A Brief History of Starr King Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
- Starr King Unitarian Universalist Fellowship had its beginning on a snowy afternoon in 1980 when eighteen adults gathered in response to a newspaper ad. Two months later the Fellowship was admitted to membership in the Unitarian Universalist Association, with twenty-four charter members.
- For the first three years, lay-led services and religious education classes for children were held in members’ homes. By 1983 rental space was needed for the growing Fellowship.
- In 1986, Arthur Vaeni, a Harvard Divinity Student, became our part-time minister. The Reverend Vaeni was ordained in 1987, and in 1989 he became the full-time minster, serving until June 2001.
- In 1994 the Fellowship’s eighty-three members celebrated the groundbreaking for a new building which was proudly dedicated in November of that year. Members provided considerable “sweat equity” over the next few years as the finish work proceeded.
- The Reverend Sarah C. Stewart became the second minister of Starr King Fellowship in 2003, serving until 2014. Continued growth through Rev. Stewart’s ministry prompted a large addition to the Fellowship meeting house.
- In 2009, groundbreaking for the addition for the Fellowship Hall, kitchen, and Religious Education wing began.
- Starr King UU Fellowship was served by interim minister, the Reverend Judith Smith-Valley from 2014-2016.
- Starr King UU Fellowship is now served by Rev. Dr. Linda Barnes beginning August, 2016.
- Throughout its history social concerns have been a high priority. Starr King Fellowship has incubated several significant social justice initiatives in our community, and its members have been heavily involved in various social justice organizations both locally and at the state level. Concern for environmental justice issues has been a common thread throughout.
- Starr King Unitarian Universalist Fellowship is a vibrant and welcoming church community whose members and friends play a vital role in the Fellowship and in the community. The word “fellowship” is important to its members, who have chosen to keep Fellowship in its name, even after hiring a full-time minister and erecting its own building.
Who was Thomas Starr King?
Thomas Starr King was a Universalist, and subsequently a Unitarian minister, who was a frequent visitor to the Plymouth area during the 1850’s. He wrote about his love of the area in his book, The White Hills. He moved to California and became famous for his rousing sermons and political work to keep that state in the Union during the Civil War. Mountains in both New Hampshire and California are named for him. His statue was in the Capitol Building in Washington DC representing the state of California until 2009. It is now located within the Civil War Memorial Grove in Capitol Park, which surrounds the California State Capitol in Sacramento.
When visiting Plymouth he frequently read and wrote beneath a majestic elm tree on Main Street. The elm was called Starr King Elm.
The Fellowship chose the name “Starr King Unitarian Universalist Fellowship” in his honor.
When Thomas Starr King first walked to the pulpit of the San Francisco Unitarian Church in 1860, the eyes of the congregation turned to this small, frail man. Many asked, “Could this youthful person with his beardless, boyish face be the celebrated preacher from Boston?”
King laughed. “Though I weigh only 120 pounds, when I’m mad, I weigh a ton.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson, noted essayist and poet, said after hearing one of King’s sermons, “That is preaching!”