The history of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh started in 1949, and the story continues to unfold.
Our story is made up of the stories of many people, people who dreamed, planned and worked to establish and expand a progressive religious community in Raleigh over the past sixty-five years.
The first 50 years of the Fellowship’s history is told in two short booklets that can be downloaded from the Fellowship’s Google Drive. The history of the last decade remains to be recorded…but the story continues.
1949: The Year of Our Beginning
Having heard of the new fellowship program of the American Unitarian Association (AUA), Iola Moore and Harriet Doar decided to try to organize a fellowship in Raleigh.
1950’s: Freedom of Belief and Expression
The Fellowship’s first building fund began in 1955, with a penny tossed in an ashtray. By 1959, the fund had grown to $4,000, enough for a down payment on a house at 119 Hawthorne Street near NCSU.
1960’s: Exploring the Possibilities
“If twenty-two people could buy the [Hawthorne Rd] house, sixty-five people ought to be able to swing this [deal].” A double lot on Wade Avenue was bought for $21,000.
With other churches, we formed Raleigh Inter-Church Housing (RICH Park), borrowing a million dollars to build 100 apartments in West Raleigh for low-income families. UUFR’s investment was $2,000.
1970’s: The Heyday of Lay Leadership
The 70s were truly the decade of lay leadership. New developments covered all aspects of the Fellowship’s life: expanded adult and children’s ministry, support systems for members such as extended families and youth programs, expanded social activities, deepening ties with denominational activities, and continued social action projects. Hymns were sung for the first time at UUFR services.
1980’s – Attaining Professional Leadership
A major accomplishment of the 80s was the February 1981 move to 3313 Wade Avenue. “Moving” Sunday found the congregation parading from the house on Hawthorne Street to the new building. We carried our banner proudly in front of the procession. Important items such as the wooden replica of Raleigh Raccoon, given by Betsy Cox, and the mummy, left over from some Youth Religious Education project, were carried through the streets. We planted a hawthorn tree near the new building to remind us of our Hawthorne Street heritage.
1990’s – Refection and Renewal
In the 90s, we hired our first professional music director, Bill Yocum. Before the decade’s end, Bill was leading choirs during both services and providing thoughtful musical additions and accompaniment to Sunday services.
in 1999 UUFR celebrated its 50 anniversary. Two of our founding members – Eula Williamson and Helen Brown— were with us to celebrate. “Unitarians find the good in any religion and make it a part of themselves,” 96-year-old Helen said in 1999 during a spunky conversation from her apartment at the Springmoor retirement community. In this Fellowship, “it’s how much you learn. That interests me a lot: learning and growing.”
2000’s: New Century
Now we turn the page to a new decade to be followed by a new century. New people will come, old ones depart, building plans progress, the history makers proceed. “What’s past is prologue.”