IN THE BEGINNING April 1965 Rev. Phillip Hewett, minister from the Unitarian Church of Vancouver and Rev. Bob Fulghum of Bellingham (yes – the author!) travelled throughout the B.C. Interior in an attempt to establish Unitarian groups. In Kelowna they met with 43 people and the Fellowship was formed. The budget for the first year was $200. In 1966 the Unitarian Fellowship of Kelowna (UFK) became a legal society and affiliated with Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) in the United States and the Canadian Unitarian Council (CUC). The group had visiting UU ministers, local speakers and presenters from the newly formed Okanagan College.
In 1969 the Fellowship moved its meetings from the Art Centre to the Bijou Theatre on Bertram Street and by 1970 the meetings were held in members’ homes. There were formal and social programs and the Kelowna and Vernon Fellowship held a retreat together at Sorrento.
The first chaplain was appointed in 1974 and was authorized to conduct weddings, funerals and naming ceremonies. The tenth anniversary was celebrated in 1975 at the Hobson Road Activity Centre and Rev. Phillip Hewett was among the guests. The wedding business was so brisk the Fellowship appointed two chaplains in 1979. In 1981 the Fellowship began to hold the monthly Sunday Services in the old Kelowna and District Art Centre building at Bernard and Richter although some meetings were still held in homes.
1982 Meetings in homes ceased. Public meetings began to be held twice a month and visiting ministers came once a month. The membership had increased slightly. 1983 Rev. Rob Brownlie spent a six month sabbatical from the Edmonton church with the Kelowna Fellowship.
1984 Services started to be held every week, except during the summer months. Visiting ministers continued to come once a month. An annual fundraising campaign was instituted.
1985 Services were being held in the Laurel Building on Ellis Street. The Fellowship celebrated its twentieth anniversary with a large group of members and guests gathering at the Hobson Road Activity Centre. A Facilities Committee and a Capital Development Fund were established. A bequest in Joan Carter’s will enhanced the Capital Development Fund. Rev. Rob Brownlie returned to serve as half-time minister for six months.
1988 A long-range Planning Committee was established and met with a member of the Pacific North West Division team (branch of UUA) of planning consultants. Rev. Brian Kiely came to the Fellowship in February for the first of six visits occurring over the next two years. Three of the visits were ten day ministries. He helped to establish a children’s program and provided guidance to the executive and committees. The Fellowship held a retreat at Green Bay in May.
1990 An agreement was signed with the Canadian Unitarian Council to have the Rev. Jane Bramadat as a part-time minister and she attended the Fellowship four times during the 1990/91 year.
1991 In February the Fellowship hosted the Pacific North West Division Annual Meeting which was held in the Capri Hotel. Approximately three hundred Unitarians from the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia and Alaska attended a very successful conference. Rev. Frances Rosen was hired as a quarter-time minister for the 1991/92 year providing five ten day ministerial visits. Membership was at about 70 persons. Sunday attendance averaged 39 people. The Facilities Committee was hard at work and the Capital Development Fund reached $47,000.
1992 The Unitarian Fellowship of Kelowna shared an office space with Okanagan Artists Alternative located on Bernard Avenue. The office provided a space for a desk, files, telephone and answering machine. It was open on Tuesday and Thursday mornings with a part-time church administrator. UFK affiliated with a UU Partner Church in Czehatfalva, Transylvania in Romania
1993 Rev. Wendy McNiven began quarter-time ministry with the first sermon on September 12th. Also, the Fellowship had a director for the children’s religious education program. The first Signal, as we know it, began with Verne Smythe as editor.
1994 In April the Capital Development Fund received a generous bequest from the Buckley estate enabling the Fellowship to purchase the church building at 1310 Bertram and UFK moved in September. On November 13th a “Building Dedication Service” led by Rev. Wendy McNiven was held with 86 adults and 18 children in attendance. A special event indeed for the membership who had worked so hard to have their own church building. Bill Young set up the first office computer for us.
1995 At the January 27 AGM Rev. Wendy McNiven was voted in as half-time minister to begin September 1st. Article 14 of the Constitution was changed from Capital Development Fund to Endowment Fund. Barbara Bowmar and Verne Smythe, members of UFK visited our Partner Church in Czehetfalva during the summer and met with Rev. Joszef Szombatfalvi, his family and the villagers. November 3rd a 30th anniversary plus the covenanting and installation ceremony of Rev. Wendy McNiven was held preceded by an anniversary dinner – all of which was very well attended. Again Rev. Phillip Hewett was present. The first Fellowship choir was formed that September. That year summer services were held – the beginning of a 52 week church year.
