History of UME

In 1974 a group of Protestant couples in the Rochester, New York area who had attended Worldwide Catholic Weekends began planning for a United Protestant Expression of Marriage Encounter (UPEME). Len and Colleen Pagnard and the Rev. D.L. and Marilyn Baize were co-founders and early leaders. Couple Power Inc., the Rochester branch of Worldwide (Catholic) M.E., actively helped UPEME to get started, paid the cost of training the first four UPEME Team Couples, and provided Weekend supplies, and much other support. The first UPEME Weekend was presented in Rochester, NY in February 1975. It was originally contemplated that UPEME would be part of Couple Power Inc. and Worldwide M.E.

It was expected that UPEME would primarily serve Protestant couples and Couple Power Inc. would primarily serve Roman Catholics. However, from the beginning, the Weekends of both groups were open to couples of all faiths. Worldwide M.E. decided that UPEME could not be formally affiliated with UMESupport-ICOWorldwide because UPEME did not (and chooses not to) meet two Worldwide M.E. criteria for its affiliated groups: 1) all Team Couples and 2) a large percentage of Weekend couples come from one church denomination. UPEME welcomes Team Couples and Weekend Couples from all Christian traditions. In 1977 UPEME, Inc. was incorporated as a New York nonprofit corporation. In 1988 our name, United Protestant Expression of Marriage Encounter (UPEME), was changed to United Marriage Encounter (UME) to be more inclusive, and UME was incorporated as an Iowa nonprofit corporation. We have an IRS exemption letter establishing our status as a tax-exempt and tax-deductible 501(c)(3) publicly supported organization.

UME continues to have close ties with Worldwide and many of its Protestant affiliates, especially at the local level. A Look At UME 1-15 \\FILE1\Groups\UME\UME MESF Forms\0300 Staff Forms\0302 A Look At UME STAFF-302.doc Page 3 of 4 Expansion Beginning with the first expansion in 1977 to Southwest Florida, UME has since expanded to over 20 areas throughout Asia, Europe and the eastern half of the USA. Expansion is high priority. Our Board encourages UME expansion anywhere in the world where we can present an English-speaking Weekend if there is a committed couple or group of couples willing to promote UME to be able to have 25-30 couples for each Weekend, and work with UME staff to provide an adequate Weekend facility. A Weekend is not enough; we hope to build a lasting, growing Community of encountered couples. We wait for God to open expansion doors, but respond quickly when doors are opened. UME is governed by a Board of Directors of up to 12 married couples. On the Weekend the couples are invited to contribute toward future Weekends for other couples.

God provides through the sacrificial giving of loving couples. Hundreds of UME volunteers around the world are supported by staff, including an Executive Director, Directors of Team & Weekend Support, Directors of Ministry and Leadership Support, and an administrative assistant who work out of the UME international office in Muscatine, Iowa USA. Some volunteer expenses are reimbursed when requested. Beginning in 1985 UME holds conventions – we call them Celebrations – every three to four years. Past keynote speakers include Charlie and Martha Shedd, Kevin Lehman, Pat & Jill Williams, Dave & Claudia Arp, Steve & Annie Chapman, Steve & Becky Harling and Bill & Pam Farrell.

Your Story

Many UME couples could be called legendary for the positive roll their marriage has played in the lives of others.  Of course it would be impossible to know all of those who are deserving.  So who did we miss?  We need your help!  Nominate a Legendary Marriage Encounter Marriage here.

Nominate your legend here

Ham and Eggs

The ham and eggs award is all about sacrificial giving.  While many are ready to give something of their time and resources, every year there is one couple that gives of themselves over and above.  For this couple we award them the ham and eggs award.


Support UME

Anyone who has been on a marriage encounter weekend will tell you of the wonderful gift they received.  Every couple on a weekend is in fact supported by another couple who wants to pass along the gift they received.  Won't you please consider giving the gift of a weekend to another couple?

Donate here >>

History of UME

Most happy endings are preceeded by a good story.  And United Marriage Encounter is no different.  From humble beginings to an international marriage ministry, the ride has been anything but boring.  So come reminisce with us.



United Marriage Encounter
PO Box 209
Muscatine, IA 52761-0209

Contact us

Share This