A Brief History of Cascade Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
In the spring of 1985, Larry and Penny Tobiska invited friends Dave and Pat Notter, Ben and Jane Knecht, and Steve Lachowicz to join them in their home. The topic was exciting but daunting; would it be possible to form a viable Unitarian Fellowship in the religiously conservative Wenatchee Valley? Records showed an attempt had been made in the 60's that didn't survive beyond leaving a $68.00 balance in an unclaimed checking account.
Invitations were extended to a list of potential participants. Brought into the organizing circle were LeRoy Farmer, Gene Kupferman, and Gary and Mikael Montague. With a positive response from many on the invitation list, the first meeting was held on November 17, 1985, in the auditorium of Central Washington Bank. UU minister, John Crane delivered an inspirational message to the audience of 33 charter members.
In February of 1986 Cascade Unitarian Fellowship (Universalist would be added in 2000) applied for membership in the Unitarian Universalist Association. Acceptance was granted in April of that year to the small congregation which included doctors, lawyers, teachers, orchardists and social workers. Many were parents seeking open-minded religious education for their children.
CUF's first meetings were in a middle school cafeteria until moving to the Veterans Memorial Hall. Eventually, a search began for a permanent location.
During the 1989-90 period a Consulting Minister was sought and found in Nan Day, a third year student at Northwest Theological Union. In 1992, Nan Day was ordained, married Richard Geer, and signed a part-time ministry agreement with CUF. Her first sermon as ordained minister, Rev. Nan Geer, was September 20,1992.
Rev. Geer's leadership gave energy and inspiration to the members who developed a program for lay-ministry training, hired a Religious Education director and adopted a mission statement; The mission of the Cascade Unitarian Fellowship is to contribute towards community by promoting spiritual growth, the free expression and exploration of ideas and beliefs, and mutual support through fellowship. The vibrant CUF youth hosted 175 young people at the PNWD Young Adult Conference at Lake Chelan.
During Nan's tenure the fellowship was inspired to make the commitment to purchase its present facility on Cascade Highway in East Wenatchee in February of 1994. Attendance and membership grew.
In 1996, Rev. Geer made the decision to end her position with CUF and Rev. Joan Montagnes, an Interim Minister, was hired on a one year, part-time contract. As Rev. Montagnes' year began to end another search began. In September 1997, Rev. Annie Holmes, of Kenosha, Wisconsin was hired for full-time ministry after a near unanimous vote. Her ministry focused on children's programs, holiday services, building a choir, a meditation group and a series on World Religions. By September of 1999 CUF was again without a minister. Services were lay-led and featured fellowship members, visiting UU ministers and guest speakers from the community. In September of 2000, Universalist was added to the name and an illuminated highway sign was constructed.
Lay-led services continue to be an enduring feature of CUUF, as does the revered tradition of CUUF of supporting those in need whether it be the aftermath of Katrina, money given to local homeless children, or members needing support during an illness or hardship.
The most recent history has brought facility improvements, a beautiful meditation garden, and improvements in management, as well as expanded opportunities for spiritual growth and fellowship with like-minded people. Monthly Cascade Coffee House concerts, expanded summer Sunday services, monthly Meaningful Movies, Buddhist meditation groups, and book groups are some of the offerings of CUUF. Annual New U classes and monthly UU and You meetings are held to "Invite, Inform and Involve" newcomers. In February of 2007, Covenant Groups were formed and continue to grow in number.
In 2008, a formal plan for the fellowship's future was developed by the Long Range Planning Committee under the leadership of founder Larry Tobiska as chair. It was once again time to look for a minister to meet the needs of a growing congregation and tackle the challenges of finding a solution to a change in facilities that will be brought on by the future highway expansion. The Ministerial Search Committee, interviewed candidates keeping in mind the three ministerial priorities garnered from a survey of the fellowship: 1) spiritual leadership, 2) intellectual development, and, 3) congregational growth.
In September 2008, Rev. Julie Forest was invited for a Candidating Weekend, ending with an inspiring sermon and a vote by the congregation of CUUF to offer her a part-time, one year contract as consulting minister.
Rev. Julie delivered two sermons per month to a full sanctuary and guided the fellowship into a period of growth. Toward the end of her first year she found a full time position with another congregation. With many wishes for continued happiness the members of CUUF said a fond goodbye.
The search began, once again, for a spiritual leader for CUUF. In September 2009, Rev. Cecilia Kingman met the congregation during a busy Candidating Weekend, ending with an inspiring sermon and a vote by the congregation to offer her the open part-time ministry position. She accepted and has continued the upward growth trend at CUUF with her stellar leadership, and moving and memorable Sunday sermons.
About Unitarian Universalism...
Unitarian Universalism emerged in 1961 as the consolidation of two centuries-old religions that originated in Europe. Unitarianism affirms the unity, the oneness, of God, man and the universe; Universalism says that everyone has access to truth and perfection, with no need for a personal savior. UU is a liberal religion that does not require adherence to a certain creed, but accepts many paths for finding truth and meaning.
There are seven principles which Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:
- The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
- Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
- Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
- A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
- The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
- The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
- Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
Unitarian Universalism draws from many sources:
- Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
- Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
- Wisdom from the world's religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
- Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God's love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
- Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit;
- Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.
Famous Unitarians include John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Louisa May Alcott, T.S. Eliot, Clara Barton, Bertrand Russell, Beatrix Potter, William O. Douglas, E.E. Cummings and M. Scott Peck.