At its July 16 meeting, the Board of Trustees voted to support a petition from 50 congregation members requesting our current Channing Hall meeting room be renamed as Edna and Stanley Griffin Hall. The name change will honor the legacy of two Des Moines Civil Rights activists whose membership at First Unitarian Church spanned nearly 50 years.
The Board agreed with the signers of the petition that this is the right time to make this change. The petition stated:
“We are in a period of public and private reckoning about racism and our country’s 400-year history related to the treatment of Black Americans and other people of color. Substantive changes are already happening across the U.S. ignited by the Black Lives Matter movement and others. First Unitarian Church has an opportunity, long neglected, to publicly and permanently honor two local Black Unitarian Universalists who made pioneering contributions to advancing civil rights in Des Moines. More than the Katz Drug Store sit-in in 1948, the Griffins’ legacy is one of shining a steady light on segregation even before more high-profile protest events happened in other parts of the country as part of the national Civil Rights Movement.
“William Ellery Channing, early 19th century Unitarian theologian and preacher, has served us well for decades at First Unitarian. But looking at our church and Unitarian Universalism through a 21st century lens, we feel it is time that we honor the courage exhibited by two of our own with a display of public recognition. Renaming a space we regularly use for churchwide events, and where we frequently invite members of the public to join us, can 1) provide guidance to our own members as we practice Unitarian Universalism together, and 2) speak more clearly to those from the wider community about our intentions to work toward becoming an antiracist institution.”
A public rededication will be scheduled later next year when our building is open once again. In addition, members Harvey Harrison and Ellen Taylor have graciously agreed to donate a portrait of Edna painted by local artist Mary Kline-Misol for display. This is an exciting change for our church and something to look forward to when we return to our building!