A Short History of our Congregation
by Laura Leonard, Member-at-Large
Our Vashon Island Unitarian Universalists started to form in 1955 when Grace Crecelius joined in placing an ad in the island newspaper asking if a Unitarian group could be formed. Current members Chris Crecelius, Patricia Longhi, Vy Biel, the Winges, and others, responded.
Unitarian Minister Aaron Gilmartin met with 21 Vashon Islanders to discuss forming a fellowship in March 1956 and by April 24 children were enrolled in Sunday school meeting for a while in members’ homes then in the Grange Hall. The American Unitarian Association directors in Boston granted our congregation a certificate of membership number 237 on June 6,1956.
Our meeting places varied with time, attendance and available space. We started in member’s homes, rented the Grange Hall in ’58-’59, the Island Club during‘60-’62 and the Lisabeula school in the fall of ’62. The membership voted, in 1963, to buy the Cove Methodist Church, now a private residence overlooking the west passage at the end of Cove Road. We had then grown to about 30 families with over 60 children in R.E. programs by 1965 but membership and attendance soon declined perhaps due to kids growing up and leaving and shifting patterns of thought during the turbulent sixties. By 1969 the smaller congregation found it difficult to maintain the old building, and coping with leader ship burnout, sold it. Meetings were held in private homes until 1988 when some new members joined and meetings were held in the Youth and Family Services Building near the high school until 1992 when we started meeting in our present Land Trust Building.
Our adherence to the Unitarian philosophy has been consistent for the last four decades however we did undertake a change in the way we operated about the time we moved to the Land Trust Building. It had been our custom to contribute to several agencies as a way of involving ourselves in social justice. A decision was made to redirect this money to develop a children’s program. This has worked well. A mailing list, identifying members and friends, for 1991 shows 33 names – all adults, none with children. Our current mailing list includes about 100 adult names with about 50 children either in religious education classes or coming along. Our 1965 and 2003 peaks in the size of our adult congregation coincide with the number registered in children’s programs. There is a message here for the future.
(Shamelessly plagiarized by Leonard from writings of Fitch, Hodgson and Williams)