1996 In February a generous bequest to the Endowment Fund was received from Mildred Barrington’s estate enabling a loan pay down. A new chaplain was assigned and the Social Action Committee held a well attended Forestry Forum.
1997 The Fellowship officially became a “Welcoming Congregation”. The Fellowship held a congregational retreat at Sorrento which coincided with a visit from Rev. Anne Heller on September 12th. A dream workshop was held in October hosted by Rev. Jeremy Taylor the author of three books. Children’s religious education (RE) continued to be well attended and an outside director for the choir was hired.
1998 The second congregational retreat was held in Sorrento in the fall. Also in September Ferenc Szasz, Unitarian minister from Hungary visited the Fellowship after travelling to Vancouver partner church. The choir director retired. A friend of the congregation, Phyllis Cannell, assumed the position of pianist and worked with the choir.
1999 The Fellowship held a third successful congregational retreat with members from Kelowna and Kamloops at Sorrento in June. We were advised that our Partner Church in Czehatfalva had a new minister, Rev. Lajos Lorinczi. The Children’s RE program expanded to accommodate an increasing number of children. In September the program had three RE teachers.
2000 The Fellowship got its very own website with Brenda Jackson setting it up and becoming the first webmaster. During this period a chaplain was assisting the minister in performing weddings, funerals and child naming ceremonies. The church was introduced to Fair Trade coffee which we began to serve after Sunday Services. In November a Peace Pole was erected at the front of the church. At Sunday Services we were averaging 50 adults and 10 children.
2001 Rev. Wendy McNiven went on Sabbatical from February to July. During the family’s tour they visited our Partner Church in Czehetfalva, Romania and Child Haven in Nepal. A youth group was formed and met each Friday evening at the Church. Some members of the Fellowship joined in an inter-faith project Inn from the Cold to provide Kelowna homeless people a place to sleep during the winter. The Signal continued to be a primary source of communication for the congregation.
2002 The church sanctuary was painted and new carpet laid creating a fresh new look. A very successful CUC AGM and Conference was held in Kelowna in May with approximately 190 people in attendance. John Palmer chaired the Host Committee and was aided by a group of able volunteers from the Fellowship. The time had come and the delegates of the Canadian Unitarian Council voted to separate from the Unitarian Universalist Association. Major yard work and a partial face lift outside of the building took place during the summer. In July the Fellowship purchased the house next door at 571 Cawston and increased its property holdings. In May we began to use a “listserve” – a group email service which reached over 60 members and friends all at one time.
2003 A Fellowship survey “Every Member – Every Voice” and related meetings took place to provide future direction. We continued to hold successful congregational retreats at Sorrento with the Kamloops Fellowship. In the church the hardwood floor was redone and a Santa Rosa Labyrinth added. For this we had a dedication ceremony. Ornamental brick work was laid in front of the church yard and benches were added to the side tables.
2004 The accounting, banking, rentals and other administrative tasks were taken on by a volunteer group. Rev. McNiven began a series of regular articles for the Capital News. The Board continued to work on the long term goals of the survey of 2003. Restructuring of committees and development of a Financial Committee took place as did a special general meeting to approve the hiring of an Intern Minister for six months. An anniversary dinner party was held to celebrate 10 years in the church building. Annual budget approximately $100,000.
2005 A year of changes. We welcomed Intern Minister Karen Fraser Gitlitz and were sad to see her leave when the time was up. In the meantime Rev. Wendy McNiven submitted her resignation. A well attended dinner and social were held on July 2nd to say thank you and pay tribute to Rev. Wendy. Member Mary Lou Johnson led a drive and raised funds for Child Haven in India – which she hand delivered. Our search for a replacement minister was productive and by October we had a consulting minister, Rev. Dr. Linda Weaver Horton agreed to join us until June 2006. A part-time book keeper was hired for the office in the late spring to work with the new accounting program. The email listserve was accommodating 85 people. Sunday Service averaged 50 adults and 4 children.
2006 Rev. Linda Weaver Horton began contributing articles to the Capital News religion section. In the fall Lois Bischer began as the Children’s Program Coordinator. Once again many Unitarians from Kelowna joined the Kamloops group at Sorrento for a fall retreat. A very successful CUC B.C. Region Fall Gathering was held in Kelowna in late October. The weekend gathering hosted a record 120 people. The co-chairs Al Earl and Rick Hardman were assisted by a host committee and many volunteers from the church. During the year Sunday Service averaged 55 adults and by the year end 20 were registered for children’s RE. In December Rev. Linda Weaver Horton was formally invited and accepted the position of two-third time settled ministry with our Fellowship.
Revised MAR 2008, by G. Malcolm