The headquarters of the Lakeland Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, known as both the Mead House and the Parish House, is one of the oldest structures in Wayne Township. The south (left) wing, now known as "The Parsonage," was built in 1780 by Jacob K. Mead and later passed into the hands of Cornelius R. Jacobus. In 1923, the house was purchased by Le Grand Parish, railroad millionaire and inventor of the Westinghouse air brake. He made extensive additions to create a 28 room mansion. Guests during Parish's day included such notables as President and Mrs. Herbert Hoover. A noted philanthropist, Parish donated land for Wayne's firehouse and community club, the Parish Oval and Passaic County Golf Course. During the Great Depression, he bailed his fellow townsfolk out of difficulties by giving them produce and milk from his farm as well as cash from his own pockets. Parish, for whom "Parish Drive" was named, planned to build a model community in Wayne. Houses were to be donated to "deserving humanitarians." Unfortunately, he died before this dream could be realized.
Lakeland Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (LUUF)-
In early 1962, Wayne residents Wilma and Joseph Wolf and Marie Spinhoven advertised in a local paper for people interested in forming a liberal religious group. They received 34 responses, and incorporated as Lakeland Unitarian Universalist Fellowship on October 21st of that year. Meetings took place in rented or borrowed facilities until 1966, when the group purchased the Parish House from Dr. and Mrs. Frederick A. Cracco. The first service in LUUF's home was May 8 and building was dedicated as a fellowship a little less than a year later on March 19, 1967. The first minister, Rev. Raymond J. Pontier, served for ten years starting in 1975. Later ministers, such as Rev. Ann Benedetto, came from varied backgrounds, bringing spiritual perspectives from diverse sources while staying true to the liberal religious principles of Unitarian Universalism. LUUF became a designated Peace Site in 1982 and recently renewed that designation. During the mid-1980s, LUUF sponsored, and provided temporary housing, for refugee families. More recently, LUUF has hosted various events such as the Fukushima anti-nuclear protest marchers, and a workshop given by a non-government organization composed of Israelis and Palestinians on ways to promote peace in the Middle East. LUUF was honored when a Native American group chose to conduct a traditional ceremony to ask their ancestors to bless the grounds and its spiritual use. LUUF maintains an ongoing supportive relationship with Strengthen Our Sisters, (S.O.S) and members continue to be active in many social justice, environmental, and other activities concerned with improving the community.
In the last few years, LUUF has embarked on a plan to refurbish parts of the Parish House and improve the grounds. Projects such as revealing and repairing the hardwood floor in the Sanctuary, correcting the drainage so the the walled garden is available for use throughout the seasons, and creating an organic garden that contributed an amazing amount of healthy food to the Wayne Food Pantry, are just some of the steps undertaken to both protect the historical nature of the Parish House, and continue its tradition of being part of a caring community. The Parish House can boast a long history as a center for peace, justice and philanthropy. Lakeland Unitarian Universalist Fellowship is thankful to call it home and have the chance to continue that tradition.
Tours of the house and gardens are available by appointment or after most Sunday services.
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