPCU) to build this building. The Shinn Memorial Church had seating for 300, a Sunday school room, and rooms for a school to train southern young people for southern ministerial work. The building is in the Virginian colonial revival style. It was dedicated July 15, 1917, during the YPCU National Convention in Chattanooga.

In spite of starting with a surplus of funds after the church was built, the congregation frequently had financial trouble and had to depend on denominational aid. It had trouble finding and keeping good ministers, and its lay leadership was frequently divided. In its final years, it ignored the interest in establishing a Unitarian fellowship in Chattanooga. By 1951, there were only four active members, and meetings were suspended. The congregation is last listed in the Universalist Directory for 1956/57.

For more information, see various articles in the Aug. 4, 11, and 18, 1917, issues of Universalist Leader. The library has a collection of its early church records (bMS 219), and there is correspondence about the church in the records of the General Superintendents  (bMS 400/48-50). [Postcard (postmarked July 12, 1917): bMS 349/8]