In 2001, eight residents of Cookeville banded together to form what later became The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Cookeville. These founders were Ivan Cordrey, medical physicist; Susan Ford, veterinarian; Grace Forest, homemaker; Pritindra (Prit) Chowdhuri, professor of engineering; Sharon Chowdhuri, public school teacher; Wade Faw, professor of agriculture; and Eric Jordan & Jane Jordan, university students.
The undertaking began when Ivan Cordrey and Susan Ford met Grace Forest through a mutual friend, Becky Ackerman, in the winter of 2001. The three new friends decided to start a Unitarian Universalist discussion group in Cookeville, and they wasted no time. Through an ad in Cookeville’s local newspaper, The Herald-Citizen, they announced a meeting of any persons interested in such a group on March 25, 2001, at Grace’s home. They were surprised and encouraged when some dozen people showed up. March 25, 2001, was later designated the founding date of the UU Congregation of Cookeville. Of those who attended the March meeting, only Prit and Sharon returned to work with Ivan, Susan and Grace. Several months later Wade, Eric, and Jane joined the group.
Throughout that spring, summer and autumn, this small group gathered once a month in alternating homes for lay led worship and discussion. There was no formal organization—all pitched in. By January of 2002, however, the founders were weary and almost ready to abandon the project that they had so eagerly begun. Fortunately, at this juncture Ivan and Susan attended a Unitarian Universalist Healthy Congregations Conference in Birmingham, Alabama, and came back revitalized.
The group then went quickly to work writing a Vision Statement, Congregational Bylaws, and a Congregational Budget. “I never ceased to be amazed at the willingness of this group to take on challenges and grow,” Susan later exclaimed. On August 25, 2002, the UUCC formally organized and elected its first Board of Directors and Officers. Susan served as the first Board president and Sharon as the first secretary-treasurer.
As attendance continued to outgrow space, we have moved our gathering places several times. In July 2002, we moved out of members’ homes and into a lecture room in Prescott Hall on the Tennessee Technological University campus. In July 2003, we moved to a meeting room and kitchen at the local Habitat for Humanity building. In February 2005, we moved to The Meeting House at 44 S Cedar in downtown Cookeville. In April of 2010 we moved to our current location at 31 West 1st Street in downtown Cookeville.
In May 2015 the Unitarian-Universalist Congregation of Cookeville (UUCC) called our first minister. The congregation unanimously called the Rev. Mark Pafford for this part-time position. Rev. Pafford, ordained as a United Methodist minister and ordained by the Chaplaincy Institute, served the congregation as our minister until October 2019, when he moved on to a new calling, becoming a full-time counselor.
After Rev. Pafford left us, the congregation called Deanna Lack to be our minister. She is home-grown, having attended the congregation for several years. After attending UUCC and serving in various capacities including as service coordinator, small group facilitator, and a very brief tenure as president, Deanna felt called to ministry. Reverend Pafford suggested that she look into the UUA Central-East Region’s Certified Lay Ministry program. She is currently undertaking this two-year program to become certified as a UU lay minister.
Sundays are full of opportunities to enjoy worship and fellowship. We welcome open discussion of religious issues, from a Story for All Ages before some of our services, to our worship service, Reflections discussion on the sermon topic after most services, and potlucks and social justice meetings after select Sundays, in addition to small group gatherings throughout the week. Check Facebook or our Calendar for dates and times.
We continue our spiritual work to become a joyful liberal religious community, a safe harbor for those who have not been able to find acceptance in religious community. We believe in dialogue between people of all beliefs and backgrounds, in harmony with our mission statement:
We gather as an inclusive community to inspire spiritual growth, compassionate living, and joyful service.