"If twenty-two people could buy the [Hawthorne Rd] house, sixty-five people ought to be able to swing this [deal]." That was Dale Blosser speaking at a general meeting of the fellowship in 1965. He was talking about buying land and constructing a building. Similar words expressed the determination of members as they took on many other challenges during the sixties.
The sixties decade was characterized by:
• Rapid expansion of the Sunday School...
• High quality and broad diversity of Sunday morning adult programs...
• Active participation in regional and national Unitarian Universalist organizations...
• A vigorous role in community service...
Following the merger of the Unitarian and Universalist denominations in 1961, our name became the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh, Inc. (Incorporation actually took place in 1959).
Meeting space once again became critical because both Children's Sunday school and the adult discussion group were growing. The fact that they met simultaneously didn't help at all. In April of 1967, the adults moved into a room at the Hillsborough Street YMCA, leaving the whole Hawthorne Road house to the Sunday school. 80 children were enrolled. Average attendance was 63-65. Even the basement was renovated to add classroom space. In the early sixties, members pitched in to paint, repair, furnish and decorate the Hawthorne Road house. Subsequently, a fire escape, new furnace, roof repair and electrical work were completed. But our fellowship was relentlessly outgrowing our first house.
Members shopped for a lot on which to construct a building. In 1966, with an adult membership of 90, representing 54 families, our predecessors contracted to buy the large wooded lot on Wade Ave. The cost was $21,000. A building planning committee was appointed, and Quinn-Wiggins was retained as architects. A design for the building was approved in 1968.
Meanwhile, as a lay led group, members realized that certain civil acts and ceremonies require ordained professionals. A committee studied such ceremonies as child dedications, marriages, and memorials, and made certain recommendations:
• Child dedications can and should be handled by members.
• Marriages would be solemnized by a local minister, namely, Rev. Collins Kilburn of the United Church of Raleigh.
• No specific ceremonies were proposed for memorial services, the committee feeling that no one would use such a prepared ceremony.
"We will offer the house free [for marriages] and suggest that the people give the minister at least $10." Susan Belle Hildreth was the first child to be dedicated. The site was the YMCA, State College campus, in 1965. The first marriage ceremony was performed in the same year, Rev. Kilburn officiating. Mr. and Mrs. Stanton Hoegerman were the couple and the site was the Hawthorne Road Fellowship house. The first memorial service was for a well-loved member, Richard Pinkerton, and was held in Danforth Chapel on the NCSU campus in 1966.
Guidance and advice from seasoned, professional religious leaders were sought from time to time during the sixties. Talbot Pearson of the Unitarian Laymen's League and his wife Marion, who had religious education experience, spent February of 1965 in Raleigh at the invitation of the fellowship for an agreed upon fee and subsistence. The Pearsons contributed in a number of areas. Talbot Pearson spoke from the pulpit at several Sunday morning services, helped to develop a new statement of purpose, and suggested new organizational options. Marion Pearson applied her skills to train and assist Sunday school teachers.
The consultant arrangement came about quite naturally following a visit the Pearsons made while traveling through Raleigh. The arrangement was not, however, arranged within the regular channels of Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) regional and national offices. The UUA staff grumbled, and much correspondence was required to mend fences.
Monroe Husbands, from the UUA in Boston, who had guided the formation of the Raleigh fellowship, was a source of information and help and revisited Raleigh in 1966. Rev. Manuel Holland, Thomas Jefferson District Executive, came to assist with building problems and R. E. needs during the sixties. Rev. Arthur Olsen and his wife, through the UUA Minister-at-Large Program spent three months in Raleigh speaking, being available to committees and individuals and generally acquainting members with what it is like to have professional participation. Discussions began as to whether to call a minister and thus become a "church."
A decade passed before a minister was called.
James D. Hunt, a Fellowship member and a UU minister, officiated at many marriage and memorial ceremonies over the years when we were without a settled minister of our own.
"The Sunday School should be the biggest challenge of the Fellowship." Helen Martof, R. E. Chair, said in 1965. This proved to be the case. In 1961, an R. E. Committee was established with Lyle Stehman as chair. John Voorhees became co-chair as well as R.E. Director. 40-45 children were enrolled, and about 30 came every Sunday. The 40-45 children became 100 children by the end of the decade.
Betty Davenport, R.E. director in the mid-sixties, persuaded the congregation to provide a stipend for the director. The stipend of $500 was budgeted for the 1969-70 fiscal year. The teacher cadre began with five volunteers in 1959. By 1969 the cadre had expanded to: 10 classroom teachers; 4 resource specialists in music, dramatics, creative writing and worship; plus 6 regular substitutes
From the start, the R. E. curriculum was rich and varied. R.E. Children learned about our environment and their place in it. They learned about various religious traditions and myths along with UU thought. Regional UUA training sessions upgraded the R.E. Director's skills.
An active Liberal Religious Youth (LRY) group formed in 1969 after Lynn (Thompson) Wheal attended a conference on LRY. Alan Downing was the first adult advisor.
For the sixties, the format for adult education offered was a prepared talk followed by discussion. Subjects ranged from such disparate topics as "Man and His Environment" to "Family Portrait (a Junior High dramatic presentation). The first Sunday of each month was generally more formal and took on the aspect of a worship program.
