What we now know as the UU Congregation of Lakeland was established on November 27, 1955 with 35 charter members as the Lake Region Unitarian Fellowship, Inc. The first meetings were held in private homes and later moved to the Danforth Chapel at Florida Southern College.
On February 8, 1956, the Fellowship became affiliated with the American Unitarian Association; when the Unitarians and Universalists joined together in 1960, the Fellowship joined the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA).
In January 1960, the 51 members agreed to purchase our present location, the former Dora Cox Phillips private school. The purchase price of $6,700 was oversubscribed through a loan from the UUA and member pledges.
Members built the patio benches using donated lumber, and held a fund-raising pancake breakfast to cover the cost. With money tight, pink lawn chairs served as the “pews” in the worship space.
In early 1961, an expansion plan was proposed. The auditorium (now the Social Hall) was used for all services and was increased by 20 feet, with a platform added on the south end. The entrance was moved to the north and three new classrooms were built. The cost of about $6,000 was raised by donation, since the total assets of the fellowship at that time was 49 cents.
In 1966, the Fellowship purchased a small cottage on an adjacent property for $3,200. For many years, the cottage served as the church office; it was later torn down to make room for a new Sanctuary building.
In 1971, the Fellowship hired its first minister, the Rev. Richard Norsworthy of Clearwater. He serve one Sunday a month from January l971 – May 1972. He was succeeded in October 1972 by the Rev. David Scheyer of Ft. Lauderdale, who held the part-time ministry until November 1976. After several months without a minister, the Fellowship hired the Rev. Carl Westman, who served as part-time minister from September 1977 – November 1986.
In 1987, the Fellowship voted to build a new Sanctuary. Constructed with labor and materials donated by members, the Sanctuary was dedicated on November 20, 1988, with the Rev. John DeWolf-Hurt, the Co-District Executive, gaving the keynote address: “Church, Chalice and Challenge.” A year later, a new sound system was installed in the Sanctuary and the Fellowship formed a choir.
In October 1989, the fellowship’s new spiritual leader became the Rev. Emily Morse Palmer.
After Rev. Palmer’s departure, the Rev. Todd Taylor served as Consulting Minister for four months in 1991. In 1992, we called the Rev. Clarke Dewey Wells as a part-time minister; he was installed in 1993 and served until 1995.
In 1995, the Fellowship called the Rev. Dr. Robert Tucker as its first settled minister; he first served on a half-time basis, and later became a full-time. He resigned in 2008.
In 2005 we celebrated our 50th year as a congregation with a special ceremony.
In April 2007, the organization officially changed its name from Lake Region Unitarian Fellowship to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Lakeland.
The Rev. Dr. E. Bonnie Devlin became our Consulting Minister in 2009-10 and served two Sundays a month for two years. Rev. Dr. Marni Harmony served our congregation from 2011 as Consulting Minister, followed by the Rev. Susanne Nazian, who served from 2011-2013. The Rev. Janet Onnie joined us for a year as Consulting Minister from 2013-2014. In 2015, the Congregation hired the Rev. Lynne Garner as Developmental Minister.
LRUUF/ UUCL PRESIDENTS 1955-present
* Dr. Roger Bart, 1955-56 * George Lees, 1956 * Dale Mathias, 1957-58
* Ellery A. Foster, 1958-59 * Claude Denham, 1959-1960 * Bayliss Corbett, 1960-61
* Ralph Upham, 1962 * Edward Bossing, 1964-65 * Henry Durick, 1965-67
* James Taylor, 1967-68 * George Gerlach, 1968-73 * Gilbert Kearton, 1973-74
* Dr. Al Eskenazi, 1974-77 * Gilbert Kearton, 1977-78 * Keyno Hicks, 1978-79
* Anne Kearton, 1979-80 * Adair Wheaton 1980-82 * Shirley Curtis, 1982-83
* Sara Anderson, 1984-86 * Howard Buss, 1986-88 * Dr. Robert Baum, 1988-90
* Peter Helwig, 1990-91 * Joyce Bode, 1991-92 * Alice Walcheck, 1992-94
* Don Micklewright 1994-96 * Dr. Robert Baum 1996-97 * Dorothy Warmke 1997-99
* Sue Harris 1999-2000 * Melinda Andreski 2000-2001 * Sue Mitchel 2001-02
*Ken Schmidt 2002-03 * Larry Wolitz 2003-04 * Ken Davis 2004-05
* Joyce Bode 2005-06 * Elaine Lehmann 2006 * Linda Walters 2006-2009
Rafi Ellis 2009-2010 * Theresa Lutz 2010-2011 * Cynthia Patterson 2011-2012
Janet Stevens 2012-2013 * Judi Irwin 2013-2014 * Ron Nickolas 2014-2015 * Melissa Marshall 2015-present
LRUUF/ UUCL MINISTERS
The Rev. Richard J. Norsworthy, January 1971 – May 1972
The Rev. David Scheyer, October 1972 – November 1976
The Rev. Carl Westman, September 1977 – November 1986 (Minister Emeritus)
The Rev. Emily Morse Palmer, October 1989 – July 1990
The Rev. Todd Taylor, Consulting Minister 1991
The Rev. Clarke Dewey Wells, March 1992 – June 1995
The Rev. Dr. Robert P. Tucker – December 1995 – 2008 (Minister Emeritus)
The Rev. Dr. E. Bonnie Devlin, 2008 – 2010
The Rev. Dr. Marni Harmony 2010 – 2011
The Rev. Susanne Nazian 2011- 2013
The Rev. Janet Onnie 2013 – 2014
The Rev. Lynne Garner 2015 – present