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What's a Baptist?

The American Baptist Churches in the USA (ABC/USA) is one of more than 30 distinct Baptist denominations in North America. Many of these Baptists trace their history to the Congregational Puritans and Separatists from the Church of England. The ABC/USA, like other Baptist denominations, is a voluntary association of autonomous local churches organized for the mutual encouragement and support of common missions and ministries. Thus, there are interdependent American Baptist churches but no American Baptist Church. 

We actually like Baptists. 

We are part of progressive Baptist movements like The Alliance of BaptistsThe Association of Welcoming and Affirming BaptistsThe Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America and American Baptist Churches of the Rochester/Genesee Region.


University Baptist Church (UBC) is a unique autonomous church with distinctive characteristics and ministries serving God locally and globally in association with other American Baptist churches.


Our mission at UBC is to be a loving and inclusive community seeking faith, joy and action nurtured by the biblical traditions, the teachings of Christ, and God's continuing revelation.

We were founded in 1850 as the First Baptist Church of St. Anthony. We have changed our name three times, to Olivet Baptist Church in 1879, and finally to University Baptist Church in 1922.

At UBC you will find:

  • A progressive, open, theologically diverse and biblically-inspired environment that welcomes people from a variety of religious backgrounds.

  • A commitment to racial and ethnic diversity and gender equality within our membership and leadership.

  • A congregation that has many people from the University Community—Students, staff, professors, alumni.

  • A congregation interested in creativity and asking the hard questions of faith.

  • A congregation where you don’t have to check your brain at the door.

  • A congregation that is very interested in peace, justice, inclusion, authentic and relevant religious expression.



Minnesota was still a territory when University Baptist Church (UBC) was formed in 1850. 

Originally called the First Baptist Church of St. Anthony, the church building was located at University and Second Avenues, a structure also used by other churches. In 1858 the timber from the first structure was deconstructed and moved to St. Paul, where an African American congregation had built a church. 

Before a new building was finished in 1870, services were held at Main Street and Fourth Avenue. Early baptisms were performed in the Mississippi River. After St. Anthony was annexed by Minneapolis, the church changed its name in 1879 to Olivet Baptist Church.

In 1921 the present name, University Baptist Church, was adopted. Construction of the present church building was also begun in 1921. A dozen ministers served the congregation over the next 70 years, the longest terms served by G. C. Fetter, 1929-46, John Bone, 1947-59, and Lee Freeman, 1976-90.

Through its 150 years the congregation has been characterized by progressive theology and a strong commitment to peace and justice issues. Early members were involved in the abolitionist movement and women's suffrage. The 1960s were marked by programs of social action and issues involvement. Pastor Kenneth Huyck marched in Selma, Alabama, for civil and voting rights.

Like other inner city churches, UBC has been challenged to sustain membership and resources within changing times. For a brief period, UBC considered merging with other southeast churches to maximize resources and talents and developed ongoing relationships with other congregations. Dr. David Bartlett helped expand church outreach at the University of Minnesota and established other new programs. UBC efforts were directed toward ecumenical programs.

In recent decades UBC has developed an outstanding music program. A new pipe organ was built, and the church published and still uses an inclusive language hymnal--among the first in the nation. The congregation starts the Lord's prayer, "Our Father, Mother." Rev. Dr. Nadean Bishop, the first woman and open lesbian pastor, served the congregation between 1992-2000. During this time, several outreach programs to assist the needy were developed. In its justice ministry, UBC became vocal as a Welcoming and Affirming congregation.

The building continues to serve the community as a site for several nonprofit organizations and has been benefited by recent extensive renovations, including handicap accessibility for the sanctuary and main floor. The Rev. Douglas M. Donley has been our Pastor since March of 2001. In its southeast Minneapolis location, UBC enjoys both the advantages of a diverse membership and opportunities to minister to its neighbors.


