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This blog is maintained by the History and Archives Committee of the Universalist Unitarian Church of Peoria, Illinois. To learn more about our church, visit www.peoriauuchurch.org.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Weathering the Storms in Our Church’s History

Since we are located in the Midwest, it should not surprising that over a span of 167 years and counting, events at the Universalist Unitarian Church of Peoria have occasionally coincided with outbreaks of severe weather, including tornadoes.

Saturday, June 5, 2010
The most recent example was a potluck on June 5 to honor and bid farewell to our intern minister for the past year, Jim Parrish. As we watched a video tribute prepared for the occasion, it gradually became apparent that the whine heard in the background wasn’t a glitch in the sound system, but a tornado warning siren. The group did a great job of moving quickly but calmly into the children’s area, away from the windows, and the program continued there.

Although several tornadoes touched down in Central Illinois that night—including one that caused extensive property damage in Elmwood—thankfully, no one was hurt.

Saturday, May 10, 2003
For many members and friends in our congregation, the events of June 5 were a reminder of another memorable night: the congregational meeting on Saturday, May 10, 2003, when we voted on whether to sell our property on Hamilton Boulevard and build a new church.

The decision process included a series of ballots through which the congregation narrowed down six possible courses of action to one. Sometime around 10 p.m., after the third ballot had been collected, a tornado warning siren caused the meeting to be relocated from the sanctuary to the basement. Voting continued with only a slight delay, resulting in the final decision to build a new church on Richwoods Boulevard.

The tornadoes that struck the area that night caused injuries and property damage, most notably in South Pekin and Morton, but no deaths.

Although you may remember the stormy night when we voted to leave our home on Hamilton Boulevard, did you know that a tornado had also struck the area 92 years before, on the very day that building was dedicated?

Sunday, May 28, 1911
After months of construction, the new, larger Universalist church on Hamilton Boulevard—with its distinctive dome and beautiful arched stained-glass windows—was finally complete, or nearly so. The curved pews were crowded for the dedication service at 10:30 that Sunday morning. The Peoria Star reported that “in spite of the great heat, the ventilation could not be surpassed and every one was perfectly comfortable.”

But a cold front was on its way, bringing a dangerous storm. At 1:40 p.m., a tornado struck Pekin, killing two boys, ages fourteen and fifteen. They had been part of a group of fifteen boys who were swimming in Pekin Lake when the storm hit. Most of the boys were able to take shelter in the ice houses. The two who were killed didn’t get inside and were crushed when one of the ice houses collapsed.

In spite of the storm, the 7:30 evening service at the Universalist church was well attended. The weather by then was much more comfortable than it had been in the morning. According to the next day’s newspaper, the temperature in Peoria had dropped from 91 degrees to 71 degrees between 2:00 and 3:00 in the afternoon.

These events remind us that we should always be prepared for weather emergencies, at church and everywhere else, especially during tornado season. Be safe!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thanks for the interesting information