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Our History and Unitarian History

 

The Old Fellowship House (our Congregation's first building, 1965-79). Painted by UUSantaFe member Jackie Marlin Calligan and given to us in Dec 1980.

Unitarian Universalism in America goes back to the Pilgrims — indeed First Parish Plymouth, established by those on the Mayflower, is a Unitarian Universalist Church today. The descendants of the early Puritans, by the time they had been in America for several generations and influenced by the democratic ideals of the Revolution and the evolving insights of science, developed a more open-minded theology. Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, Joseph Priestley, Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Presidents John and John Quincy Adams and Thomas Jefferson all espoused Unitarian views; views which focused on the oneness of all life — human beings included — and which understood Jesus more as a model of human possibility than as a god.

American Universalism evolved from two strains: one among the German pietists of the Delaware Valley, and a New England strain. Both rejected Calvinism, in particular its notions of predestination and of Hell as a realm of eternal torment for those not "saved." The Source of life was too loving, they believed, to damn anyone to such a condition. Ultimately, they held, all souls would be reconciled within the mind and heart of God. Prominent Universalists have included Clara Barton, Horace Greeley, P.T. Barnum, and the first woman ordained to the ministry in America, Olympia Brown. Our congregation was originally Unitarian. When the two denominations merged in 1961, we followed suit and became the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Santa Fe.

Over the decades Unitarian Universalism has been active in efforts to abolish slavery, expand voting and civil rights, encourage greater ecological awareness and in the areas of prison and mental health reform. We are welcoming to all, regardless of one’s race, economic status, past religious background or sexual orientation. Within our congregation we have people who identify themselves as Unitarian Universalist Christians, UU Humanists, UU pagans, and in a host of other ways. Most of us, however, resist labels of any kind, knowing only that we are comfortable in the company of fellow travelers on a shared journey toward more meaningful lives. We offer a wide variety of programs and activities to which you are warmly invited.

Open-minded and free-spirited as our faith is, we realize that it doesn’t appeal to everyone. If, however, you believe that people can build a better world, that reason is not incompatible with revelation, that all people have a spark of the divine within them, and that justice and peace are worth working for, then our church may be the church for you. Welcome, look around, and feel free to come to one of our services.

A Brief History of UU Santa Fe

In 1952, a group of religious liberals from Santa Fe and Los Alamos met at the La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe with a representative from the Beacon Street Headquarters of the American Unitarian Association in Boston. They were advised of the steps necessary to form a recognized group. Soon the required ten members were enlisted and the Santa Fe Fellowship was formed.

After moving around for several years renting space from other churches in the area, a search was made for a house of our own. With much trepidation, and an active membership of not more than thirty-five, a house was purchased in 1968. This house served our needs well for the next few years, with an upstairs room for the children and a dusty basement for the teenagers.

As membership grew rapidly, space again became a problem. Efforts were made to locate a building to buy. From the sale of the house and some property on St Michaels, it was hoped that financing would be possible. By very good fortune, the Mormon Church (our present location) became available. We took full possession and moved in, in the Fall of 1979. Formal dedication was December 2nd.

In the expanded space, the membership grew rapidly and we were able to call a minster in September of 1981, when Dr. Kitchell joined us. By 1990, we had outgrown the building and used our reserves and a fund drive was established to expand the existing building. An office was made available for Dr. Kitchell, a new wing to the north was added for the Faith Development program, the kitchen space doubled and rooms freed up for the library and Board room.

When Rev. Kitchell retired in 1998, UU Santa Fe had an active membership and a very modest religious education program. There were were two Sunday services, along with a Forum lecture/discussion group and a modest program for children and youth. Two years of interim ministry,1999-2000, saw little growth in membership. Alice Springer, a professional DRE, was brought on in August, 1999 in an effort to build a stronger program for families with children.

Rev. Stephen Furrer, our second settled minister, arrived about a year later in September 2000, and quickly established himself as an able preacher and pastor. Attendance once again began to grow. The Faith Development program took off under Alice Springer’s direction. During Rev. Furrer’s tenure, new programs were added to support the membership, including several covenant groups, worship associates, “Bridges” (a professional pastoral care support team), the Caring Council, Lifespan Faith Development, a Covenant of Right Relations, Welcoming Diversity, and others. 

In October, 2008, when Rev. Furrer returned from sabbatical, the board of trustees negotiated his resignation, and he left in June, 2009. A festive farewell party honoring his ministry was well attended.

Between August 2009 and July 2011 UU Santa Fe was served by two Interim Ministers, Rev. Jim Grant and Rev. Gary Kowalski. At the annual meeting in May 2010, the congregation voted to accept the Ministerial Search Committee proposed by the Nominating Committee, and the search for a settled minister began in earnest in June. 

In April 2011 the congregation joyfully voted to call our third settled minister, Rev. Gail Lindsey Marriner.

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