History of the Mid-Columbia Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
(presented 2006 and revised 2019 by Juliana Sandahl)

The Columbia Gorge Unitarian history actually goes back to 1905 when the First Unitarian Society began in their new church on Ninth and State street. However, that congregation only lasted until 1916 and the church was sold to another congregation. It was another 70 years until Unitarian Universalists started up again in our area.

It was March 23, 1986 when a group met at the home of Michael and Pamela Morneault to organize interest in starting a UU Fellowship. Dorothy Bartlett from the Pacific Northwest District Extension Committee attended to guide the group and answer questions during the potluck brunch.

By April 1986 the group was meeting regularly for twice a month in the basement of the Rainier Bank in White Salmon, Washington. During that time Suzanne Swanell (Haynes) our Program Director attended Leadership school along with Maureen Regalbuto. Linda Short and Bob Williams provided Religious Education for the children.

On Oct. 8, 1986 there was a membership party for the Signing of our Charter with 20 signatures required to submit our formal application. We officially became a member of the Unitarian Universalist Association on Oct. 24, 1987. Joy Edgington was our first President. On Oct. 4, 1988 we celebrated our first year anniversary with a turkey dinner.

Throughout the years the Fellowship moved to various locations to adapt to changes within our congregation as well as other circumstances due to renting places. We moved to the old Frankton School in 1988 sharing the building with the Quaker congregation. During this time we held annual rummage sales to bolster our revenues. Our first Teen Program began in 1990 led by Seth Tibbott. Teachers were hired for our Children’s RE and Preschool classes. Our next move was to Coe Primary School in Jan. 1991, but we returned to Frankton School by the fall of that year. A significant event was a retreat held at Menunca Conference Center to give our Fellowship renewed direction.

Waucoma School (once a church on Country Club Rd.) became our meeting place in Sept. 1992. We had a serious decline in membership by 1995 and a general meeting was held at Juliana Sandahl’s home attended by six members to evaluate the feasibility of continuing our congregation. We decided to order “Church on Loan” from the UU Association to provide us with resource material to continue and also to move to the White Salmon Grange in 1995 which better fit our budget. We began having monthly potlucks in addition to regular Sunday meetings. Gaining new members we were able to move to the Hood River Art Gallery in 1998 offering a more central meeting place. By 2002, we had 33 members and needed more room for the children and moved to Brookside Manor.

We had three more moves, 2003 American Legion/new Community Art Center; 2005 Down Manor and the Center for Living before settling into the Rockford Grange in Aug. 2007. The Rockford Grange has been our home now for the past 12 years, the longest we have stayed in any one place!

We began hiring ministers in the early 2000’s. First we hired just one sermon at a time, then a 12 sermon monthly series, then our first ¼ time minister was Craig Moro. Then followed Cathy Rion, interim minister Ken Jones, and Rev. Judy was called in 2014 as our permanent
half-time minister. Our membership has risen steadily, currently just under 90 adults.

In closing, some of the documented past presidents for these years are as noted: 1987–Joy Edgington, 1988–Marilyn Smith, 1990–Maureen Regalbuto, 1991—Tom Hons, 1995—Juliana Sandahl, 2004–Cynthia Horton, 2006–Kristen Dillon, 2008–Scott Clements, 2009 – Holly Harrel, 2011 – Kristen Dillon again in 2013, 2015 – Stacey Campbell, 2017 – Lori Golze, 2019 – Ray Klebba. Attached is a time line of other information about what our Fellowship did during those years gleaned from saved documents.