2001 - present: Doug Donley was chosen by the search committee to candidate for the pastorate at University Baptist Church. He and his wife, Kim, were flown to the Twin Cities the end of October, 2000. He preached in another Baptist church in the area with all the members of the search committee present. They were impressed and voted unanimously to present Doug to UBC as a person they were recommending to become our new pastor. On the first weekend in January the Donley family came to the Twin Cities for the candidating weekend. The UBC members voted unanimously to call Rev. Douglas Donley to be our 27th pastor. Doug preached his first sermon at UBC on March 18, 2001, and was installed on May 20. We are all pleased with our decision- Doug preaches thoughtful, stimulating sermons, cares and loves us all and is concerned about our spiritual growth. Thank you, Doug, for coming to UBC to be our inspiring, loving pastor. We love Kim, Amanda and Rebecca, too.


2000: Although Pastor Kay Welsch served only 10 months as an interim pastor, from February 2000 to January 2001, her duty was during an important period in UBC's history. Her outgoing personality helped as she worked with the various committees to celebrate UBC's 150th Anniversary, which featured numerous events throughout the year. She was also energetic in welcoming visitors, spearheading the acquisition of an exterior banner, implementing new name tags, suggesting new internal structures, and helping with the call of a new pastor. A United Church of Christ minister, Kay enjoyed working with a congregation of a different denomination and shared its good times and challenges alike.


1992: The search committee, working diligently from June, 1990 to Nov., 1991, jubilantly presented its choice of pastors, The Rev. Dr. Nadean Bishop, to the congregation November 3,


1991: She was enthusiastically received and voted in as our new pastor the following Sunday. She preached her first sermon to the congregation January 19, 1992, and was installed March 8th as our 26th pastor. Nadean left several positions to come to University Baptist. She had been senior pastor of the North Community Church in Ann Arbor, MI, and also a professor of English at Eastern Michigan University. She had over 20 years of experience teaching courses including the bible as Literature and Women’s Spirituality. Here at UBC she showed her preaching skills each Sunday morning when she inspired and challenged us with her timely sermons. One of Nadean’s great strengths was her compassion for all the members of her flock. She spent much time visiting sick and hurting people. We all appreciated her caring and loving spirit. Nadean’s support of people of all sexual orientations was shown by serving on the Executive Committee of the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Churches. UBC is proud to be part of this group. Nadean showed her creative leadership in forming groups to deepen spiritual connections. Examples are Grace in Contemporary Novels by Women, The Carter Group and Film and Theology. Her interest in justice issues was shown in her preaching and participating in The Baptist Peace Fellowship and outreach projects of our Board of Justice and Outreach. Nadean frequently participated in church-related conferences and meetings, speaking or leading workshops.


1991-92: Our talented interim pastor Jim Ketcham’s service to our church for 15 months ended in January 1992. As Don Follett wrote in his column in the Feb., 1992, newsletter: "Jim was a shorthand version of what corporate types would call an ideal combination of directive and ‘participatory’ types of management- in action both at once." His quiet skills prodded and encouraged us to develop leadership skills we didn’t know we had. He initiated the Children’s Time as part of the Sunday morning service. Our congregation rejoiced when Jim and his wife, Jan, decided to stay on with us – and what wonderful contributors they are!


1976-90: Lee Freeman began his 14 year ministry, the second longest in the history of the church, in 1976. His liberal theological views, expressed so thoughtfully in his sermons, were embraced by the congregation. he was the moving force behind the music program, engineering the purchasing of a new tracker organ, the hiring of Martha Pittenger as organist and choir director and the writing of a new hymnal using inclusive language. He was a skilled manager of our aging building and an enthusiastic supporter of the Renewal for the 90’s drive to make the church handicapped accessible and the sanctuary redecorated. He left the church the first of September with a heart-warming party given by the grateful church members who will long remember his many contributions to the church.


