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posted: 6/13/2013 3:01 PM

Name changes but McHenry church's core remains the same

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Submitted by Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation

One of the oldest continually operating congregations in McHenry County got a new name and identity when members voted to adopt the name Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation on June 2.

The name reflects the longtime symbol used by the congregation, the Tree of Life, an image that occurs in many religious traditions around the world affirming the sustaining gifts of creation. The church has used it for more than 40 years.

Now located in McHenry at 5603 Bull Valley Road, the church was founded in Woodstock in 1865 as the First Congregational Church.

Over the next 145 years, the name was changed to reflect denominational affiliations first to the Congregational Universalist Church in 1938 after voting to affiliate with the Universalist Church in America. Then after the Universalists consolidated nationally with the American Unitarian Association to create the Unitarian Universalist Association the name Congregational Unitarian Church was adopted in 1984. It was changed again to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Woodstock just a few years ago after dual affiliation with United Church of Christ was dropped.

Two years ago the congregation received the former Haystacks Manor Restaurant building and grounds in McHenry as a donation and moved there from its 100-year-old building in Woodstock. It held its first services in the new building in January 2012.

The congregation serves members throughout McHenry County and from nearby areas in Lake County and southern Wisconsin.

Since then the congregation has called and settled a new minister, the Rev. Sean Parker Dennison and experienced a period of excitement and growth. "The new name reflects both deep traditions and the willingness to boldly enter a new era," Rev. Dennison said. "The congregation is also using a new tag line to describe that spirit, 'Rooted in Love -- Reaching for Justice'."

The new name was launched in a new website at which also went live June 2.

Worship is at 10:45 a.m. Sundays at the church, 5603 Bull Valley Road in McHenry. For information, call (815) 322-2464 or email

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