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Wednesday, December 13, 2023

The Unitarian Church in Charleston: A Beacon of Open Faith and History

  Rajesh Kumar Rana       Wednesday, December 13, 2023

 The Unitarian Church in Charleston, South Carolina, stands proudly at 4 Archdale Street, a testament to the city's rich history and diverse religious landscape. This magnificent structure, with its soaring Gothic Revival architecture, is not only a beautiful landmark but also the oldest Unitarian church in the South and the second oldest surviving church building on the Charleston peninsula.

The Unitarian Church in Charleston

The Unitarian Church in Charleston
Image of The Unitarian Church in Charleston

The Church established in 1774, it holds the proud titles of being the oldest Unitarian Church in the South and the second oldest church building on the Charleston peninsula (Wikipedia). While St. Michael's Church might claim the crown for being the oldest overall, the Unitarian Church stands tall with its unique legacy and continues to inspire generations.

Born from a Need for Open Faith

The story of the Unitarian Church in Charleston begins with the First Independent Church, founded in 1681. This "old white meeting house," as it was affectionately known, served as a sanctuary for dissenters who refused to adhere to the Church of England, the official religion of South Carolina at the time. By 1772, the First Independent Church had grown so significantly that it needed a larger space to accommodate its burgeoning congregation. Thus, the Unitarian Church was built as a solution, serving as a haven for those seeking open faith and freedom of religious expression.

The Unitarian Church interior
Image of the church interior
Source: Wikipedia 

A Witness to History

The initial structure of the Unitarian Church was a simple yet elegant Georgian-style building, reflecting the utilitarian spirit of its purpose. This historic structure stands as a testament to the city's past, having witnessed the tumultuous years of the American Revolution. Used as barracks by both the American and British forces, the church bears the marks of history on its walls. While some accounts tell of the building being used as a stable for horses during the British occupation, its legacy remains one of resilience and unwavering commitment to open faith.

From Humble Beginnings to a Vibrant Community

Though construction of the church began in 1774, it wasn't until 1787 that it finally opened its doors for religious services. The delay was attributed to the Revolutionary War, which saw the building being repurposed for military purposes. After the war, the church finally found its true calling: serving as a spiritual home for those seeking open-minded faith and social justice. Today, the Unitarian Church continues to thrive as a vibrant community, welcoming individuals of diverse backgrounds and beliefs.

Beyond the Walls: A Legacy of Social Impact

The Unitarian Church in Charleston has always been more than just a place of worship. Throughout its history, it has been a champion for social justice and equality. From its early support of the abolitionist movement to its ongoing commitment to civil rights and LGBTQ+ inclusion, the church has consistently stood up for what it believes is right. This legacy of social activism continues to inspire generations and makes the Unitarian Church a vital part of Charleston's cultural fabric.

A Beacon of Open Faith and Social Justice

Today, the Unitarian Church in Charleston continues to be a beacon of open faith and social justice. Its doors are open to all, regardless of their religious beliefs or backgrounds. The church offers a welcoming and inclusive environment where individuals can explore their spirituality and engage in meaningful dialogue on important social issues. Whether you're a lifelong Unitarian or simply curious about alternative faith traditions, the Unitarian Church in Charleston is a place where you can find acceptance, inspiration, and a sense of belonging.

A Hub for Events and Community

Today, the Unitarian Church remains a vibrant hub for the community. It hosts a diverse range of events, from candlelight concerts and art exhibitions to lectures and workshops. These events foster connection and understanding, bringing people together from all walks of life.

Upcoming Events:

  • Candlelight Concert: Immerse yourself in the enchanting atmosphere of the church as talented musicians perform under the soft glow of candles.
  • Holiday Bazaar: Find unique gifts and handcrafted treasures while supporting local artisans.
  • Community Forum: Engage in thought-provoking discussions on timely topics with fellow community members.

Plan Your Visit

The Unitarian Church in Charleston is located at 4 Archdale Street in Charleston, SC. Sunday services are held at 10:30 AM, and the church office is open Monday through Friday, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. For more information about the church, its history, and upcoming events, visit their website at

If you're ever in Charleston, be sure to visit this historic landmark and experience the warmth and welcoming spirit of the Unitarian Church. You might just find yourself captivated by its rich history, inspired by its commitment to social justice, and drawn to the vibrant community that calls it home. For more information visit their website.

Things to See and Do:

  • Attend a Sunday service: The church offers both in-person and live-streamed services, featuring inspiring sermons, music, and fellowship.
  • Explore the church building: Take a self-guided tour or join a guided tour to learn about the church's history and architecture.
  • Participate in social justice activities: Get involved in one of the church's many social justice initiatives, such as volunteering at a local homeless shelter or participating in a peace rally.
  • Visit the church's bookstore: Browse a selection of books on Unitarian Universalism, religion, and social justice.
  • Enjoy a concert or lecture: The church regularly hosts a variety of cultural events, including concerts, lectures, and film screenings.

The Unitarian Church in Charleston is a must-visit for anyone interested in history, architecture, or faith. It's a place where you can explore your own spirituality, connect with others, and make a difference in the world.

Nearby Attractions:

  • Charleston Museum: Immerse yourself in the rich history of Charleston at this renowned museum, showcasing artifacts and exhibits spanning centuries.
  • The Battery: Enjoy breathtaking views of the Charleston harbor and savor the charm of this iconic waterfront promenade.
  • City Market: Explore a vibrant marketplace brimming with local crafts, souvenirs, and delicious culinary treats.

For those seeking a Unitarian church near them:

If you're not located near Charleston but interested in learning more about the Unitarian Universalist faith, you can use the following resources to find a congregation near you:

Additional Information:

  • Address: 4 Archdale Street, Charleston, SC 29401
  • Phone: (843) 723-4617
  • Services: Sundays at 10:30 AM


The Unitarian Church in Charleston stands as a beacon of hope and inclusivity in the heart of the city. Its rich history, beautiful architecture, and welcoming community offer a unique and inspiring experience for visitors and locals alike. If you're ever in Charleston, be sure to take some time to explore this remarkable landmark and experience the warm spirit of its congregation.

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