Happy New Year, 2014! This year will mark the 60th anniversary of Starr King Unitarian Universalist Church, first established in 1954 as Starr King Unitarian Fellowship. For sixty years this congregation has kept its liberal light shining in southern Alameda County, initially bringing Unitarian, then after the merger in 1961, Unitarian and Universalist values to our communities of Hayward, Castro Valley, San Lorenzo, San Leandro, and other nearby cities.
It was out of a desire to provide a warm and welcoming place close to home, a community to raise their children with liberal religious values, as well as a strong dislike for the McCarthyesque loyalty oath being signed in their existing Unitarian congregation that first urged them on.
These young leaders were inspired by the wave of excitement and evangelism in our faith during this post-war and baby-boom time called “the fellowship movement.” By 1958, there were 323 new fellowships formed, with nearly 75 percent of membership comprised of folks new to Unitarianism. These new congregations were created with the intention to be fully lay-led, with the majority of the congregation engaged in the “work of the church.”
Here, at Starr King, the congregation grew to an understanding and appreciation of professional ministry, in 1962 welcoming their first minister, Rev. Charles Blackburn and then officially adopting the change from “fellowship” to “church,” welcoming in the addition of Universalism at the time of the merger. I’d like to think that these dedicated leaders recognized that this congregation would endure, long beyond their own fellowship, that their beacon of light would shine long beyond their days and that their children’s children would still have need of this saving message.
Now, at the 60-year mark, this church has made a new commitment to growth, being compelled by our faith in the power of this open and free faith to ensure its endurance long past our own generations.
I’m excited for this year ahead. I invite you to bring your vision and dreams to what Starr King Unitarian Universalist Church can be, to what we can become in the next decade. Our founders would be glad, and they would likely expect no less of us. In the words of one of our most iconic and lofty hymns, ours is to “hope their hopes and seal them true!”