236 Commercial Street

Unitarian Universalist Meeting House | Formerly Church of the Redeemer

Simply put, the U.U., which has stood here since 1847, is the most beautiful building in town. Indeed, it’s so revered in popular opinion that its steeple is known as the Christopher Wren Tower, after the 17th-century architect whose elegant churches transformed London. It is the only one of the four surviving 19th century churches on Commercial Street that still serves as a house of worship. It also does double duty as a vital secular hub and performance space, with fine acoustics and a restored 1850 Holbrook tracker organ. Don’t miss a visit to the sanctuary. The entire room was painted in trompe l’oeil style by Carl Wendte of Germany with a goal to fool your eye into believing you’re in Greek Temple. And your oeil will almost certainly be tromped. Just try looking at the chancel alcove and telling yourself, “That’s a flat wall.”

Here are excerpts from the congregation’s own history:

It was designed after a church in Fall River, Mass., in the popular Greek Revival style of architecture …. Ten years after the Meeting House was dedicated the Christopher Wren steeple was added, giving the church added elegance and visibility throughout the town. But it was not supported by the structure of the building and its weight slowly caused the front of the Meeting House to sink into the sand. …

Realistic, three-dimensional alcoves, pilasters and panels were painted onto all four walls by Carl Wendte, a young artist from Hanover, Germany. The ceiling was painted as a copy of the dome of the temple of Jupiter in Athens, Greece. It is said to be one of only 5 entirely trompe l’oeil interiors in the country. …

The Meeting House retains the original pews of white pine, with mahogany rails … The raised pulpit is of polished Honduran mahogany. We have maintained the original chandelier with its Sandwich glass globes, fonts, and prisms, although it no longer burns whale oil. …

The acoustics of the hall are excellent, and with our concert grand Steinway piano, we are the main venue for classical and acoustic concerts on the lower Cape. …

In the 1970s and 80s it was down to a handful of people. However, in 1985, the congregation … called the Reverend Kim Crawford-Harvie as full-time minister. Kim increased membership as well as summer attendance before being called as senior minister to the Arlington Street Church in Boston. …

In 1999, after 140 years, the steeple was restructured and reinforced, and steel beams were inserted in the chaseways and underneath the foundation. They reach down 14 feet through sand and water to reach another layer of sand, and support the wooden structure. …

Our congregation has always served the needs of its community, whether housing an infirmary during the 1918 flu epidemic, starting the Soup Kitchen in Provincetown (SKIP), or responding to the AIDS epidemic with the first dedicated AIDS Ministry, in 1995. During the summer of 2004 we helped over 400 U.S. citizens to register to vote. And we have been very active in equal marriage protection for gay and lesbian couples.

The “U.U.” is in many ways a public building, gracious host to a lively variety of secular groups and purposes. A 1989 calendar showed it was a meeting place for Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon, Al-Anon Adult Children, Overeaters Anonymous, Arts Anonymous, Incest Survivors Anonymous, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, Chronically Ill and Disabled, Weight Watchers, Yoga and Self Image Group. In 2008, there was Bingo every Wednesday. Headliners at the UU Meeting House Theatre included Hedda Lettuce, whom one would not expect to see in most churches.

Visitors are welcome during business hours, usually 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Thursday. And, of course, on Sunday morning. (The service is at 11.)






















3 thoughts on “236 Commercial Street

  1. UU history and meaning are an important distinction in the context of this important church in Provincetown. No belief in Original Sin!

    “Unitarianism is historically a Christian theological movement named for its belief that God is one entity, as opposed to the Trinity, which defines God as three persons in one being — the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.[1] Unitarians believe that Jesus was inspired by God in his moral teachings and is a Savior,[2][3] but he is perceived as a human rather than a deity. Unitarianism is also known for the rejection of several other Western Christian doctrines,[4] including the doctrines of original sin, predestination,[5][6] and the infallibility of the Bible.[7] Unitarians in previous centuries accepted the doctrine of punishment in an eternal hell, but few do today.[citation needed] Unitarianism might be considered a part of Protestantism depending on one’s stance or viewpoint; perhaps it being described a part of Nontrinitarianism, or both, is more accurate.”

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