A Brief History of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Bozeman (UUFB)
The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Bozeman (UUFB) grew out of a small liberal discussion group that began meeting in 1955. In 1959, after a Unitarian minister’s visit, the discussion group voted to affiliate with the American Unitarian Association. The Fellowship met every other week, first in homes, then in various facilities around the community. In the early 1960’s a Sunday School was organized.
As membership grew a lot was purchased as the site of a future church. From the late 1960’s to the late 1970’s a group of about 20 continued to meet, mostly in homes. Meetings were informal and simple, ending with a coffee hour.
In the early 1980’s, the UU fellowships in the state formed the Montana Cluster and voted to hire a shared minister. The Cluster called the Rev. Mary Scriver in 1983, and she served congregations in Helena, Great Falls, Bozeman and Missoula until 1985. She introduced a more formal service that included elements such as lighting the chalice, music, and closing circles. During these years, the Fellowship became more active with the UU Mountain Desert District and the Unitarian Universalist Association.
Following Rev. Scriver’s resignation, the UUFB made a concerted effort to increase membership. As part of this effort, visiting ministers were brought in, usually for extended weekends, to meet and consult with committees, as well as lead Sunday Services. In 1988 we sold the lot purchased earlier as a church site, and invested the proceeds. A Long Range Planning Committee was formed in 1989 to address concerns about the future.
During the 1990’s, eight visiting and consulting ministers helped us progress toward some of our long-range goals. By 1993 the Fellowship held services every Sunday, men’s and women’s groups met regularly, and there was a thriving Religious Education program. In an effort to become more active in social justice issues, we hosted a community Thanksgiving in 1995 and assisted in the Montana Gay Pride parade in 1997. In 1999-2000 the Fellowship participated in Welcoming Congregation workshops and voted to become a Welcoming Congregation, making Montana the first state to have all its congregations part of this program.
When a consulting minister resigned in 2000, a committee was formed to search for a settled minister. In 2003 a Chalice Lighters Grant from the Mountain Desert District enabled us to call the Rev. Lois Van Leer as a half-time minister. During her seven-year ministry with us, membership almost doubled, with Sunday Services drawing more than 80 adult congregants, plus children.
After meeting in a variety of spaces, the Fellowship moved Sunday Services to the Bozeman Senior Center in 2004. In 2005 we hired a part-time administrative assistant, and we began renting a downtown office suite (“UU Central”) in 2007. With the help of another Chalice Lighters’ Grant, the UUFB brought on a part-time Coordinator of Lifespan Education in 2008. In 2009 UUA Executive Vice President, Kay Montgomery, helped us celebrate our 50th anniversary.
Rev. Van Leer resigned in spring 2010 to accept a position in Woodinville, WA, and the Rev. Jacqueline Ziegler became our Interim Minister for the 2010-2011 year. A Search Committee began the task of assessing current congregation characteristics, needs, and hopes for the future, with the expectation of welcoming a new settled minister in 2011.
In the fall of 2011 we welcomed and installed the Rev. Dr. Nina Grey as our 3 /4 time minister. UU Central was moved to new office quarters, and a crew was hired to prepare and reset space for our services at the Senior Center. We hired a regular teacher for the 3 – 5 RE class.
2012 and 2013 brought further strengthening of our Life Span RE program when we added more hours for the RE Coordinator, hired a second teacher for the youngest group of children and funded additional hours for child care for special all-fellowship gatherings. The Adult RE program was also strengthened by adding new offerings, including the Spiritual Pluralism discussion groups. Groups are currently studying Humanism, Buddhism, Mysticism, and Earth -Centered Spiritualities.
In 2012 a UUFB Planned Giving Task Force was started and a plan created for Deferred and Planned Giving with the enabling bylaw changes. The UUFB Environmental Justice Task Force was created to explore sustainability, climate change and environmental justice. Other Social Task Forces include The Family Promise Task Force and the Social Justice Reading Group.
We also live out our Social Justice mission by monthly donations to the Gallatin Valley Food Bank, participating with volunteer support to Family Promise, the Crop Walk, and the Montana Gay Pride Parade, and contributing to our denomination’s “Guest at Your Table” program. Special collections have been taken for disaster relief in Asia, the Warming Center in Bozeman, and a seminary scholarship, among others.
Written by Susan Backer, 2009
Adapted by Susan Backer, 2014