On Saturday evening, Jan. 30, 2016, we celebrated the 65th anniversary of our church’s founding and honored our former minister, the Rev. William Haney, as Minister Emeritus. About 120 people attended.
The event coincided with the start of our annual stewardship campaign, so the Stewardship Team initiated the planning for the event and acted as formal sponsor. Stewardship Team members are Steve Scott, chair, and Jan Swaney, Ene Chippendale, Dennis Murphy, Steve Mudrick, Jan Weaver, Amie Burling and Marcus Jimerson.
Most of the hard work of planning and putting on the event must be credited to an ad hoc team that included the Rev. Molly Housh Gordon, Alan Arnold, Joy Amuedo, Jackie Bell, Ene Chippendale, Melissa Ensign-Bedford, Kevin Fritsche, David Leuthold, Wiley Miller, and Steve Scott.
The evening’s activities were divided into four segments covered below. Photos watermarked ©2016 Ansar Actograph were taken by Andrew Twaddle. Except as noted in captions, the other photos were taken by Steve Scott.
Socializing with Food and Drinks
Starting at 7 p.m., those attending socialized and enjoyed the beverages, snacks and desserts provided by numerous volunteers. Background music was provided by musicians organized by Alan Arnold. During this time, a photo slideshow featuring Rev. Haney was shown multiple times – many thanks to Stephanie Dorman for producing it. View the slideshow (PDF).
The photos in the slideshow below were taken during the social time.
Review of Church History
The formal program began about 7:30 p.m. Steve Scott spoke about the 65-year history of our church:
Weather records tell us that at 7 p.m. on Jan. 28, 1951, the temperature was in the teens and it was snowing lightly, but about 15 Columbians left the warm comfort of their homes to gather at a downtown hotel for the first organizational meeting of what would become the Unitarian Fellowship of Columbia. Their goal was to establish a group to explore liberal religious ideas.
Working through the remarkable Fellowship Movement of the American Unitarian Association, the group received its charter as the Unitarian Fellowship of Columbia just six weeks later, on March 14. Ten years later the group became the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Columbia when the two faiths consolidated into the Unitarian Universalist Association.
The fellowship began with a close connection to the University of Missouri, actually holding its lay-led meetings on campus in Lowry Hall – then known as the Missouri Bible College and later as the Missouri School of Religion – for about 19 years.
As often happens with families as well as churches, the arrival of children added new priorities and provided the impetus for the fellowship to build its own facility and ultimately to call a minister. The move to a new church home coincided with a broadening of our identity, which became less faculty-oriented and included increasing numbers from other segments of the community.
Our present site was selected in 1965, and we had our first ground-breaking in 1969. In 1970 we held the first services in our beautifully designed church, and services continued to be lay led.
In 1980 we changed from a fellowship to a church when we called our first minister, Gertrude Lindener-Stawski, who served until her retirement in 1986. Rev. Gertrude is still a member of our church and has previously been honored as Minister Emerita.
We then called George Brooks as an interim minister to do the important work of getting us ready to work well with our next professional religious leader, the Rev. William Haney, who was called in 1989.
In 2001, Ian Thomas produced a video chronicling the first 50 years of our church. The video has been converted from VHS to digital format, and as soon as we resolve some technical issues, it will be put on the church website for everyone to see.
This evening, we’re only going to show you the final portion of the video that covers Rev. William Haney’s first 12 years with us.
After the video, Steve continued:
As you have seen, we continued to change and develop during Rev. Haney’s tenure. In 1992 we hired our Music Director, Desi Long, and our Church Administrator, Kathie Bergman. In 1996 we hired our first Director of Religious Education, Joy Amuedo. Carol Arnold later served in that role, followed again by Joy Amuedo, and then by our most recent previous DRE, Lisa Fritsche.
In 1998 our physical facilities were expanded to nearly double their original size. In the period from Rev. Haney’s arrival in 1989 until the building expansion in 1998, the church experienced a great period of growth, increasing from 130 members to about 200, or about 7% a year. After that, membership remained relatively stable until Rev. Haney resigned in 2010 to begin a period of interim ministry before full retirement.
