On a rainy Sunday, late in May 1966, three members of the First Unitarian Society in Minneapolis on their way home from church stopped at a small Episcopal church at East River Road and Mississippi Street in Fridley. They had heard the building was about to be sold. They decided the facilities would be just right for a fellowship to serve the Unitarians in Anoka County. That afternoon they, with three other couples, decided to found a fellowship.
On June 1, 1966, an organizational meeting was held. Twenty-three Unitarians signed as charter members, a board of trustees was elected, and articles of incorporation were drawn up. Michael Servetus Unitarian Society (MSUS) was chosen as the name of the new fellowship to honor the first Unitarian martyr. To help provide income for operating expenses, an auction was held on Labor Day, 1966. The auction became an annual community tradition that lasted 40 years.
Four years later, in 1970, the land where our church now stands was acquired. A Fellowship Hall was constructed on the site. The original sanctuary was moved from the East River Road site and became the second story of the church with seating for 72.
Many activities have been developed over the years to meet the needs and interests of members. MSUS has supported a number of social action programs. MSUS is a Welcoming Congregation and is currently in the process of meeting the UUA requirements to be recognized as a Green Sanctuary.
Members have participated in a variety of social events. Drama, music and the arts are an integral part of life at MSUS. Art shows by MSUS members, concerts presented by the choir, small group ensembles, band and string groups are part of weekly services and social events. The MSUS Drama Guild presents an annual theatrical presentation. Circle suppers, post theater parties and our monthly Potluck Lunches have been part of the MSUS experience from the beginning.
MSUS members, visiting ministers and community members have always provided our Sunday Services a wide range of topics. The needs of the children have been provided for by the Religious Education program. At one time attendance at Sunday School was large enough to warrant rental of additional space at the former Riverwood school off East River Road. A part-time Director of Religious Education was employed from 1986 to 2002 and then again in the winter of 2011 to the present..
In the fall of 1990, after four years of planning, a major construction project took place, preserving the historic sanctuary and giving the building the character of an early New England meeting house, appropriate for the roots and heritage of the denomination. The sanctuary was moved to ground level and enlarged to seat more than 100. A lobby was built on to connect the sanctuary to the original Fellowship Hall. A second story, built atop of the Fellowship Hall, was added to house classrooms, a multi-purpose library/meeting room, and offices.
The congregation has set goals and objectives throughout its history. In the late 1990's, the congregation voted to "experiment" with professional leadership and in 2002 hired a contract minister for four years. Considering the test successful, MSUS accepted interim ministry to help the church launch a search for a called minister. In June, 2009, Reverend Dana Reynolds III was called and arrived August 1, 2009. Reverend Reynolds retired in June, 2014. Reverend Karen Gustafson joined MSUS in the fall of 2014 as our Interim Minister while the congregation searches for a new settled minister.
To address the growing needs of the MSUS community, in 2008 the congregation agreed to hire an office administrator and paid staffing for the nursery. A bookkeeper was hired in 2010 and in 2011, the position of Music Director was filled by MSUS member and long time music volunteer, Bruce Van Bronkhorst.
At our May, 2015, annual meeting, the members of MSUS voted unanimously to offer a full-time position to our new, settled minister. Rev. Laura Smidzik's full-time position will start in August of 2016.