MUUF Reflections- by Leslie Roell
Historic Riverview Park on 10th Street W., Bradenton was the first home of what is now Manatee Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (MUUF), formed by eleven independent thinking adults and for teens who marched to a different drummer. Those courageous Manatee residents in 1958-59 were: Effie Dalton, Col. Harry Lemp, Dorothy Corbin and children, Bill and Lee, Mr. and Mrs. Jack Yallowly, Dr. Henry and Helen James, W.W. and Betty Chaplin and children, Bill, Jr., and Marnie, Dr. Herb and Fieta Boyd and children Kathi, Chris and Jett.
After several moves and with a membership of 38 adults and 32 youngsters, in 1963 a house was secured at 322 15th street W. for $13, 500 and added parking lot in 1966 for $2000. The building was enlarged and dedicated in 1981.
The 1960’s were challenging times for our teens; for example, they were not following the public school dress code, including short hair for boys , and penalties were issued in the superintendent’s office- under a painting of Jesus with shoulder length hair.
The Women’s Alliance was organized in 1972 and was responsible for housekeeping and fund raising until 1990 when other committees were developed.
The road to success is always under construction and continuous improvements to buildings and grounds add to the aesthetics of the Fellowship. A deck with chairs and umbrella tables was dedicated in 2002. Next to the deck is a peaceful Memorial Garden, highlighted by a bench and waterfall fountain featuring a UU Chalice and the four elements-earth, wind, fire and water. We appreciate our Certified Florida Garden and yard, with only indigenous plants and trees. In the front garden we see a way-side pulpit sign that tells passersby what we believe in and invites all to our welcoming Fellowship. Inside the pleasant meeting room we find a raised and carpeted dais enhanced by a Kawai baby grand piano, lectern, plant stands and railings. Our libraries are among the finest in UU circles with ongoing additions for all ages; and the Peggy Beck Women’s Spirit Memorial Library is housed here.
MUUF is noted for its fine speakers and wonderful variety of musicians, including an accomplished choir. MUUF’s Family Singers sang at General Assembly in Boston, 2003. The Fellowship has hosted various groups including but not limited to Poetry, Discussion, Bible Study, Great Decisions, League of Women Voters, Coalition of Concerned Patriots, Bridge Club, and Share A Dish dinners.
Our Religious Education program (RE) grew with a wide variety of curricula and activities. Our monthly newsletter UPDATE, weekly bulletins, website and e-mail connect members and friends to the many groups and activities that show MUUF alive and link our liberal religious community to the wider world.
Successful Pledge Drives, Awesome Auctions and Tag-A-Long Sales help meet financial goals. We connect to the UU denomination with attendance at General Assembly, camps and other UU events beyond our own Fellowship. In 2007 we became part of the Tampa Bay Marketing Program to help raise awareness of our faith. We are members of UU Justice Florida based in Venice UU Church.
MUUF has becoming a certified Green Sanctuary thereby honoring the environment and reinforcing awareness and respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
In 2006 MUUF embraced the hiring of a part-time minster. For the first time in MUUF history this strong lay lead liberal congregation committed to becoming even stronger. Rev. Dr. Bonnie Devlin became our first minister, part time, from September 2006 until December 2012. Rev. Dee Graham became our second part time minister from June 1, 2014 to June 30, 2017. In September 2018 Rev. Fred L Hammond became our first full time minister..