The Rev. Dr. Suzanne Redfern-Campbell served as our Interim Minister from August 2010 through July 2012 and helped prepare the way for our next settled minister.
After a year-long search, on April 29, 2012, our members unanimously voted to call the Rev. Molly Housh Gordon as the third settled minister in our history, and she began her tenure here on August 1, 2012. Since then she has helped shepherd us through another period of growth and change, and we now have 247 members. After Lisa Fritsche’s retirement last year, we were joined by our current Director of Religious Education, Shanon Dickerson, to oversee our ever-growing R.E. program.
More than anything, the story of our church is the story of the dedication and hard work of many remarkable people, and I wish we had more time this evening so I could tell you more about at least some of the key players. For that, I will have to urge you to watch the full video when it becomes available.
Looking back, we have much to be proud of. Looking forward, we have many challenges and opportunities as we seek to build Beloved Community within and beyond our walls.
The following photos were taken during the history segment.
2009-10 UUCC President Kevin Fritsche, the last church president to serve with Rev. Haney, acted as master of ceremonies for the evening. Just before 8 p.m., he introduced the musical entertainment portion of the evening, which was organized by Alan Arnold. The photos below were taken during this time.
Presentation to Rev. Haney
The evening concluded with an emotional and heartwarming segment starting about 8:30 p.m.during which Kevin Fritsche presided over the presentation of emeritus status to Rev. Haney.
This segment began with Adele Dorman, Scott Denson and Jeanne Murphy reading their recollections about Rev. Haney that were submitted in preparation for the evening. Read all the recollections submitted (PDF).
The formal presentation then began with the reading of a framed proclamation – read the proclamation (PDF).
Kevin then presented Rev. Haney with a photo plaque printed on metal, which looks like this:
After the presentation, Rev. Haney introduced his family and spoke about what this church and his ministry meant to him.
Given Rev. Haney’s well known love of bread puddings, he acted as judge early in the evening of a bread pudding bake-off supervised by Joy Amuedo. As one of the last activities of the evening, Joy announced that Steve Scott’s bread pudding was selected by Rev. Haney as the winner. Steve was awarded a “Best Bread Pudding” stole made of burlap.
To conclude the evening, there was an appearance by the church mouse, Henry (voiced by Nancy Spaeder), also arranged by Joy Amuedo. Rev. Haney initiated Henry Mouse many years ago in an effort to encourage cleaning up – Henry would talk about all the fine food scraps he and his cohorts would find after church activities.
The following photos were taken during this final segment of the program.
To all in the Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbia, this Saturday, 6th of February, 2016:
It is impossible to begin to stretch out to everyone the hand and heart of my abiding love after a week of absorbing all that took place during the celebrations of the church’s life and my past ministry. An overwhelming sense of modesty resides within me after so much love expressed by so many toward me and my call to serve you for two decades. Looking at the photos taken, I see in my face astonishment, even bewilderment responding to your graciousness and generosity beyond any expectations. Saying “thank you” is a dimension quite insufficient for the measure of love, appreciation and celebration you afforded me, Loretta and my family. The grace of your blessings shall abide within my heart and mind for all the hours and days remaining for me. In the midst of this happiness and joy, the sadness of this day cannot escape me as my thoughts and feelings extend to the family of Dwight Rieman and all of you – such a gentle soul.
So many devoted hands and hearts went into the separate events, celebration and worship service consuming the weekend. My gratitude extends to all who volunteered time, money, food, entertainment – and hugs and kisses! To those on the planning team, well done! Special thankfulness is extended to Steve, Joy and Alan for participating in the celebration. Delightful “thanks” to my dear friend, Henry, the Church Mouse. To Kevin for his part in the festivities with his presentation to me, as well as giving up four hours Friday and Monday transporting Loretta and me from and to St. Louis. What a gift by Steve and Andrew taking photos of the events. Special and grateful appreciation for the hospitality afforded by Jackie and David for us and the family. To you, Molly, dearest beloved colleague, for your support and warm welcoming of my family, Loretta and me throughout the weekend. There are more involved than I can recollect or even know, yet my gratitude for all you did and are is unbounded. What a wonder to see all of you and to know how much the church means to you – thank you all!
With abounding and blessed love to all,
Your Emeritus Minister, Bill