History of the Fellowship
In the Fall of 1958 a small ad was placed in the local North San Diego County newspapers announcing that a representative of the American Unitarian Association from Boston would meet with people interested in the Fellowship Program of that association. In November 1958, Monroe Husbands, the Fellowship Program director of the UUA, met with 23 people in the North San Diego County area, a meeting which was the beginning of the North County Unitarian Fellowship. A charter was drawn up and 21 members began meeting in homes on Sunday evenings.
In January 1959 the Fellowship began meeting Sunday evenings at the Vista American Legion Hall. In September 1959 Sunday morning services were moved to the Vista Recreation Center and ten children began attending Religious Education classes.
A “Statement of Purpose” was drawn up during 1961, incorporation papers were filed in September, and the North County Unitarian Fellowship became the Palomar Unitarian Fellowship (the word Universalist was added after the merger of the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America). Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Dawson donated three acres of Rancho Agua Hedionda y Los Monos for the future site of a Fellowship building, a gift later expanded to include an additional seven acres.
By January 1962 there were 50 signed members of the Fellowship, and a building fund was begun and plans were studied for the day that the Fellowship would own its own building.
Groundbreaking ceremonies for the new building were held on September 5, 1965, conducted by Robert Kintz, chairman of the Fellowship. The act of "turning the soil" was performed by Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Dawson, donors of the three-acre site.
While the building was under construction, members of the Fellowship erected U. S. Army surplus Quonset tents on the land for use as classrooms and meeting hall. Al fresco picnic luncheons and kite flying often followed the Sunday Services until the construction was completed in the spring of 1966. The 5000 square foot building, circular in shape, continues to serve the congregation's needs.
On September 21, 1980, a grand celebration was held to symbolically “burn” the Fellowship’s mortgage, held for 15 years by the First National Bank of Vista. We can proudly say that no member joining since 1980 has had to participate in a mortgage payment plan.
The 30th anniversary was celebrated on May 28, 1988, with a program and picnic. Members invited friends and former members to the “homecoming.” A special program event was the dedication of the main hall of the church building, naming it “Dawson Auditorium” in appreciation of Ida Dawson and her husband, the late Clarence Dawson, who had given the land. In 1984 Ida had been honored with the Clara Barton Award of the Unitarian Universalist Association “in grateful recognition of her contributions to the life and spirit of the denomination and the Unitarian Universalist women's organization.”
After 25 years as a lay-led group, the congregation called the first settled minister, the Rev. Virginia Stephens, on a part-time basis in 1982. She was followed by the Rev. Alexander M. (Scotty) Meek, Jr., the Pacific Southwest District Extension Minister, who served half-time from 1985 to 1987.
The Rev. Derek E. B. Kiewatt first came to the Fellowship as a guest speaker and consulting minister in 1987. He served the congregation two years as a full-time Interim Minister, completing his ministry on June 30, 1991.
On February 1, 1992, the Rev. Carol Hilton and the Rev. Dwight Smith began their co-ministry at PUUF, facilitating the continuation of ongoing programs and initiating new programs and approaches.
In 1997 and 1998 funds became available through the sale of excess property made possible a complete renovation of the Fellowship building and grounds. In 1999 a gala 40th Anniversary celebration was held to show off the new look of the Fellowship and to remember those who made it possible.
After a very successful ministry, Dwight and Carol decided to enjoy the fruits of retirement in 2003. Because the next minister would serve through the capital fund drive, the building of the new Sanctuary and the transition into a multi-building campus, a national search would be conducted. In the meantime, the Rev. Tom Owen-Towle, who was already familiar with the Fellowship would provide stewardship for a year.
During 2003 the pace picked up on the new building. An architect and builder were chosen and plans were drawn up. The ministerial search was successfully completed and Rev. Beth Johnson became our minister in September 2004.
Groundbreaking was held in June 2006, but when the bids came in from the contractor, the cost of all building materials had skyrocketed, so construction was postponed indefinitely. In the meantime, a Renovation Committee developed a plan for sprucing up the existing building which was completed by the end of summer 2008.
The new building project is divided into two phases - infrastructure preparation and the building structure. Phase One will begin before mid-October 2008. Parking will be expanded, landscaping improved, and the basic pad will be prepared, including the installation of all utilities. Phase Two will see the Fellowship building a facility that is consistent with the Unitarian Universalist values of respect for the interdependent web of existence and sustainable practices.