Gwyneth Andrews was asked by the board in 1973 to keep the annual May Fair small because time and energy were simultaneously being required for the construction of the new building.
When the seventies decade began, adult members were meeting at the Raleigh Little Theater so as to leave the Fellowship (Hawthorne Road) house solely for children's R.E. programs. The struggle to overcome crowding was at a critical stage. Efforts were repeated again and again to raise and borrow money for construction of a building on our Wade Avenue lot. Quinn-Wiggins architectural firm had been retained and they submitted drawings for a handsome building. We approved the plans. Seventy families pledged a total of $20,000 to a building fund. Contractors’ bids were called for. In the end the project failed for lack of local bank funding. Frustration!!!
Remodeling the Hawthorne Road house was the 1974 temporary solution to the space crisis. Blosser-Boone was the architect and Louis Skelton was the builder. The expanded and refurbished house served us well until 1979. Now, furnishing the remodeled house adequately and keeping it clean and repaired kept our members busy. Glenn Miller suggested that each member buy a chair for the meeting room. A good many chairs were provided in this way. Families were assigned their weeks for cleaning duty. When your family's week came up, your name appeared in the newsletter.
Individuals were taking responsibility for a variety of things: Freeke Kohl silk-screened panels for two windows in the meeting room addition. Susanna Clark made Roman shades for the remaining windows. The problem of taking care of the trash each Sunday was solved when Margaret Thompson volunteered to do it. Dave Link volunteered to be responsible for setting up the chairs for Sunday meetings. Henry Lynn repaired the leaky roof. Mary Lou Shanklin planted and landscaped.
Meanwhile, the house was finding more and more community uses such as Partners, Hopeline, Raleigh Artists, Parents Without Partners, and others. Sunday morning adult programs continued to be diverse. Certain of these themes; namely evil, personal philosophy, decision-making, morals and ethics, life experiences, and heroes; became so popular that they extended their runs by becoming discussion series.
Jeralee Miller, our imaginative Program Chair, involved 25 members in Sunday program presentations in one year. Miller's Sunday discussion programs extended into summers.
Sometimes Jeralee Miller had to field complaints about programs. Our board reviewed its policy on programs. "Our pulpit is an open forum; controversial topics are often addressed; we can't guarantee never to offend anyone." "Karen Braucher raised [the] question as to whether discussion is necessary at every service. No, a discussion may not be necessary if the service is inspirational in character, they decided."
More live and recorded music was added to worship services, mostly in these ways:
The music chair took on the task of securing musicians.
Glenn Miller installed a new audio system. He managed and operated the tape recorder and provided taped music. Sunday mornings always started with Glenn arriving to set up the audio equipment.
In the mid-seventies, Ruth Noggle, possessing a love of music coupled with long experience in choir singing, gathered together willing members in order to practice hymns to be sung in Sunday services.
Some members objected to certain words in certain hymns, but Ruth maintained that "the spirit of the music was the most important thing." The hymn-singers became a choir. Music was scrounged or ordered from UUA. The choir was called on to sing regularly. Loretta Mershon followed Ruth as choir director and has continued her able and dedicated service to the present.
A Decorations Chair was added to coordinate floral and artistic adjuncts to the Sunday services. Photographs by Jerome Kohl graced the covers of many of the Sunday morning orders of service.
The Statement of Purpose was reviewed and revised in 1971. It reflected the setting of new goals and directions of our Fellowship: "The purpose of this Fellowship shall be to provide through fellowship, the experience and knowledge necessary for the formulation of a religion or philosophy based on freedom and responsibility of belief, reason and the evaluation of ideas."
One concept of the 1969 by-laws was reaffirmed. "Any person may become a member of this Fellowship who is in sympathy with its purpose and program, as signified by his (sic) signature on the membership roll." During the seventies, an attempt to degenderize our by-laws was voted down.
A number of new services to members began in the seventies:
The Fellowship was indeed a lively, friendly place. New members and visitors were welcomed at all events. Growth was natural. In the 1978 Annual Report, President John Goodman wrote, "While some would argue the advisability of growth, in many ways it is essential, due to the fluidity of our membership. I love it [growth] because of the constant influx of new people with their particular view-points and talents."
For children, whose numbers grew from 65 at the end of the sixties to 75 at the end of the seventies, the Hawthorne Road house was an exciting place to be. Dot Ward became Director of Religious Education in 1970. The director's stipend had improved to $720. Dot had six committee members and twenty-three teachers to cope with up to fifty children on Sunday mornings. Margaret Ann Link, who followed Dot as R.E. director, instituted worship services before individual classes.
The About Your Sexuality curriculum from Beacon Press became a very popular course and was presented several times to junior and senior high youth and nine-to-eleven year olds. In the "Church Across the Street" program, Fellowship Junior High students exchanged visits with their counterparts in other churches and temples.
