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 & 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.
For the first time in its 14-year history, the Unitarian-Universalist Congregation of Cookeville (UUCC) called a minister in May 2015. The congregation unanimously called the Rev. Mark Pafford for this part-time position.
Rev. Pafford came to UUCC with a strong background in religious training and leadership. Rev. Pafford was ordained as a United Methodist minister and ordained by the interfaith Chaplaincy Institute in Berkley, also he has studied Sufi Islam. Rev. Pafford is a certified spiritual director through the Jungian-based Haden Institute. He is currently working on a Master of Counseling degree from Trevecca in Nashville and is completing the fellowship process to be ordained in the Unitarian-Universalist tradition.
An open and welcoming discussion of religious issues is central to our congregation. Goals and covenants are considered and adopted in periodic retreats. Refreshments following services, pot-luck meals, and excursions have strengthened friendships. Many members are involved as individually and as a a group in numerous civic clubs and humanitarian services.
We continue our spiritual work to become a vibrant and liberal religious community. We believe this is only possible by creating open dialogue within and between people of all beliefs. This is said best in our Mission Statement, which reads: “We gather as an inclusive community to inspire spiritual growth, compassionate living, and joyful service.”