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UUU’s History – Umpqua Unitarian Universalist Church of Roseburg, Oregon

UUU’s History

A Brief History of the Umpqua Unitarian Universalist Congregation


 Our roots go back to the fall of 1957 when a representative from Boston arrived to meet with local women and men who were interested in forming a Unitarian congregation. The enthusiasm for a liberal church in Roseburg was apparent, and a core group of people soon followed up to create an informal Unitarian Fellowship.

Like many other fledgling Unitarian groups, meetings and services were first held in homes and then in whatever public or commercial spaces were available.

Since many of the participants had children, there was a strong emphasis on religious education for kids and teens during the 1960’s. Adult leaders provided age-appropriate worship and experiential classes that invariably involved costumes and food, dancing, and celebration of shared or different values and joys. The adult program occurred in the evening and centered on discussions about the possibility of humanism serving spiritual needs or aspirations.

A wondrous aspect of the early fellowship was an annual weeklong campout in Umpqua National Forest. Tents were set up on a Sunday evening and then the campers (mostly women and children after the men returned to their jobs) would gather at the river for morning worship, followed by berry picking, singing, swimming, and skits. In general, the adults said “Yes” if at all possible to the children’s ideas.

During the 1970’s the Fellowship grew and diminished and grew again. It eventually reached an ungainly size, which made staying dynamic at all levels for children and new members more than those in leadership positions could manage. Consequently, the congregation decided to disband, but kept a hope alive to regroup in the future.

After a hiatus of about ten years, local leaders decided to reactivate the congregation under the auspices of the newly-formed Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), which had adopted its purposes and principles in 1985. Bylaws and a five-year plan were developed for a Umpqua Unitarian Universalist Church (UUUC), and we became an official member of the UUA in 1987.

Finding a permanent home became a top priority for the new congregation and—after some “fits and starts”—the current building was purchased in July of 1992. The congregation finally had a sanctuary, an office, a children’s area, a kitchen, lots of yard and parking space, and an associated building which could be used as a parsonage or rental property.

During the early years, UUUC Sunday services were led by visiting ministers or church members. Then, in 1998, the congregation decided to follow a “ministerial path.” For the next 18 years, a variety of part- or full-time ministers (some of whom became much beloved) were called to serve the church, However, as a small congregation, the costs became unsustainable, so members decided in 2015 to utilize lay leadership and change our name to the Umpqua Unitarian Universalist Congregation.

This is where things now stand. Will there be future changes? Undoubtedly; such is the nature of Unitarian Universalism. We are a dynamic organization not bound by creeds or dogma, and our members and friends are encouraged to engage in “a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.”

We trust that UUUC will continue to evolve and become even more effective and useful to our members, friends, and the local service organizations we support.


(Prepared in February, 2017, by Al Herring from input provided by UUUC members Jacie Pratt and Pat Zemlin.)

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