In the spring of 1903, the American Unitarian Association sent the Reverend Elmer Newbert to Indianapolis to start a Unitarian church. The first public service was held early in May 1903. The congregation first met in the Hebrew Temple at the corner of 10th and Delaware Streets. The Reverend Newbert came from the All Souls Unitarian Church of Augusta, Maine, bringing with him the name for the new church. During the Reverend Newbert’s tenure as minister, the All Souls covenant was created.
In October of 1905, the Reverend Dr. F.S.C. Wicks was named minister. All Souls grew rapidly during his 33-year ministry. In 1909, plans for a new church began to take shape. Horace McKay was instrumental in obtaining a property on north Alabama Street. Kurt Vonnegut, Sr., church member and architect, helped design the new facility. The new church was dedicated at a service in 1911.
In 1938, the Reverend Dr. E. Burdette Backus was installed as minister. The sermons of the Reverend Dr. Backus were aired on radio station WIRE. During his years of service, the Board of Trustees unanimously voted to accept African-Americans into membership.
The Reverend Dr. Backus, like the Reverend Dr. Wicks, was instrumental in the establishment of American humanism, and both were signers of the first Humanist Manifesto.
The Reverend Jack Mendelsohn was installed as minister in 1954 after the retirement of the Reverend Dr. Backus. It soon became apparent that a larger facility was needed. In 1956, the congregation chose the current site on E. 56th Street for its new home. The final service at 1453 N. Alabama was held on February 8th, 1959. The Reverend Mendelsohn led a procession to the new church. Many members of the church walked, carrying historic relics and symbols to the new facility.
The Reverend Mendelsohn served until June of 1959, and then the Reverend John G. MacKinnon was installed. In 1961, the Unitarian and Universalist denominations merged. In November of 1962, the Holtkamp pipe organ was installed at All Souls.
In 1969, the Reverend Paul H. Beattie became the next minister to lead All Souls. He began Sunday morning radio broadcasts in 1973, and it was during his years of service that All Souls held its first annual retreat and its first recognition service for longtime members. The Reverend Beattie resigned in 1982, and the Reverend Fred Campbell served as the interim minister.
In 1984, the congregation voted to call the Reverend W. Edward Harris as its minister. The Reverend Harris served as President of the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association and published numerous articles and books on religious issues, politics, and community affairs. He also wrote poetry.
Upon the Reverend Harris’ retirement in 1992, the congregation voted to bestow upon him the honor of minister emeritus. The Reverend Larry McGinty then became interim minister.
In 1993, the Reverend Bruce Clear became minister of All Souls, which celebrated its 100th birthday in 2003. It was during this time that the Centennial Celebration Capital Campaign Committee was formed, paving the way for many improvements to the building, including the Atrium addition. Reverend Clear served the church until 2011 when he retired due to medical issues. The congregation voted to bestow upon him the honor of minister emeritus.
The Reverend Dr. Gretchen Woods served All Souls Unitarian Church as the interim minister from 2011- 2013.
In August 2013, Anastassia Zinke arrived as our first female settled minister. Her ordination and installation occurred in November 2013.
During the Reverend Zinke’s tenure, there was a blossoming of efforts to be relevant and committed to the wider community. These included: the founding of the All Souls’ Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School Program and the Indianapolis Freedom School Partnership; our hosting homeless families as guests four weeks a year in partnership with Family Promise; efforts to support same sex marriages and hate crime protections; placing solar panels on the roof of Harris Hall and submitting our Green Sanctuary application; working with Faith in Indiana to create a major expansion of mass transit and to block the unjust expansion of the city jail. The congregation again became engaged in discussing the impact and patterns of racism and what to do about it. Additionally, there was a capital campaign which funded, among other things, upgrades to the sanctuary to make it more accessible.
For the 2018-2019 congregational year, the Reverend Zinke was joined by two other ministers, the Reverend Kayla Parker, our Minister of Congregational Life, and the Reverend Sarah Gettie McNeill, our Director of Children’s and Community Programming. It was exciting and energizing to experience the power of a trio of women ministers.
The Reverend Zinke served the church until 2020, and the Reverend Joel Miller began a two-year interim term in August 2020.
All Souls is currently seeking its next settled minister.