Our Congregation’s History

The first Universalist Church of Halifax was organized in 1837 by a group of lay people from Halifax and Dartmouth, who had been inspired by Hosea Ballou, an American Universalist clergyman and theological writer. A small church was built and the congregation was incorporated under professional leadership in 1843. The congregation, which included the Wests, a family of relatively wealthy West India merchants, was a closely-knit group, somewhat cut-off from the conservative community around it. In 1874 a large donation from the Wests allowed the Universalists to build the imposing Church of the Redeemer on then-fashionable Brunswick Street, where they remained for over 70 years. The Church has been served by many outstanding ministers, from the Canada, the United States, and Great Britain.  They have defended with dignity and spirit the doctrines of Universalism, occasionally engaging in heated and acrimonious debate with the more orthodox clergy of Halifax.

The trust fund left by William P. West in 1881 enabled the church to support itself, but the 1917 Halifax explosion and the economic slump that followed both world wars caused its young people to leave, and the membership fell steadily. Down to a handful of members by 1948, it was decided to sell the Brunswick street building. The remaining Universalists met in the YWCA, and later in a small house, sometimes with a minister but finally under lay leadership.

It seemed that Universalism had come full circle and would soon die, but with the 1960’s came resurgence. The Universalists were given fresh hope by a number of Unitarian families who had been members of the Church of the Larger Fellowship. New premises were required and in 1960 a far-sighted committee, with the assistance of the West Fund, purchased the historic double house on Inglis Street which is the present Church. At the same time, the Halifax Early Childhood School, a small nursery school, was looking for space. It entered into a longstanding relationship with the UU Church, an arrangement which continues to this day.

In 1969 the Church was ready for professional leadership again, and since that year seven settled ministers and several interim ministers have served the Universalist Unitarian Church of Halifax.

The West Fund continues to provide financial help to Canadian Unitarian Universalist societies. It was responsible for the survival of the Halifax Universalists and it has helped to make the Universalist Unitarian Church of Halifax the stable centre of liberal religion in the Atlantic Provinces.

In 2023, after many conversations over several years, the congregation voted to change our change to the Universalist Unitarian Community as an informal name both to present ourselves to greater Halifax but also among each other. (Our formal, legal name still has the word “church”).  We felt that this change better reflects our current place in our history.

Our newest minister, Rev. Ben Robins, joins us in August 2024!