1973-75: David Bartlett came to the church from the Berkeley Baptist Seminary where he held a position as New Testament professor. His challenging "three point" sermons showed his creativity with words. he brought an ability to attract and utilize lay leaders and new members. Using funds from the Shepardson estate, the church hired Dennis Stull to be associate pastor to rebuild the student ministry. Mark Parsons was hired to supervise the international group of students in the Davis House (owned by the church), in the neighborhood. Dr. Bartlett left at the end of three years to become the pastor of the Hyde Park Baptist Church in Chicago and to teach in the Divinity Department of the Chicago University. Dennis Stull continued on as interim minister until a new pastor was called.


1971-72: Rev. Robert Phillips served as interim pastor for 12 months while the church explored the possibility of a merger with the community’s Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational churches. Dr. Huntwork continued as interim leader from Oct. through Dec., 1972.


1963-71: Rev. J. Kenneth Huyck and his wife, Elnora, gave strong leadership to the congregation during a tumultuous time in American society. He was interested in social action, participated in the civil Rights march in Salem, Alabama, and arranged for a black minister from Virginia to exchange pulpits one Sunday. The music Training Program funded by Norman Mears was the concept of Ken Huyck. Free music lessons were given to young people. The Huycks moved to Iowa in 1971.


1960-63: Rev. Homer Shafer and his wife Jannette came from Kansas. They were great at sharing their hearts and home with University students, especially foreign students. Rev. Shafer secured funds for remodeling the student wing. Wes Anderson, the Student Associate, gave excellent leadership to the student group. Homer Shafer became Executive Director of the Oak Park-River Forest Council of Churches, Illinois.


1947-59: Rev. John S. Bone – an enthusiastic young man – helped to move the church into the post WWII period. The church celebrated its Centennial in 1950 as it struggled with its role in SE Minneapolis and the University community. In 1949 the church received help and leadership from Faye Jensen (now Faye Kommedahl) as the first Youth Intern. Rev. Bone preached excellent sermons, directed the choir and even substituted as organist when necessary. Since there was a large group of Baptist students at the University, more staff was needed: Marian Sorenson, in 1948, Betty Willlis in 1950; Esther Kennedy, 1952-54; Harriet Willingham (now Harriet Johnson), 1954-57; and Dean Knudson, 1957-60. Wes Anderson was the last one serving the students in the early sixties. The University Baptist Church Foundation was established in 1959 to receive money willed as memorials or donations to the church. Clayton Sorenson was the person who was the first leader of this endeavor which still continues successfully and is of great help to the church financially. Rev. Bone went to New York City to be the minister of the Madison Ave. Church.


1946: Dr. Warren Behan was the interim minister for one year. Financial help came from various denominational sources so the church could be rehabilitated – it was greatly in need of repairs. Mrs. Hoag, a loyal church member was hired at $40 a month to be the visitor to the University Village, veterans’ housing project.


1929-46: The longest pastorate in UBC history, 17 years, began when Rev. George Fetter came from Illinois. He was faced with almost insurmountable problems, mainly financial. The stock market crash, World Wars I and II and a congregation that wasn’t growing added up to much stress. The total mortgage was $55,000 but with contributions from the Board of Education, the Home Mission Society, The Minnesota Baptist Convention and The Twin City Baptist Union and the members of the church on the occasion of the 90th anniversary (1940), the mortgage was burned. With dedication and sacrifice, the congregation under Mr. Fetters inspired leadership pulled through these trying years. He left in 1946 to go to Lawrence, Kansas.


1924-29: Rev. Frank Jennings came and soon was swamped with the task of raising money to finish the tower (never accomplished!) and the auditorium. The church membership was 397. It must have been great satisfaction that he felt when the auditorium was finally finished and a great week of victory June 5-12, 1927, was celebrate


1919-23: A veritable human dynamo, Rev. Norman Henderson, became the pastor. He proposed that an associate membership be established – people who had not been immersed. He was absorbed in the building of the new church to be called University Baptist. He resigned in 1923 to go to California.


1918-19: Union with the First Congregational Church of SE Minneapolis was proposed but, Dr. Pope said "The State Convention would deprecate such a move" so, the matter was dropped.

