Timeline of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto

The seventy-fifth anniversary of the organization of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto is in 2022. So I’ve been working on the history of the congregation, starting with a basic timeline.

Sources for this timeline: Rae Bell’s timeline for the 60th anniversary of the congregation; Annual Reports from 2009-2020; documents in the UUCPA archives; personal reminiscences; denominational sources.

Timeline, 1947-2021

1947 — On April 6, Rev. Delos O’Brian of the American Unitarian Association holds the first meeting of the emerging congregation; some present at the first meeting were members of the old Unitarian Church of Palo Alto
1947 — Rev. Nat Lauriat, minister in San Jose, drives up each week to preach in Palo Alto

1948 — The first Sunday school is a cooperative venture with Palo Alto Friends Meeting; former Unitarian Josephine Duveneck is one of the teachers
1948 — The new congregation applies for membership in the American Unitarian Association (AUA) as the Palo Alto Unitarian Society

1949 — From April through June, Rev. Lon Ray Call, extension minister from the AUA, serves the new congregation; membership more than doubles
1949 — After Nat Lauriat turns them down, the congregation calls Rev. Felix Danford Lion as minister; Lion arrives in September

1950 — Services are held at the Palo Alto Community Center

1951 — The congregation changes its name to the Palo Alto Unitarian Church (PAUC)
1951 — The congregation purchases a house for Dan Lion and his family to live in

1952 — Following the lead of the Los Angeles Unitarian church, PAUC refuses to sign California’s “Loyalty Oath,” and has to pay state tax even though it’s a nonprofit
1952 — The Forum is started by Dr. Robert North, for open discussion of controversial questions of the day

1953 — PAUC, the San Jose Unitarian church, and the Los Gatos Unitarian Fellowship form a dental loan fund to aid children of migrant workers

1954 — PAUC purchases property at 505 Charleston Rd. for $30,060
1954 — Women’s Alliance raises $1,326 for PAUC

1955 — The choir sings for the first time in a PAUC service
1955 — PAUC no longer needs financial assistance from the AUA

1956 — Prominent Bay Area architect Joseph Esherick is chosen to design PAUC’s new buildings
1956 — Religious education enrollment is over 400, with waiting lists to get in
1956 — Emma Lou “Timmy” Allen becomes choir director

1957 — PAUC raises $83,850 for the Building Fund, and negotiates a bank loan for $90,000
1957 — PAUC assists a displaced persons family from East Germany
1957 — Rae Bell begins serving as children’s choir director

1958 — Ground-breaking ceremony at 505 Charleston Rd.; total cost of the new building, $178,000
1958 — First Sunday services are held in new building
1958 — The Bookstore has its own space in the new building

1959 — A spin-off group from PAUC becomes the Unitarian Fellowship of Redwood City
1959 — C. Sargent Hearn, the first full-time salaried religious educator, is hired
1959 — Public address system is installed in Main Hall

1960 — Florence Sund becomes the Director of Religious Education
1960 — Main patio is finally paved
1960 — PAUC assists a displaced persons family, plus four children from Indonesia

1961 — Women’s Alliance raises $4,590 for enlarging and paving the rear parking area
1961 — Rev. D. Roen “Bud” Repp becomes assistant minister; Dan Lion goes on sabbatical for six months

1962 — Wooden benches are installed in the main patio
1962 — Madrone branch is installed on the wall of the Main Hall
1962 — Sunday school enrollment peaks at over 600; there are three Sunday services to accommodate the Sunday school

1963 — Choir has 50 members; Dr. Arthur P. Barnes, Stanford Music Professor, becomes choir director
1963 — Sunnyvale UU Fellowship is spun off from PAUC; about 150 children transfer to Sunnyvale, relieving pressure on PAUC’s Sunday school

1964 — Dan Lion participates in the Mississippi Summer Project (a.k.a. Freedom Summer), and is supported by PAUC
1964 — 100 junipers are planted in front of the Main Hall
1964 — Minister’s study is added to the rear of the office building

