A Brief History
The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Fairbanks began more than 50 years ago and continues today as our own, local, Alaska-grown take on the Unitarian Universalist tradition. We invite you to learn more.
Part I. Monroe Husbands
From 1948-1973, Monroe Husbands, the “Johnny Appleseed of Unitarianism,” met with people who were interested in liberal religion and Unitarian Universalism in towns across the western US and Alaska. Over 700 UU Fellowships owe their existence to him. He helped these newly founded UU fellowships with modes of organization, new procedures and methods of service, and creative new worship programs.
Part II. Founding of UUFF
In 1956, Monroe Husbands placed an ad in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner saying “Are You A Unitarian Without Knowing It?” A small group began to meet in Fairbanks, and began registering official members with the first signing of the membership book taking place on April 29, 1956.
Part III. Early Years
Through the late 50s, 60s, and 70s, Fairbanks UUs met in a variety of places, including each others’ homes and in various rooms they rented around town. For a period of time, a liberal Army Chaplain from Fort Wainwright provided Sunday services. The group remained fairly small, but steady, although there is some speculation of a temporary cessation of meetings during the Vietnam War.
In the early 80s, the group met for three years in the chapel at Pioneer Park, and for the next three years at the Jack & Jill Preschool. Several current members were part of the Fellowship during those years.
Part IV. Log Cabin
In the late 80s, Fairbanks UUs began meeting at a log cabin on Noble Street, in downtown Fairbanks. It was owned by member Susan Johnson who generously made the building available without charge beyond property and utility costs. In 1988, the Fellowship purchased the building from Susan, and continued to meet there until 1995.
Part V. Move to Pikes Landing Road
By the mid-90s, the steadily growing Fellowship had again outgrown its location and members started looking for a new home. In 1995, the group purchased the current lot and the existing building. The site was chosen for the excellent, wooded location near the Chena River, and the potential for expansion whenever the need arose.
From 1995 until 2005, the Fellowship held Sunday services in the basement of the existing building. Upstairs were rooms for Religious Exploration (RE) and a kitchen for coffee hour.
Again, as the congregation grew, the need for expansion into a larger meeting space was evident. The congregation, with the help of a Chalice Lighters grant from the Pacific Northwest District of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), began the process of building its new sanctuary in 2004. With all but the finishing touches done, the congregation began holding services in the new sanctuary in September of 2005.
Part VI. Building a Sanctuary
Since September of 2005, the fellowship and friends have met in the new, modern sanctuary. The space provides a place for Sunday services, committee meetings, celebrations, and observances of important events in our lives and in the life of the Fellowship.
The space is available for other to rent for concerts, weddings, memorial services, etc.
With the completion of our building, attention turned to landscaping the outdoor area, including the creation of a labyrinth, outdoor seating areas, plantings, and the children’s playground.
Part VII. 50 Years and Growing
In 2006, UUFF celebrated its 50th anniversary and also began holding Sunday services during the summer, so now our doors are open year-round on Sunday mornings.
In 2007, UUFF officially became a Welcoming Congregation (to GLBT members and visitors), having achieved all the steps required by the UUA to be granted this status.
In 2010, UUFF hired it’s first part-time, UU minister to serve the congregation. The minister led about half of the Sunday services throughout the year; the other half remained lay-lead. The minister also provided other ministerial duties such as member care and ceremony leadership.
For about the next five years, UUFF worked with several different part-time ministers in an effort to explore the needs of the fellowship. During this time, UUFF leaders worked to understand how a minister could better fulfill the needs of our community.
In 2015, UUFF made the decision to hire a full-time minister to serve the needs of the growing fellowship. In-keeping with the strong UUFF tradition of having some Sunday services lay-lead, the minister continued to lead only about half the Sunday services in the year. But had more time to devote to community building at UUFF and in Fairbanks. UUFF thrived for seven years with our first full-time minster.
Part VIII. Today
Today, UUFF has returned to its 100% lay-lead roots and is preparing to search for its next minister. A Program Committee organizes lay leaders and outside speakers for our weekly Sunday services.
UUFF operates as a democratic congregation, with decisions being made by board members, who are elected by congregational vote at our annual meeting in April or May. Our bylaws, mission and articles of incorporation guide their decision-making.
The most important issues facing the fellowship are decided directly by members at the annual meeting or at special meetings, which can be called by the Board for that purpose.
The majority of the fellowship’s budget is funded by annual pledges made by UUFF members. The balance of funds comes from weekly offerings (“the plate”), and from fundraisers including hosting Whale Coast visitors each summer.