1914-18: Dr. John Gow came as an interim pastor but, was asked to be the permanent pastor. The membership had joined together and the tension had eased. Edwin Dahlberg, a man who grew up in Olivet was ordained in September, 1914, and later became President of ABC/USA.


1912-14: Rev. C.E. Tingley came to a congregation grieving over losing their Rev. Wiltbank. so, he had an unhappy time and resigned after two years.


1906-12: Rev. Rutledge Wiltbank. The Minneapolis Journal said that Olivet Church is to be congratulated on its excellent choice of pastor. The church entered into its most prosperous years financially and numerically. an assistant pastor, Rev. Richardson, was hired for student work. the membership rose to 339 in 1909. The church greatly appreciated him and gave him a purse of $100 on his 3rd anniversary. The church tried to persuade him to stay but, he resigned in 1912 to go to Binghamton, N.Y.


1899-1906: Rev. F.H. Cooper and his wife were more than equal to the task of bringing harmony and peace to the church. A Mrs. Wilkins conducted a large class of University students – did so for 15 years.


1897-98: Rev. E.P. Smith – not a congenial year for him or the congregation.


1887-97: Next came Rev. W.P. McKee, but, he displeased some members of his congregation by not preaching "gospel sermons". so, he finally resigned and went to Chicago as principal of Shiner Academy.


1881-86: Rev. Marion Shutter. The church was thriving with a membership of 153 and a church school of 185 scholars and a new church building. But, in spite of successes, Rev. Shutter sent in a letter of resignation dated March 1, 1886. He stated that "I am no longer in sympathy with the Baptist denomination." He became the minister of the First Universalist Church of Minneapolis.


1876-80: Rev. Sewall Brown came and was to receive $1000 – if it could be raised. He stayed four years, so the congregation probably came through.


1873: Rev. Jarrell came and received the huge salary of $500 annually.


1870-73: Supply preachers filled the pulpit. Cabinet organ was bought for $112. The choir was made up of "good voices as to volume, but nothing more!"


1867: Rev. Drury, a former army chaplain, came to Minnesota for his health, but was persuaded to take the pastorate. The record says that, to him more than to anyone else, the Baptist Church of St. Anthony owes its very existence. A trip east to raise money produced $292.15. On January 23 a new church was dedicated, but he died 3 months later.


1861: Rev. Pease was there for only 9 months. He tacked a note on the church door saying he resigned. Who can blame him? There were only 6 members in the church.


1859: Rev. Hyde came and stayed two years. but, he was so distressed by having to have church in what he called "The Lord’s Barn" he left.

1852-58: There were no pastors in this period but, prominent lay people such as Mrs. Sarah Nash and Mrs. W.H. Lawrence kept things pulled together, but, were called "at times unduly officious."

1852: A Rev. Lyman Palmer of New York came to a miserable church building. It was on land owned by Franklin Steele. But, by 1854 things improved and there were 73 members. He resigned anyway.


1850: Rev. Brown was chosen pastor of the newly organized group of Baptists who called themselves The Baptist Church of St. Anthony. The job of being pastor, deacon and building committee proved to be too much for him so, in the fall of 1850 he returned East and became an Episcopalian Minister.



Our present building includes a 250-seat sanctuary, a fine Dobson tracker pipe organ, a gym, and numerous offices and classrooms. Almost all rooms in the building are handicap accessible.


2003-2004: A successful Capital Campaign resulted in the addition of a 4-stop elevator which makes the building 90% handicap accessible, replaced windows and storms on most of the education portion of the building, extensive roof repairs, and electrical upgrades.


2001-2002: The heating system again was a problem. The boiler remained in good shape but the burner had to be replaced at a cost that made last years steam leak repair seem trivial. It is a more efficient system now. The fireplace chimneys have been critter-proofed and we can use the fireplaces. Projects in the works include replacing windows, repairing radiator valves and traps and enhancing the electrical system, and painting some interior spaces. A new sign has been put up on the lawn alerting passers-by to our church.