1965 — PAUC supports Dan Lion’s trip to Selma, Ala.
1965 — Mike Young becomes assistant minister
1965 — Congregation votes to investigate the possibility of building a larger church building at the front of the lot
1965 — Nationwide, Unitarian Universalism stops growing and begins declining around about 1965

1966 — Congregation ordains Mike Young
1966 — PAUC sells 2.2 acres to Stevenson House elderly housing community at below market rates, then gives Stevenson House a $5,000 donation

1967 — Clarice Gault hired as new Director of Religious Education
1967 — Dan Lion and Mike Young provide counseling to conscientious objectors

1968 — Congregation votes to not build a new church building, and instead votes to spend the money on “human rights” programs (however, some voted against building because they thought the design was ugly)
1968 — Mike Young resigns, and is not replaced

1969 — Covered patio building is completed for $13,000
1969 — Due to falling attendance and religious education enrollment, PAUC goes down to two services per Sunday
1969 — Virginia Stephens and Ellen Thacher become co-DREs
1969 — Dan Lion and other Unitarians participate in anti-war march in downtown Palo Alto

1970 — PAUC forms a nonprofit corporation to start an alternative high school, “Lothlorien High School”
1970 — Ron Garrison hired as “Youth Minister”
1970 — The congregations declines to invest in Black Affairs Council bonds
1970 — Rae Bell resigns as children’s choir director

1971 — PAUC establishes a day care center, still in existence, which is named after the recently deceased Ellen Thacher
1971 — PAUC calls Rev. Dr. Ron Hargis as minister of religious education

1972 — Dan Lion resigns; Ron Hargis become sole minister until Rev. Sidney Peterman arrives in the fall as interim minister
1972 — PAUC grants to use of the church as sanctuary for those “acting according to the dictates of their conscience in opposition to civil of military actions” [i.e., for conscientious objectors]

1973 — PAUC votes to call William Jacobsen to serve as co-minister with Ron Hargis
1973 — A live-in custodian is hired, living in what is now the Choir Room
1973 — Women’s Alliance disbands, donates their remaining money to charity

1974 — “Stagflation” reduces income and increases expenses; the “Baby Bust” means fewer children; as a result PAUC shrinks financially and numerically
1974 — A grant makes it possible for 6th and 7th graders to participate in an art project for an afternoon with innovative artist Ruth Asawa

1975 — The Social Concerns Committee supports the United Farm Workers boycott of Gallo
1975 — After its sixth year, Lothlorien High School ceases operations

1976 — The house purchased for use by the minister (the “parsonage”) is sold

1977 — Ron Hargis and William Jacobsen promise to resign effective Jan. 1, 1978, if finances don’t improve; when finances don’t improve, Hargis resigns, but Jacobsen does not
1977 — Gail Hamaker and other PAUC women are active in getting the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly to adopt the groundbreaking Women and Religion resolution

1978 — Religious education enrollment rises from 50 to 100 with leadership from DREs June and Bob Donmoyer
1978 — First annual “mini-vacation” at Bass Lake
1978 — Women and Religion resolution: PAUC votes to examine sexist religious beliefs, but declines to examine sexist language and actions

1979 — For the first time, PAUC offers a preschool class in Sunday school

1980 — DRE Mary Brau also becomes “executive officer” of the entire church
1980 — A women’s group, based on the Women and Religion resolution, is formed and given Board sanction
1980 — Nationwide, after a decade and a half of decline, Unitarian Universalism begins to grow at about 1% per year

1981 — The World Concerns Committee presented non-partisan lectures on various topics of social concern
1981 — The Religious Education Committee initiated a nursery for infants and toddlers

1982 — Congregation votes in December to join South Bay Sanctuary Covenant to provide protection and advocacy for Central American refugees
1982 — Mary Brau resigns as DRE
1982 — Men’s group forms, with a dozen men meeting Monday evenings
1982 — Steel posts and chains are installed at entrance and exit drives to reduce vandalism

