The eighties began with an almost full-service program:
How well were our 154 members coping with all these elements in 1980? Rev. David Scheyer, interim minister, in his 1987 evaluation of the Fellowship wrote that it is: "a basically very 'healthy' congregation, one with the resources and commitment capable of making it a prime example of the best we have to offer."
One major commitment was to establish and maintain a ministerial presence. Rev. West stayed long enough to encourage and support the construction of a new building. She contributed to a myriad of programs, including the NCSU Campus Ministry, ACLU, Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights, consultant minister for the Winston-Salem Fellowship, and monthly minister's suppers to bring small groups of members together to get to know their minister personally. Rev. West resigned in January 1982 to pursue other goals.
A new Search Committee, chaired by Ray Noggle was promptly initiated. This time, the search was for a full-time minister. Again, the stipulation was that the minister be responsible for a maximum of two services per month.Rev. Roberta Harrison Wood accepted the congregational call and began her ministry May 1, 1983.
Unfortunately, friction developed between Rev. Wood and a significant number of Fellowship members, and it was never successfully managed. The Ministerial Relations Committee and our Fellowship board were at odds over how to resolve the problems. All members were invited to express their opinions. The T.J. District Executive was asked to mediate but, in the end, Rev. Wood resigned to halt further polarization of the congregation.
The call to the congregational meeting, which accepted her resignation, read in part: "We have all been through a very difficult and sad experience. It is important that the congregation understand that both Roberta Wood and the board are in agreement on the settlement. This despite the many concerns that we all have about how we arrived at this point."
Rev. Scheyer later pointed out that "there does appear to be a subtle opposition to 'being told what to do by the minister among some people.' Hardly surprising in a Fellowship with one foot back in the fellowship days. This attitude will continue to decline as more people discover that a minister (any minister) is not, by definition, some kind of threat, that his/her interests are really the same as their own." After Rev. Wood resigned, the congregation moved quickly to call an interim minister, Rev. Don Vaughn. Rev. Vaughn resigned after nine months.
Rev. David Scheyer came in 1986. Meanwhile, the then current Search Committee, chaired by Karen Matteson, was following the process prescribed in the UUA guidelines for selecting and calling a new, permanent, full-time minister. An improved salary package gave the committee a broader range of candidates.
Rev. Morris Hudgins was called in December 1986 and began his work August 1, 1987. A cooperative arrangement between the minister and the Program Committee allowed for greater flexibility in the number of Sundays each presided in the pulpit. A ministry of partnership and cooperation between professional and lay leaders was established. Rev. Hudgins was involved in community and denominational activities, such as:
For the eighties, establishing professional leadership loomed large in the minds of our members. Meanwhile, there was a second major commitment: financing and constructing a new building at 3313 Wade Ave. After years of struggle, the plans, the financing and the timing converged to produce an attractive structure designed by Ken Boisseau Design Group and built by Gene Singleton, contractor. Paul Wright, Building Committee member, was on the site nearly every day, checking on construction details. Ground was broken in October 1980; the congregation moved in mid-February 1981. The start of a new chapter in the history of the Fellowship!!
To celebrate, we sang songs and planted grass seed and Rev. West spoke: "There is excitement in beginning this venture....Dreams of all that can be experienced here; of new people we will come to know, who, knowingly or unknowingly, will be indebted to those in the present congregation, who made this place possible for now and future times."
Members formed a procession from the Hawthorne Road house to the new building on Wade Avenue. It was Rev. West's idea. Each member carried an object from the old house to the new building. Betsy Cox carried the wooden raccoon mascot. Young people took turns carrying the mummy case.
The Hawthorne Road house was sold, there-upon to revert back to use by a family. As a reminder of our roots, a hawthorn tree was planted on the bank facing the Wade Ave. entrance to the R.E. wing of the building.
Members pitched in to add finishing touches to the new building; paint, tile and carpet, room dividers, shelves, cabinets and counters, landscaping. Elmo Jensen contributed the light for the front parking lot. Joe Parker donated furniture and carpeting. The Raleigh Arts Community donated the stained glass panel created by Becky Dixon to symbolize the major religions of the world. Shirl Thomas made the sign at the entrance to the building. Elaine Reed created a decorative plate for the new building.
WOULDN'T YOU KNOW IT!! The congregation had hardly settled in before Sunday morning spaces were crowded again. A new architect and a capital fund drive brought about a partial solution by adding a large R.E. room in 1987. Parking was also improved. We also acquired the two-acre plot of land directly east of 3313 for possible future expansion. We set up a Land Use Committee, under Alan Spader's direction, to explore options for the use of the property.
