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A Brief History of UUFH
In 1981, 17 pioneers established the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Hendersonville and received designation as a member congregation of the Unitarian Universalist Association of America. The relationship to the larger organization and its Thomas Jefferson District 1 has continued through the years.
The group found hospitable meeting space in the Opportunity House. Members and occasional guest speakers conducted Sunday services with the Rev. George (Pete) Tolleson providing part-time professional support. Most meetings were informal with open discussion and little ritual. This early band developed strong social and supportive friendships.
A surge of newcomers moved into Hendersonville in the mid-1980s. New people joined the Fellowship, bringing vitality and talent. In 1990 the 85-member congregation called the Rev. Charles W. Grady to half-time ministry. During his six years service, Rev. Grady nudged the Fellowship into becoming a more intentional faith-based, religious community with more formalized services, introducing chalice lighting, hymn-singing and meditation.
The Sunday meeting space at Opportunity house was full by 1990. With courage, the Fellowship purchased an available church property in 1994, financed with loans from the members and a Chalice Lighter grant. This permanent home spurred rapid growth. New people from the community and members of the Asheville UU church who lived in Hendersonville were attracted to the growing congregation near home. With new space, a variety of programs and activities emerged for support, enrichment, sociability and caring of the fellowship members and friends.
The congregation called the Rev. James McKinley as its first full-time minister in 1997. Jim’s service and work with the Fellowship and his community activities contributed to continued member growth. The increasing presence of younger adults and families and the expanded religious education enrollment brings enriched intergenerational life to the Fellowship.
After two years of planning and design work, our congregation voted to renovate our present facility on Kanuga Road in 2012, so that it would better reflect who we are and enable us to more fully live out our mission.
The new design moves the congregation from a confined structure into an open Unitarian Universalist space. The arrangement reorients the sanctuary to create a more inviting and participatory atmosphere. The curved seating and back wall suggest an embrace. The seats are moveable, not fixed and the entire sanctuary is accessible to everyone. New windows invite the universe in and connect us to the natural world.
Community outreach, with services and funds designated for local programs and with generous response for special causes and relief appeals, is an integral part of the Fellowship mission. The congregation has been able to increase its overall outreach activity in recent years.
Membership numbers are only one measure of a healthy congregation. The spiritual experience of Sunday worship with fine music; the abounding vitality and energy of the committees; the warmth and caring of supporting groups; and the welcoming and the generous giving of all members and friends delineates the healthy heart of the Fellowship.
The Fellowship is a vigorous and energized congregation, anticipating its journey into the future with continued ministry to its congregation, concern for the wider community, and the education of its children and youth for responsible citizenship.
- Barbara Hochschild and MIckey Kilpatrick