1983 — 25th anniversary celebration; Dan Lion speaks at the celebration

1984 — The Sanctuary Committee raises $100 a month to support South Bay Sanctuary Covenant
1984 — The Stevenson House Committee helps raise funds to renovate Stevenson House, arranges activities to “enliven the environment” of residents

1985 — Caring Network is organized to be “available to those of us in emergency situations”
1985 — The Social Action Committee is temporarily inactive, but it did distribute funds to South Palo Alto Food Closet and other groups

1986 — Wall paneling and track lighting installed in the Main Hall Lobby for art exhibits
1986 — PAUC UUYAN, a young adult group for people ages 18 to 35, meets nearly weekly

1987 — Congregation votes to join the Mid-Peninsula Peace Center
1987 — Congregation votes to make PAUC a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone
1987 — Congregation votes to join the Urban Ministry of Palo Alto, to address homelessness

1988 — Congregation votes to change name to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto (UUCPA)
1988 — UUCPA is a founding member of Hotel de Zink, a short-term homeless shelter
1989 — Edith Parker becomes Director of Religious Education

1989 — Friendship Bridge linking UUCPA and Stevenson House is built
1989 — The Board of Trustees meets just two hours after the Loma Prieta earthquake
1989 — PAUC purchases its first computer, a Mac IIcx
1989 — Congregation votes that Bill Jacobsen shall retire no later than August 31, 1990

1990 — Rev. Sam Wright becomes interim minister
1990 — Sam Wright’s wife, Donna Lee, writes a history of the old Unitarian Church of Palo Alto (1905-1934)

1991 — Rev. Ken Collier is called as minister
1991 — Main Hall is often 80-90% full on Sunday mornings; Ken Collier first proposes double sessions

1992 — A new madrone branch is installed in the Main Hall

1993 — The large hanging quilt banners are installed in the Main Hall
1993 — Congregation votes to name Dan Lion as Minister Emeritus

1994 — Overgrown trees are removed from the back lawn in front of Rooms 11, 12, and 13 (now Rooms A, B, C, and D)
1994 — Bequest of $340,000 received from the estate of Dorothy B. White

1995 — UUCPA votes to include a non-discrimination clause in the bylaws
1995 — UUCPA provides financial and moral support to the new UU congregation in Fremont

1996 — “An Easter Egg Hunt was created for children of preschool through 2nd grade.”

1997 — UUCPA joins with other churches to form Peninsula Interfaith Action
1997 — Congregation sees enough growth in membership to consider adding a second minister
1997 — Anti-Racism Task Force is formed

1998 — UUCPA hires Rev. Til Evans as interim minister of religious education, to serve with Ken Collier
1998 — Ellen Thacher Preschool is now part of Palo Alto Community Child Care

1999 — A capital campaign is begun, with the goal of a new administration building
1999 — UUA recognizes UUCPA as a Welcoming Congregation, welcoming to LGBTQIA+ people

2000 — In January, UUCPA adds a second worship service on Sunday morning
2000 — Rev. Darcey Laine is called as minister of religious education
2000 — Live-in custodian resigns and is not replaced

2001 — Ken Collier resigns to become minister in Santa Barbara
2001 — Proposed building project will cost $1.82 million, more than the congregation can raise
2001 — Kurt Kuhwald starts as interim minister, just before 9/11

2002 — A Building Committee is formed, with a new lower budget of $686,000

2003 — Rev. Amy Zucker is called as parish minister, to serve as co-minister with Darcey Laine
2003 — UUCPA adopts a statement of conscience opposing a preemptive strike by the U.S. on Iraq
c. 2003 — Religious education enrollment roughly 100

2004 — Rooms 11-13 renovated as Rooms A-D (1 classroom and 3 offices); new restrooms added; office and library reconfigured
2004 — UUCPA votes to reaffirm its support for marriage equality
2004 — The Senior High Youth Group and Darcey Laine, along with youth from the Redwood City Fellowship, install the first labyrinth at UUCPA