Yet another Building Committee, a new architect, and more financial studies signal that the process continues. In the meantime, one hundred and fifty children enrolled in R.E. can hardly wait for deliberations to be completed. A temporary portable classroom was installed in the summer of 1989 to ease crowding until the proposed expansion is completed.
But liberal religion was growing and there is a limit to what on site expansion will accommodate. The boards of UUFR and Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (ERUUF) were collaborating to establish one or more new UU societies in the area. ERUUF was also experiencing growing pains. There were significant developments in Religious Education for youth:
Diann Irwin, Director of R.E., realized the R.E. children were not involved in total Fellowship programming. She arranged for children to come as a group to the first portion of adult Sunday services on a regular basis. Other significant improvements in R.E. were:
The R.E. budget included a camper-ship to The Mountain UU Camp and Conference Center for a deserving R.E. youngster. Money for books for the R.E. library was budgeted.
Dianne Hain became R.E. Director in 1986. The position was expanded to half time in 1988. Young Religious Unitarian Universalists (YRUU), once called LRY, and the Junior High group took on community service projects, attended conferences and raised funds for their activities:
Intergenerational Retreats at Umstead Park became significant events that began in 1983 with Gigi Cooper as organizer. Children and adults camp, play, and worship together. In 1987, our board reaffirmed the Fellowship's commitment to the larger community. Their stated long-range goal was to "develop our Fellowship as a dynamic positive religious force in ourselves and our community."
In this decade, three Asian families were relocated in Raleigh by the Fellowship. The Ly family (father, mother, 6 children, and another born shortly after their arrival) came to Raleigh Durham Airport on a snowy March day in 1980. All the work involved in housing, feeding, clothing, health care, school attendance, teaching English and myriads of other things tested our commitment. James Quinn, president, said; "This required the cooperation of the whole (Fellowship) added to the extraordinary efforts of a few." The Lys moved to California. A Laotian family (father, mother and 2 children) replaced them in 1988. Following shortly after the Laotian family, an Amer-Asian girl, her mother, stepfather and 2 stepbrothers. Renate Thompson is the current chair of the Task Force on Refugees.
John Vorhees organized a support group for parents and friends of gays and a UU Gay and Lesbian group. Both met regularly in the Fellowship building. An AIDS support group sponsored by The Lesbian and Gay Health Project, used a room in the building.
A major effort coordinated by Joel Watson provided supervision for the overflow shelter for homeless men in Raleigh during the month of December 1988. 75 members in shifts of three stayed overnight to monitor approximately 30 men.
The new professional ministerial presence did not decrease the volume of activities for the Program Committee. Perhaps the two major reasons were:
Crowding and parking problems forced us to dual Sunday morning services in September 1988. The two programs often considered entirely different topics and were never duplicates. We never lacked for program ideas or volunteers to speak. The Program Committee provided themes in sociology, politics, religion, and the arts. Year- round programming became the responsibility of the committee in 1983. The choir, under the direction of Loretta Mershon, was featured several times per month in Sunday morning services. A Beautiful hand-quilted wall hanging featuring the UU chalice symbol was created and donated by Regina Liske.
Other Non-musical events:
Many members have contributed their time and talents to help run the Fellowship. One name, however, appeared on the roster of board members more often than any other. Barbara Michos served in many important positions (President, Program Chair, Social Chair, Membership Chair) on ten different occasions.
The Membership Committee enjoys exemplary success. Membership has increased from 154 in 1980 to 268 in 1989 and is still growing. For the Care Committee (within the Membership Committee), more members means the possibility that more people in the Fellowship who are in crisis or ill. Our plaudits to the Care Committee. The Membership Committee provides "New U" classes designed to orient new people to UU history, organization and thought. "New U" classes are offered several times per year. The Membership Committee promotes numerous Circle Dinners, small dinners held in members homes, to acquaint new members with older members.
In 1988, we developed our current statement of purpose: "We encourage the sharing of joys and concerns, promoting social action to assist people in need, the appreciation of liberal religious thought, the betterment of human existence, and the necessity of tolerance. We are committed to peace, truth, love, equality, and the health of the natural world. The mission of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh is to provide the community with the opportunity to participate in a multi-generational forum of free expression in a climate of intellectual, spiritual and religious stimulation."