Early in the sixties most programs show-cased member talent. Gradually more outside speakers were called on, including UU ministers. Members almost never had enough discussion time. They tried to discuss past the designated time for discussion. The coffee hour (slyly called Unitarian communion) was an effective way to extend discussion time.
According to Gerald Folden, 1969 Program Chair, programs were planned to "avoid typical religious elements out of respect for the individuality of beliefs." Such thinking took into account that most members have mainline religious backgrounds from which they dissented and subsequently sought and found acceptance for their new beliefs in our UU groups. Over the years, few members have been lifelong Unitarians. State Senator Roy Rowe is one of these rare ones. He also had the unique experience of attending a Unitarian school at Shelter Neck, N.C.
Music, taped and live, became regular fare on Sunday morning programs. Members Lynda Arrington played the piano and Don Adcock performed on the flute frequently. "This year, for the first time in our history, we sang hymns." So stated our 1965 Annual Meeting minutes. "The majority agreed that the experience had been a success."
Until 1967 Sunday programs were scheduled through May or June, depending on when public schools dismissed for the summer. In the summer of that year, Sunday evening discussions were held that dealt with poetic works along with topics of current interest.
The Raleigh Times, in describing a Fellowship service noted, "Hearty applause came following the talk." This custom continues to this day, and applause often follows live music or dramatics, as well. Minister's sermons were exceptions to this rule. Some members feel applause disturbs the atmosphere of worshipful contemplation and therefore refrain from applauding. Another distinguishing feature of Fellowship services is spontaneous laughter following humor. Solemnity for the sake of solemnity has never caught on.
The turbulent years of the sixties saw the Fellowship involved in championing many issues: civil rights, fair housing, equal employment opportunities, military draft counseling.... Many times our discussions inspired letter-writing campaigns to local, state and national officials in favor of voting rights and equal job opportunities in government, student sit-down strikes at lunch counters, and opposition to the death penalty. Indian children from Harnett County, who were protesting segregation in their schools, attended Catholic schools in Raleigh and lived in the homes of member of this fellowship until the controversy was settled. Ray Noggle, president in 1968, terminated our rental of a YMCA room for Sunday services because blacks were being denied membership in its Athletic Club.
Two outstanding Fellowship services to the community were the Halifax Court Study Hall Project and Raleigh Interchurch Housing, Inc. (RICH). The Halifax Court Study Hall Project was planned and staffed by Fellowship members. Several rooms in the library at Halifax Courts were utilized. Our staffers supervised children from disadvantaged homes in Halifax Courts three evenings a week, thus improving the quality of the young students' homework. Over a period of several years, many children gained a quiet place to study supported by caring, helpful adults.
Raleigh Interchurch Housing was a project of five churches, three black congregations and two white ones, including the UU Fellowship of Raleigh. One hundred low-income qualifying apartments were built on Method Road financed with federal funds. Each participating church contributed $2,000. Both black and white persons became occupants in 1970. These five churches will have joint, clear ownership of the apartments when the mortgage is retired in 2009. The apartments may well be worth over $4 million, by then. This project is highly successful and a model for similar ones. Our Fellowship supplies four representatives for the governing board. Our own James Quinn was very active in organizing the project and later became its architect. The following resolution was issued by the Fellowship as it pledged its support for RICH: "Man's quest for safe, decent and sanitary shelter has long been a concern of the Church, and is a concern of (the) Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh."
Following the start of RICH operations, the fellowship participated in establishing Method Day Care Center for children of this housing project. We provided substantial economic support for Method Day Care Center during the sixties. We continue to maintain one of our members as representative on the Method Day Care Center's board of directors.
Financing for our own Fellowship building did not come as easy as raising the $2,000 for RICH or for providing economic support for Method Day Care Center. The AUA turned down our request for a low interest loan to purchase the house. Later the Plandome Society of New York declined to loan money for our Wade Ave. building project. We first had to secure a local bank loan. Our members then raised their building support to $12,000. In spite of this, difficulty with long term financing persisted.
Success!! In 1966, we succeeded in purchasing the Wade Avenue property for $21,000 via a local loan. Paid it off in ten years to the day. How is that for long term money raising? Day to day needs were another matter. The following reprieve was described by Janice Lee, secretary, in 1967: "The board gasped with unbelief when the treasurer reported that no bills had been submitted during the preceding two weeks -- and was almost overcome, when the Book Shop manager, Margaret Ann Link, actually returned $25 of a $75 loan." The $75 loan was used to buy materials from Beacon Press (the UUA press). This was the start-up of our Book Shop.
This was a time of economic frustration. Members' thoughts returned to calling a minister. Special dinners, rummage sales, craft sales; many such events generated funds for the budget. But, sometimes we relaxed with strictly social gatherings. No thoughts about the budget. Things like theater parties, picnics at Reedy Creek State Park, Thanksgiving parties, and Christmas parties.
Throughout the sixties, our predecessors faithfully paid their dues to UUA and the T.J. District. We forged a reputation for responsibility in meeting our financial needs and to living up to our commitments.
These amazing sixties members always looked ahead and assumed responsibility for the future of our community as well as their own organization.