1999-2000: Some serious problems developed: steam leak in the wall in the downstairs bathroom. Fixing it meant removing the toilet and ripping out a long strip of the bathroom wall. Projects in the works include replacing windows, re-paving the driveway and parking lot, doing some interior painting and sealing off the chimneys. A new flagpole for banners has been installed and a new yard sign is up at the main entrance and one near the University Avenue entrance. The sign at the corner has been cleaned and painted.


1998-99: A contractor was invited to check out the needs of the building. He said "Fix it or lose it". A second opinion was needed. Windows need repairing ($36,800) and they were fixed, the heating system was renovated ($1800). Thank goodness for the Foundation money to come to our rescue.


1997: Gutters! Repair work on gutters and downspouts was completed but the west side needs major work, next year? Big expense items were replacing the air conditioner and snow blower and heating expenses went through the roof. Ancient boiler needs patches on its patches.


1996: The kitchen/office remodeling was completed thanks to Clyde Ciccarelli, Nadean Bishop, Dan Spencer and David Anderson - it was ready for all to use and enjoy. The congregation reluctantly put locks on the sanctuary doors. This because homeless people were sleeping under the portico and that was unsettling to us, fearing for the safety of our building and our tenants.


1994-95: The most visible achievements saw the completion of the library/lounge, including painting, new carpet and light fixtures. Ken Amelsberg handled the window painting and repair, painting the exterior doors, other wood trim and painting the ailing sign on the corner. The parlor was made more inviting by a new carpet. Much to the delight of the children, the playground was rejuvenated.


1991-94: Renewal for the 90’s, the renovation project of the physical plant of UBC, has largely been completed. The dedication was held June 10, 1991. The congregation, led by people in wheelchairs, processed up the new outside ramp into the sanctuary for a joyous service. Further improvements that have been made are: more energy-efficient exterior lighting, new hot water heaters in the toilets, removal of asbestos from the boiler, interior handrails, new equipment for the nursery and renovation of the custodian’s apartment.

Works in the planning stages include renovating the lounge kitchen and secretary’s office and repairing the window. Other improvements made possible by anonymous gifts totaling $30,000 are: redecorating and re-furnishing the Mary Shepardson lounge, updating the secretary’s office with a new computer and photocopier, and for the sanctuary: new sound amplification and recording systems, a beautiful set of handbells, new pew Bibles and wall banners and table runner.

Income generated from renting space helps to keep this 67-year old building in good condition. Renters include Second Foundation School in the fellowship hall, the Institute for Education and Advocacy in various rooms, Northcountry Cooperative Development Fund on the third floor, and for a short period the sanctuary to Counterpoint Productions for producing a musical, "When Children Sing."


1989-90: Renewal for the 90’s is the theme that was adopted in ’89 to include long range planning projects started by the Dream Task Force a few years ago. The architect’s plans were completed for handicap accessibility for the exterior and interior of the church. The sanctuary was remodeled with an improved appearance of the front of the church, new flooring and refinished pews (work optimistically to be done by volunteer labor). The outside concrete ramps and railings are all in place. New sod has been laid on the area near the ramps. The new steps leading up to the front door are a great improvement.


1980: The organ had continual problems mainly because the pipes were too close and a cold outside wall. Repairs were deemed to be too expensive and useless. So, a decision was reached to commission a new organ. Lynn Dobson was chosen as the builder. On October 11, 1981, it was dedicated with a concert by Martha Pittenger, our organist from 1976-1991. A series of dedicatory concerts followed into 1982. This tracker organ has proved a valuable asset to the church’s music program.


1975: The roof, always a problem, had major repair work done: the outside of the building was tuckpointed and the outside of the 251 windows painted, all to the tune of $26,000.


