We celebrated our fiftieth birthday on May 27, 2009. By a happy coincidence, the national Unitarian Universalist Association recognized us as a Green Sanctuary congregation on the same day. Green Sanctuary churches work for a just, peaceful, and sustainable environment.
In 1959 when our Fellowship was founded, Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution was still controversial in American churches and traditional ideas about race and gender were defended by many of the priests and preachers in Massachusetts. Young adults in the Woods Hole area wanted to affirm a free and responsible search for truth and meaning. That spring of 1959, sixteen people joined together to create a Unitarian organization in Falmouth. Most of these founders were parents of young children. Records say,” The major but not the exclusive interest was the establishment of a Sunday school.”
The American Unitarian Association formally recognized the Unitarian Fellowship of Falmouth on May 27, 1959. For two years, lay led adult religious services were held on Friday evenings in Falmouth’s community center and Sunday school classes were held in members’ homes. In 1961, when the national organizations of Unitarians and Universalists joined together, the congregation adopted its present name, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Falmouth.
In 1962, the Fellowship began to meet at the Quaker meetinghouse in West Falmouth. Many members and leaders during the early years were scientists and technicians, teachers and others who were involved with the marine sciences. Rev. Kenneth Warren, the pastor for the Unitarian Church of Barnstable, and Reverend William E. Gardner, and others, served as consulting ministers.
During the 1980s, as the demographics of Cape Cod changed, the fellowship entered a new chapter in its history, with the coming of many retirees. Increasingly, services were led by visiting ministers and seminarians. With active support from the UUA, the congregation grew internally and in prominence in its communities. In 1988, members voted to seek a full-time minister and establish a meetinghouse of their own. On November 1, 1989, the Fellowship welcomed Rev. David Nash Williams as its first full-time spiritual leader.
In 1991, the Fellowship moved to New Alchemy, a unique center in East Falmouth that was known for pioneering environmental education and new technology for sustainable living. In 1992, the Falmouth Jewish Congregation sold the Fellowship 3.2 acres of land and the Fellowship formed committees to lead fundraising and construction of our own building. Three years later, in December 1995, the first service was held in the Fellowship’s new meetinghouse. Immediately the congregation began to grow to fill its new space.
When in 1999 Rev. Williams was called to a new pulpit, the Fellowship conducted a year-long search that culminated in calling Rev. Robert Murphy. Rev. Murphy was a Harvard Divinity School graduate who had served Unitarian Universalist congregations in the American South. Bob and his wife Lyn Dalzell arrived on Cape Cod for Labor Day, 2000.
The years since 2000 have seen strong growth in the congregation’s music and religious education programs for children, youths and adults and enthusiastic support for two of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s signature programs: Welcoming Congregation, adopted formally in June 2002; and Green Sanctuary, adopted in June 2007. And the facility has been enhanced. The interior of the classroom wing was finished, the parking lot was paved and later extended, and solar panels were mounted on the south facing roof of the porch surrounding the sanctuary.
In 2015, Reverend Murphy announced his resignation and plans to move to a part-time ministry in Tarpon Springs Florida. The congregation celebrated the faithful and very successful service he and Lyn gave for the fifteen years of their service. Reverend Paul Langston Daly served as interim minister from September to December of 2015; Reverend Dr. Laurel Hallman is serving as interim minister now and until a settled minister is called, probably in late spring 2017.
Now in its second half century, the congregation has over 220 members and friends and is a respected voice in the communities it serves. The Fellowship is earning a national reputation within the Unitarian Universalist movement for its grassroots work in bringing human rights and environmental protection issues together. The fellowship works for people with different abilities in the different age groups. Debi Keller, the congregation's first certified Director of Religious Education, joined the staff during the summer of 2013.
For over five decades, the Fellowship has welcomed people of diverse beliefs who agree with Unitarian Universalist principles and who wish to be together in a multigenerational fellowship. Together, we try to help each other and we try to change ourselves and this world for the better.