1965-1972: The Universalist Church of America (1785) merged with The American Unitarian Association (1785), resulting in formation of the Unitarian Universalist Association(UUA) in 1961. After the merger, a staff minister of the UUA, Monroe Husbands, led an effort to organize lay-led societies called Fellowships. Bay Area Unitarian Fellowship formed in 1965. It had ten members who met in homes, at a local church and later at San Jacinto College. Our space at the college was eventually taken over by the local Catholic church in Deer Park. We started investigating how we could build our own building. With the help of our District Executive, Rev. Russ Lockwood, we borrowed from the UUA and local foundations to build our first building in Pasadena. We had 25 members. Rev. Lockwood gave the Dedication sermon in October of 1972.
1973-1982: In the new building we began having our first weddings, baby dedications and memorial services. We developed our organizational skills and began regular board meetings. Our volunteers created a well-organized RE program, and we began having regular high district and association involvement. In 1979 we began participation in our first shared minister program. We shared Rev. Van Vanstrom 1/4-time with Corpus Christi, the Woodlands Society and the Houston Fellowship. We had 50 members. Rev. Vanstrom was our minister from 1979 to 1982.Rev. Vanstrom encouraged us to begin a long-range planning effort. We formed a long-range planning committee in 1982.
1983-1988: Our second shared minister was Rev. Stan Aronson. We shared Rev. Aronson from 1982 to 1985 with The Woodlands Society, the Houston Fellowship and the Galveston Fellowship. In 1985, the Rev. Byron Miller became our half-time minister. We shared Byron with the UU Church in the Woodlands from 1985 to 1988.
1989-2003: Our 85 members selected Rev. Leonora Montgomery as our first full time minister in 1989 and Cheryl Walter as a part-time RE Director. Members and local bank loans helped us financed our dream, so we began construction of our building that was finished in 1992. Brenda Cockrell became RE Director in 1993. Rev. Montgomery retired in May 1996. A search committee was formed to represent our 180 members while Rev. Scotty Meek helped as Interim Minister during this search from September 1996 to June 1997. Rev. Meek legacy was convincing us to change our name to Bay Area Unitarian Universalist Church (BAUUC) in May 1997. In June 1997, we selected our second full-time minister, Rev. Don Bissett. We expanded our religious education space using temporary trailers in December 1997.
Rev. Bissett resigned in February, 1998. Rev. Bill Murchison and Rev. Diana Heath served as interims while another search committee represented our 220 members. On April 25, 1999, our 240-member congregation voted in Rev. Tom Burdett as our full-time minister. In November 2001, we dedicated the Zimmerman Sports Facility while Rev. Burdett resigned December, 2001, and Rev. Scotty Meek returned to serve as interim from December 2001 until June 2002. Rev. Jeanne Mills became our Interim Minister serving from August 2002 to August 2003 while a search committee went into its second year of searching when Rev. Shirley Ranck became our interim who from September 2003 until June of 2004.
2004-2008: At the annual pledge dinner in 2004, the Search Committee presented Rev. Dr. Matthew Tittle as a candidate for our next full-time minister. On March 28th, the 228-member congregation voted: Rev. Tittle formally became our fourth full-time minister on Dec 5th. In January of 2005, the congregation adopted a new mission statement and a new vision statement, voted to go to two Sunday services to alleviate the crowded conditions in the RE and adult worship facilities. In May we contracted Tom Stovall and Turner Partners as our architects and began the process to establish our design to assessment a series of expansion concepts. The Congregation approved a larger and renovated religious education wing, dedicated library space, additional restrooms,a new multipurpose Fellowship Hall, expanded meeting facilities, new administrative space, and additional parking at an estimated cost of $1M.
In the spring of 2006, with the help of a UUA financial consultant Carol Czujko, we conducted a feasibility study to assess our ability to raise the money. That activity led the congregation to establish a goal of $800,000, and a total of $845,000 was pledged over the three-year period of 2006-08. Our membership was 254 in the spring of 2006. In October of 2006 we selected Mike Bricker and Mike Bricker Associates as our general contractor. During the remainder of 2006 we completed the final design and began construction. The building was completed and dedicated in October of 2008 for our 290 members.
In July 2007, Brenda Cockrell retired as the DRE, although she remains DRE Emerita and is a member of the congregation. Mary K. Issacs served as interim DRE until Rev. Mary Rogers was hired as a full-time DLRE in July 2008. BAUUC hired its first staff Youth Director, Megan Riordan in 2008. More building space allowed us to offer more activities and programs at BAUUC. We increased participation at fellowship dinners, put on the largest and most successful church garage sale to date, hosted UU renaissance training modules, began sponsoring a PFLAG satellite chapter, and doubled the Fall Festival & UNICEF Benefit all at once. Mary Rogers resigned in August 2009 and the vacancy lead to volunteer efforts to form an RE Council and a search committee. Julie Lambert became our Director of Lifespan Religious Education (DLRE). Kristin Leigh Grassel was the congregation’s first ministerial intern, serving us in 2009-2010. In November 2009, Rev. Tittle announced his resignation. Rev. Sam Schaal helped us transition during the 2010-2012 church years. In March of 2012, Julie Lambert announced her plans to leave BAUUC to pursue a new ministry in Dallas.
In June of 2012, BAUUC called Rev. Bruce Beisner to be our new settled Minister. Patti Withers joined our Ministry Team as our new Director of Lifespan Religious Education in March of 2013. On November 24, 2013, the BAUUC fellowship hall was officially re-named Cockrell Hall in honor of longtime members Butch and Brenda Cockrell.
In the spring of 2018, Patti Withers retired, and Bay Area hired Dr. Tamar Wasoian as Director of Lifespan Religious Education. Our Bay Area Church community continued to grow in both size and spirit. Before the pandemic, church membership was about 230 (with over 75 children registered for our Religious Education program).
The pandemic years:
The pandemic caused quite a disruption for the Bay Area church, mirroring the situation in the world. We closed our doors in March 2020 and did not reopen them consistently until the summer of 2021. During that time, the staff and volunteers performed heroically to provide online services, online choir and religious education, and to continue outreach both to our congregation and to the world. We had good participation in our online services and many of our children continued to participate in religious education. But the pandemic took its toll. Our membership numbers have declined, and in the fall of 2022, we have approximately 180 members. Stewardship has remained strong, with our average pledge increasing from pre-pandemic numbers, although the total amount pledged has decreased.
Rev. Beisner left Bay Area after a successful nine-year ministry, in June 2021, to serve as a settled minister in Louisville, KY. Bay Area hired Transitional Minister, J Sylvan, to serve for two years as we engaged in the search for a new settled minister. Our long-time choir director, Beth Jordan, left in the spring of 2022, and we hired Jon Marcum to serve as Acting Music Director including directing the choir. In addition, Dr. Wasoian resigned in the spring of 2022 to pursue new endeavors, and Bay Area hired Gloria Miller to serve as Acting Director of Lifespan Religious Education. In the fall of 2022, we are seeing many visitors including young families. We are expanding our outreach and service programs in the local community and continue to learn and explore new ideas together. We continue to provide online access to our weekly services and we are very optimistic about the future.