A Brief History
History of Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
QUUF began in February 1976 with a classified ad in the local newspaper, The Leader, “Unitarians? Come for coffee and conversation Sunday, February 8th For location call….” Fifteen people showed up in Jeannette Earhart’s living room in Port Hadlock, and thus began monthly Sunday afternoon meetings. They used recorded sermons, book reviews, talks on Unitarian history and current interests as subjects for discussion. The average age was late 60s to early 70s.
In 1977-78, a Pacific Northwest District representative came to explain the advantages of affiliating with the UUA. After a spirited discussion with decidedly different views, the matter was set aside until there was more support. The group joined the Church of the Larger Fellowship in 1979-80 and used the CLF newsletter articles and sermons for discussion topics. Each June they sent their membership dues, as well as contributions to the UUA and UUSC.
In 1984 they began meeting at the Tri-Area Community Center in Chimacum, two afternoons/month. This was after much discussion about the desire to attract more people and be more visible.
In 1985, they named themselves Quimper Unitarians to indicate that members came not just from Port Townsend but from all over the Quimper Peninsula. They elected the first Board of Trustees, began to form committees, developed a budget, and began using an Order of Service. Again they discussed affiliating with the UUA. A By-Laws Committee was formed and Articles of Incorporation were filed. In the summer of 1986, Lars Watson, the first President of the Board, went to Boston with Lucille to pick up the QUUF charter. There were 22 members.
By this time services had become more formal; a chalice was lit and an offering was taken. To promote fellowship, which was always a high priority, members began meeting for monthly Circle Suppers.
The Arrival of Religious Education for Children
During these early years there was one young couple, who came with their baby. The group was interested in becoming more welcoming to families and were convinced that an afternoon service was not convenient for people with small children. In 1987, a group was formed to begin a Religious Education Program. Kathy Stevenson and an RE Committee formed two age groups and began presenting curriculum that was developed by the UUA. At this point, the adults moved to the larger meeting room at the Tri-Area Center. The group was still meeting 2 times/month. The Director of Religious Education was the first staff position funded.
In 1990, the fellowship had 53 members and about 25 children.
In 1995, Louise Nomura received a check from the US government for reparations from the time she, as a Japanese-American, was interned during WW II. She offered QUUF $10,000 to begin a building if that amount could be matched in three months’ time. Three months later $16,000 had been raised with enthusiasm. A few members resigned, feeling the money was better spent on social justice needs rather than a building.
Hiring our First Minister and Building in Port Townsend
At the same time QUUF was getting ready for its first minister. For only 54 members to commit to two large projects at the same time was overwhelming to many. Months of heated discussion occurred before these tasks were undertaken.
Rev. Tim Haley became our first minister, quarter time, in September 1995. Soon after, 3/4 of an acre was purchased in Port Townsend for the building. The lot was cleared in June 1996 and work began.
There was a strong desire by many congregants to be actively involved in the construction. The contractor, Malcomb Dorn agreed to supervise volunteer labor. Participation in the sweat equity building project by members, friends, passers-by, and UUs from nearby congregations was phenomenal. More than 8,000 hours of volunteer labor were recorded before we stopped keeping track. Day after day for many months people came and worked or came and brought food for the workers. The building was finished in May 1997 just before Tim Haley left us for a fulltime ministry in Portland.
Louise Nomura died in the summer of 1997. Her letter of reparations from the U. S. government was enclosed in the hand-built door to the sanctuary and a beautiful garden was built with memorial contributions.
Rev. Nan Geer came to us quarter time in September 1997 and remained for two years, half-time the second year. In 1997 we also hired an office administrator and a custodian. Membership grew: in 1998 we had 107 members, in 1999 133 members. The number of activities and projects for members grew as well, with an impressive list of interesting ways to express our religion.
In January 2000, Rev. Craig Moro began with us half time, and the fellowship continued to grow. In 2001 the RE program became so large that space had to be rented elsewhere to make room for the more than 80 children. Another building project began to take high priority, just as all the debt was paid off on the original building. At the same time the congregation voted to call a full-time minister. Once again many members felt overwhelmed by taking on two more large projects. Our hopes were high, however, that once again we could achieve our goals.
Our first full-time minister had also been our first part-time minister. Rev Tim Haley, wishing to return to QUUF, was called in the spring of 2002. After a year, however, he needed to return to Portland, and we hired an Interim Minister, Rob Moore. Another search committee was formed and in the fall of 2004 we welcomed Rev Bruce Bode. Between 2002 and 2005 our membership increased 26% and our pledge income increased 85%.
In 2005, we were named one of four “Breakthrough Congregations” by the UUA (the first year they did the program). We produced the video that was shown to new members for a number of years. A group of us went to General Assembly in Fort Worth to speak about how we successfully grew in such a small town.
Our Second Building Project
As our membership and attendance grew, we began having meetings to envision a new, larger space. It took several years to whittle down everyone’s hopes and dreams to a cohesive idea of what made sense. We hired a capital campaign consultant from the UUA to help us figure out how much money we might be able to raise, and did a two-tier capital campaign. We had many meetings to discuss various drafts of building plans, and what we could afford, and then had a secondary campaign to raise more, so that we could have a foyer connecting the new sanctuary to what became our Fellowship Hall.
We began construction in 2009, and finished in Feb. 2010. Our architect was Richard Berg and Malcomb Dorn again was willing to accommodate our desire for congregants to volunteer their time and talents. We included provision for the next stage of building, adding educational and support rooms on the south side of the building should we ever want to expand further.
Additional Staffing Needs
By 2013 it became clear that we built it, and they came. The congregation was extremely active, and infrastructure coordination became critical. To our staff of Minister, Director of Religious Education, Congregational Administrator, Choir Director and Sexton we added a Membership Coordinator and Office Manager. We have hosted 5 UU Interns. And for the year 2016-17, we have hired a second minister, Rev Florence Caplow.
As of this writing, July, 2016, we have 377 members, 212 Friends, and 95 children and youth. Our congregational life is rich with possibilities, adult programs, children’s religious education, several worship opportunities including a vibrant choir. Our social justice work is varied and passionate. We continue to seek ways for people to connect and belong, and serve the community within and without.