1st Unitarian Universalist
of the Palm Beaches
Prosperity Farms Rd.
North Palm Beach, FL 33408
This is another unsigned, undated contribution that appeared in a publication marking the 50th anniversary of the Congregation:
In 1952 a group of people in the West Palm Beach area began to meet informally in one another's homes. It was their intention to establish a Unitarian Fellowship in the county, if enough interest could be generated. A year later they had succeeded in gathering a large enough community and the American Unitarian Association (AUA) recognized the fellowship in 1953 as the First Unitarian Society of Palm Beach County.
In those early years the Congregation received valuable help and encouragement from several area Unitarian ministers; including Rev. Joseph Barth, Rev. Dr. Von Ogden Vogt and Rev. George Marks. Continued growth resulted in the Congregation needing increasingly larger meeting spaces. The Alfar Dairy Club House, the YMCA and the Women all provided meeting space until 1959 when the Congregation moved into its first home: the Greek Orthodox Church Building at 2020 Broward Street in West Palm Beach.
On April 10, 1957 the Woman's Alliance of the Unitarian Universalist Society of the Palm Beaches was founded. This remarkable group of woman provided invaluable service both to the growing Congregation and to the larger community. Most notable was the foster parent relationship they established with Soon Ai Lee, a young girl living in Korea. Over the years, this relationship assisted Soon Ai by providing her, and her family, with contributions, presents and words of encouragement.
After being served by guest ministers and lay leaders, the Congregation called its first settled minister in 1958, the Rev. Dr. William Arms, a Universalist minister. During his tenure the Congregation began a period of rapid growth that once more forced the Congregation to seek a larger meeting space. This was accomplished in 1963 with the purchase of the property at Florida Avenue and Hibiscus Street (601 Hibiscus St.) in West Palm Beach. It included a large church building, destroyed in 1970 by fire, and a Sunday school annex, which was remodeled into a meeting room, offices, kitchen and classrooms after the fire.
In 1962, Dr. Arms retired and the Congregation called Rev. John (Jack) Loadman as their next minister.
During Rev. Loadman's tenure the Society was granted Church status by the UUA on May 10, 1963; and the Hibiscus St., Church building was dedicated on Jan. 24, 1965. In March 1965, Rev. Loadman joined 57 other UU ministers in Selma, Alabama supporting Dr. Martin Luther King's march to Montgomery, Alabama. On March 9, 1965, Rev. James Reeb and three other UU ministers were assaulted, with Rev. Reeb succumbing to his wounds. Rev. Loadman accepted a call to another church in 1967 and the Congregation called Rev. John Rose.
Rev. Rose served as pastor of the First Unitarian Church of West Palm Beach (Unitarian Universalist) until 1971.
The Rev. Dr. Waldemar Argow Minister Emeritus of the First Unitarian Church of Toledo, Ohio served this Congregation from 1974-1981. He was named Minister Emeritus and the Argow Room was dedicated to him and his wife, Isabel.
The Minister Emeritus of First Parish, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Rev. Ralph Helverson served from 1981-1989.
In 1985 the Congregation decided it needed better accommodations and began a search. In March 1986 the West Palm Beach property was sold and renovations to the North Palm Beach property begun.
On October 25, 1987 the first service was held at the current church building at 635 Prosperity Farms Road, North Palm Beach.
In 1989, Rev. Janet Newman came to our Congregation as the interim minister. She served until 1990 when the Congregation called Rev. Rodger Cowan as our next pastor.
During this time the church property was expanded with the building of the Religious Education wing. Rev. Cowan left in 2000 and The Rev. Dr. Robert Kaufman was hired as interim minister.
Rev. John Rex was called in 2001 and during his tenure the Religious Education program was re-envisioned and the foundation for Small Group Ministries established. Rev. Rex retired in 2003 and interim minister, Rev. Jose Ballester was hired.
Throughout our history we have always maintained our place as a liberal religious voice in Palm Beach County. Our first 50 years were filled with joys and sorrows, triumphs and disappointments, and moments that remind us all of our fragile humanity. We are a Congregation of people dedicated to helping each other grow and to transform our community through our love and dedication.
|50th Anniversary reflections