2005 — New sound system installed in the Main Hall
2005 — Parking lot resurfaced
2005 — Amy Zucker marries, becomes Amy Zucker Morgenstern
2005 — Nationwide, after decades of steady growth, Unitarian Universalism begins to decline

2006 — Congregation adopts a relational covenant
2006 — Wifi installed in the Fireside Room and most classrooms

2007 — 60th anniversary celebration, Dan Lion speaks
2007 — Darcey Laine resigns, as her family wants to relocate to upstate New York
2007 — Rev. Eva Ceskava becomes interim minister of religious education

2008 — Til Evans garden is completed
2008 — Hearing aid loop system in Main Hall improves accessibility for persons who are hard of hearing
2008 — Welcoming Congregations Committee organizes efforts to defeat Prop 8, a ballot measure to ban same-sex marriage

2009 — Congregation hires Rev. Dan Harper as assistant minister of religious education
2009 — Church consultant Alice Mann suggests bringing the congregation together more often, inspiring Second Sunday Lunches to begin
2009 — Nationwide, Unitarian Universalism begins slow decline that continues to the present

2010 — With the help of church consultant Alice Mann, UUCPA sets goal of “adding the next 50 people” as measured by average annual attendance
2010 — Rev. Sean Parker Dennison serves as sabbatical minister, UUCPA’s first transgender minister

2011 — Solar panels installed on the roof of the Main Hall, providing about half of UUCPA’s energy needs
2011 — New fenced-in play area installed in front of Thacher School’s playground
2011 — Bruce Olstad becomes Music Director
2011 — Congregation votes to endorse single payer health insurance for California

2012 — Energy efficient LED lights installed in the parking lot
2012 — UUCPA’s “OWL” comprehensive sexuality education program welcomes non-UU families, as a community outreach program
2012 — Navigators program is organized at UUCPA, providing scouting that welcomes all genders and LGBTQIA+ persons

2013 — Board of Trustees transitions to using an online document filing system
2013 — UUCPA moves membership database to a cloud-based system

2014 — The front of the lot is landscaped, junipers removed, and a native plant garden and a larger labyrinth are installed
2014 — Religious education enrollment peaks at 135
2014 — Sunday school “Ecojustice class” installs first rain barrel at UUCPA

2015 — UUCPA provides meeting space and use of our kitchen to Stevenson House, while their buildings are renovated
2015 — Congregation votes to ordain UUCPA member and hospital chaplain Melissa Thompson

2016 — Board prohibits smoking on campus
2016 — Membership and Growth Committee reports that UUCPA is halfway to the goal of adding 50 people, as measured by average annual attendance

2017 — UUCPA adds more solar panels to Main Hall roof, which now produce all the congregation’s electrical needs
2017 — UUCPA leases the parking lot to a solar energy company to erect a solar panel array
2017 — Staff cut-backs due to attrition save UUCPA money
2017 — UUCPA moves website to WordPress CMS

2018 — UUCPA begins hosting Heart and Home Collaborative, a women’s homeless shelter, for 6 weeks each winter
2018 — A Membership Engagement Coordinator is hired for 15 hours per week, on a one-year trial basis
2018 — Congregation considers removing the word “Church” from its name, but confronted with 5 possible new names, none receives the necessary 2/3 majority

2019 — Rising health insurance costs prompt Board of Trustees to create innovative funding scheme that maintains insurance coverage while lowering costs
2019 — About 30% of enrolled children and youth are non-white

2020 — COVID cause state-wide shutdown, UUCPA moves worship services and programs online, congregation members respond with creativity and resilience
2020 — Due to COVID lockdown, Heart and Home homeless shelter remains at UUCPA for 3 months, 24/7
2020 — UUCPA receives federal Paycheck Protection Plan loan to help cover payroll during COVID

2021 — Worship Tech crew upgrades audio board, adds 3-camera video to Main Hall, with multi-platform livestreaming capability
2021 — Of 99 people responding to a congregational survey, roughly 15% are non-white
2021 — UUCPA begins hosting a Safe Parking Program, where up to four homeless families can live in their cars

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