Our Vashon Island Unitarian Fellowship started to form in 1955
when Grace Crecelius joined in placing an ad in the island
newspaper asking if a Unitarian group could be formed. Along
with her husband, Chris Crecelius, there are several others in
the Fellowship today who responded to the ad and came together
as the genesis of today's VIUF. Grace continues as a very active
member of the Fellowship.
Unitarian Minister Aaron Gilmartin met with 21 Vashon
Islanders to discuss forming a fellowship in March 1956 and, by
April, 24 children were enrolled in Sunday school - meeting for
a while in members' homes, then in the Grange Hall. The American
Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) in Boston granted our
Fellowship a certificate of membership on June 6,1956.
Our meeting places varied with time, attendance and
available space. We started in members' homes, rented the Grange
Hall in 1958-59, the Island Club during 1960-62, and the Lisabeula
school in the fall of 1962. The membership voted in 1963 to buy the
Cove Methodist Church, now a private residence overlooking the west
passage at the end of Cove Road. (Fellowship spaghetti dinners at
that church led to the famous "wine in the sanctuary" argument,
when dinner led to socializing in the "other" room.) We had then
grown to about 30 families and, by 1965, counted over 60 children
in Religious Exploration programs.
However, membership and attendance soon declined, perhaps
due to kids growing up and leaving and to shifting patterns of
thought during the turbulent sixties. By 1969, the smaller fellowship
found it difficult to maintain the old church building, and sold it.
Meetings were held in private homes until 1988 when some new members
joined, and meetings were held in the Youth and Family Services
Building until 1992, when we moved to our present venue in the
heart of town, the Land Trust Building.
The VIUF undertook a change in priorities in the early 1990s.
It had been our custom to contribute to several organizations and
projects as a way of involving ourselves in social justice and
community-building. A decision was made to redirect this money to
develop a children's program. Presently, the Religious Exploration
program is "vibrant" and a focus of Fellowship activities. Notably,
a 1991 mailing list identified 33 members and friends - all adults,
none with children. Our current mailing list includes about 100
adults and 50 children including a large number of youngsters in
Religious Exploration. The two peaks in the size of our adult
congregation - in 1965 and 2003 - coincide with the number
registered in children's programs.
In shifting attention toward children's Religious Exploration,
the Fellowship did not abandon community outreach and support, often taking
the form of roll-up-your-sleeves work parties. Organizations ranging from
those centered on Vashon youth concerns and development, to health services
and elder care, the Food Bank, low cost housing and a host of others have
been the focus of Fellowship involvement. The current year budget backs
volunteer action with targeted grant funds. Other annual traditions include
July 4 and Labor Day picnics, a Holiday Season festival, winter fun and
fellowship at our Snow Camp, and Star Camp to watch the August meteorite
The Vashon Island Unitarian Fellowship has been lay-led
since its inception. Presently, about 60 members meet from fall
through spring at twice-monthly services comprised of varied
programs and speakers from within the Fellowship and outside.
During a one-day retreat in February 2002, the Board
agreed upon a draft statement of our Fellowship vision, and some
goals for the next five years.
Vision of our Fellowship for the next five years:
- Increase/enhance the spiritual experience
- Growth in membership and diversity
- Social action and involvement
- Enrichment activities supporting diverse needs and interests
- Sense of connectedness and community