1966: At 1:30 am on the morning of January 13 a passerby saw smoke pouring out of the windows of the student lounge. The fire department quickly responded to his call and prevented the entire building from going up in flames. The damage was estimated at $60,000. Much of the building had to be repainted, including the sanctuary, as well as repair work to the student lounge area. The front of the sanctuary platform was rebuilt, carpeting was installed on it and in the aisles. The organ console was moved from the front choir loft to the main floor. Tuckpointing was done.


1961: Funds were provided by the Christian Higher Education Campaign for remodeling the student wing. The library, lounge and small kitchen were renovated.


1929: The sanctuary was the last section to be built. It was named the Pope Memorial Auditorium in honor of Dr. E.R. Pope, the Executive Secretary of the Baptist State Convention for 18 years. He was the driving force behind the building of the new church. It was dedicated June 5-12, 1927, with a series of celebrations including concerts on the organ built by the Reuter Organ Co., of Lawrence, Kansas. On April 20, 1929, the Board of Education of the Northern Baptist Convention got the deed – and still holds it.


1921: Olivet purchased a lot on the corner of 13th Ave. and University, the present location. November 6, 1920, a processional from Olivet preceded the laying of the cornerstone. They sang "Onward Christian Soldiers" as they marched down 13th Ave. Olivet was purchased by Perine’s Bookstore. The education wing was built first. The church’s name was changed to University Baptist, reflecting its relationship to University students.


1915: Because the church was committed to a ministry to the University students, a committee was appointed to study the possibility of building a new facility. The student ministry demanded larger and better facilities and also the Sunday School program was hampered by lack of adequate space. In 1918 the Home Mission Society conducted a financial campaign among Olivet members. Far more money in pledges was raised than was expected.


1881-85: A lot was purchased on the corner of 5th St. and 9th Ave. and a new church built there. This property was valued at $17,500. The debt was large and the church larger than needed. So, since the Methodists needed a larger church, a swap was made. Olivet moved to the Methodist Church on the corner of 13 Ave. and 4th St. The Methodists took over Olivet and its debt of $12,500 – everyone was satisfied.

1879: A meeting was called to discuss the subject of a new name for the church. St. Anthony Falls had been incorporated with Minneapolis; hence the Baptist church on the west side of the river was really the First Baptist Church of Minneapolis, although it had not been founded until after the church of St. Anthony. After a lengthy discussion centering around the names Alpha, Calvary and Olivet, the latter was selected. So, the first 30 years as the First Baptist Church of St. Anthony came to a close.


1873: The meeting house was moved to 5th St. and 4th Ave., a more central location. A baptistry was put in so that the river or a dammed up ravine didn’t have to be used anymore. Oyster suppers put on by the women helped raise the funds for this moving project. The property was valued at $5,000.


1867-70: Prof. Asa Drury, a chaplain in the Civil War, came as pastor. He threw himself into getting a new church built. He went on a fund raising trip to the East and collected $292.15 from churches in Chicago, Kentucky and Ohio. His expenses were $61.55. People locally worked to raise the amount to $300. So, a new church was built on the same site and dedicated January 23, 1870. But the records state that the great triumph was short-lived because Pastor Drury died in March and his funeral was the first service held in the new church.


1859: Pastors coming to this poor church stayed only for a short time. A Rev. Hyde, coming in May 1859, called it the "Lord’s Barn"! So, in 1860 th church rented a hall over a dry goods store on Main Street near 4th Ave. The old church was sold to a black congregation (probably Pilgrim Church) and moved to St. Paul.


1852: A chapel was built at the corner of 2nd St. and 4th Ave. Besides having no title to the land on which it stood, it had no floor and no plastered walls. Things did improve: a deed was secured for the lot on which the church stood, a floor was laid, a chimney erected, a stove bought and plaster was put on the walls.

However, the church was primarily held together by a small group of lay people. Baptisms were held in the Mississippi river.


1850-52: After the church known as The Baptist Church of St. Anthony was organized in 1850, services were held in a schoolhouse on University Ave. between 2nd and 3rd Avenues.

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