Our Fellowship's History

Unitarianism » Our Fellowship's History

A Brief History  (1956 - 2016)

Starting in 1955, we were a fellowship in the ‘planning and first meeting stages’ and we met in the Harrington Hotel in Port Huron. In 1956, 15 people met with a Boston Unitarian layman who travelled widely to assist “free-thinking” people establish lay-led Unitarian Fellowships. A steering committee was appointed to form a Port Huron Unitarian Fellowship. Semi-monthly Sunday evening meetings began. By-laws were submitted and a Charter was granted.

We had a lot of obstacles to overcome. We had meager funds and unsuitable meeting places. Some places we held services or gatherings were private homes, a tiny studio, the People’s Bank, the Unity Hall, and the Port Huron YMCA.

Due to the fact that several Sarnia residents began to attend frequently, advertising was extended to Sarnia. Sarnia’s members began holding meetings regularly in the Sarnia Public Library in 1959. In 1960, we began holding meetings on both sides of the border and changed our name to the Port Huron – Sarnia Unitarian Fellowship.

When the Sarnia Public Library and Art Gallery opened in 1961, we began holdings meetings there and also at Cathcart Public School. During the 60’s the Port Huron Y.M.C.A. discontinued meetings for outside groups and the Port Huron membership dwindled. We moved “Sarnia” ahead of “Port Huron” in our name and began to hold most of our meetings in Sarnia.

In the 1970’s, the Maclean Centre became the preferred venue for Sunday services. In the 1980’s, a new surge of interest appeared in Port Huron. Meetings were organized at either St. Clair Community College or the Museum of Arts and History.

Our first formal budget was adopted in 1960. We were able to open a bank account, have a regular newsletter and began paying appropriate fees to speakers. We acquired a part-time minister for four years. Then we had another until 1977. We have invited Unitarian Ministers regularly as well as guest speakers on many diverse themes.

On both sides of the border, we have engaged in various social action initiatives over the years and have been vocal advocates for civil rights, conscientious objectors, gender equality and marriage equality. Our lay-chaplains/celebrants performed the first legal marriage ceremonies in Sarnia for gay and lesbian couples and continue to a support the GLBT community.

In recent years our congregation was designated as a “Welcoming Congregation” (committed to meet the religious/spiritual needs and raise awareness of the needs of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered communities). We also achieved a “Green Sanctuary” designation (promoting environmental responsibility).

We moved to the Sertoma Child and Youth Centre in Point Edward in 1997. It was a lovely spot with a patio and grass overlooking a golf course. On warm days, we could meet outside for drumming or children’s activities, etc.

As the congregation grew, the Sertoma Centre became too small so once again we needed a larger space, one which would meet our needs as we now envisioned them. Around this time, a great deal of discussion revolved around whether or not to buy our own building. We decided to keep renting and moved to our present location at the Lochiel Kiwanis Community Centre at 180 College Ave. North, a central location for people from Sarnia and Port Huron. It is appropriate for the size we are now and allows us the space to grow our numbers. The Kiwanis room on the main floor is ideal for Sunday services. We also partner with St. Clair Child and Youth Services for the use of their downstairs ‘Drop-In Centre’ space for Sunday morning child care and children’s Religious Exploration.

In 2016 we celebrated our 60th anniversary. Please click on the following links for articles about our Fellowship and our anniversary celebrations.

http://cuc.ca/celebrating-60-years-unitarian-universalism-sarniaport-huron-area

http://www.sarniathisweek.com/2016/06/14/local-unitarians-celebrating-60-years-of-congregation

The congregation looks forward to the years ahead as we continue to provide an important choice for the citizens on both sides of the border who are looking for a free and progressive religious community.