The Liberal Religious Youth (LRY) went through several cycles during this period. Fred Thompson started a Youth-Adult Committee (YAC) to review and resolve common problems. Guidelines were drawn up for LRY activities including a ban on alcohol and drugs and requiring the presence of adult chaperons at all LRY functions. Our young people started a coffeehouse at the Fellowship with music, readings, etc. Difficulties arose from the behavior of a few teens. The board withdrew its support. At various times, the LRY painted the house, worked at the Peace Booth at the N.C. State Fair, took charge of the adult Sunday morning coffee hour, participated in the CROP Walk, and attended Lower South Federation meetings. Lynn Thompson Wheal was elected president of this group in 1971.
Someone once suggested that the LRY meet in the attic. Instead, the attic became a refuge for broken furniture, old curriculum props, and a large raccoon (Raleigh Raccoon), who came into and out of the attic in mysterious ways. Raleigh Raccoon arrived late in the seventies and was destroying the attic and its contents. We called the Humane Society to set a trap. One Sunday evening during an LRY meeting, loud thumping and bumping sounds came from the attic. Raleigh Raccoon was frantically trying to get out of the trap. Police were called. They removed the raccoon and promised to give the animal a rural home. Betsy Cox immortalized Raleigh Raccoon as a symbol of the spirit of our Fellowship. She made a banner using the raccoon as a symbol and presented a carved wooden raccoon to the Fellowship.
Our organization has always depended on pledging units (mostly family units) for a major portion of its support. The number of pledging units doubled during the seventies while the budget grew from $10,000 to $23,525. Pledges aren't always enough. So Unitarians created fund raisers and more fund raisers such as selling peanuts at N.C. State Fairs, socials, yard sales, church fairs, and goods and services auctions with members contributing goods and services.
Funding all the services our Fellowship offered was touch-and-go, but our assistance to community projects was always forthcoming. Method Day Care Center and RICH received substantial economic support during the sixties. Others benefiting from our assistance: Total Life Center (TLC), Coalition, Cameron Park Association, camping scholarships, and Vietnamese Boat People. Often, the best support was in the form of personal contributions of time in such community projects as Partners, CROP Walk, picnics and Sunday evening worship times at Women's Prison, Hopeline, and Peace Booth at State Fair.
An intense and extended project aimed at keeping pregnant girls in school was presented to the school board by the Social Action Committee. Emerson Snipes was the chair. Our committee studied the program extensively and tried to coordinate it with the school administration. Finally, the school administration took the project under advisement. Some time later, the school system began a program for pregnant students. We maintained our ties with T.J. District and our denomination through attendance at R.E. workshops, district meetings, and General Assemblies.
Rev. John Burciaga, UUA Ministerial Consultant reported in 1977 that the Raleigh Fellowship struck him "as being one of the strongest groups he has seen, and it appeared to him that our Fellowship is ready to take on another challenge." The challenge he was referring to was calling a minister, thus fulfilling a spiritual need, for which a majority of the Raleigh Fellowship had expressed a desire. Earlier discussions had been directed at such short-term solutions as finding suitable ministers who were available to speak on Sundays and contracting a minister to speak on a monthly basis.
When Rev. Roger Sizemore, another UUA consultant, held workshops and informal discussions with members in 1976, the issue of professional leadership became even more intense. The board decided to put the question to the congregation in the form of a questionnaire. The majority of members favored calling a part-time minister. The board voted to call a part-time minister. While they were at it, they voted to set up yet another building fund. The year was 1976.
Dev Munn chaired our first Search Committee. The Committee presented Rev. Frances West as a candidate. Rev. West was elected and began work March 1, 1979. The contract limited her to speaking from the pulpit no more than once or twice per month. An unwritten understanding was that no vestments would be worn for Sunday services. A Ministerial Liaison Committee was formed and our by-laws adapted to reflect an organization with a part-time professional minister in place. Working out arrangements that work was..... challenging. Some of the elements were a strong and vital lay leadership, lay leadership's strong insistence on an equal share of the pulpit, and the part-time nature of the professional leadership.
The chalice was faithfully lit for Sunday morning services. We came to expect a more liturgical tone from the Sunday programs. After a beautiful Christmas Eve candlelighting service, Tom Tull remarked: "Fellowship members seem ready for a few more ritualistic events per year." Rev. West supported and encouraged an effort that culminated in the construction of our present building at 3313 Wade Avenue. Boisseau Design Group was architect and Singleton, the builder. Rev. West perceived the nature of the change taking place in our fellowship as one of moving from a uni-cell to a multi-celled group and saw her role as one of helping the congregation fulfill its dreams.