The Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship has been a dynamic part of
the Treasure Valley since the 1950s, officially joining the Unitarian
Universalist Association in 1961. Despite a relatively late “official”
organization date, Unitarians have met off and on in the Boise area
since the 1890s. BUUF members and friends value our history and
heritage. Sharing stories about our past and honoring BUUF members who
have passed away are regular elements of Sunday services and other
1900 – 1950
The first Unitarian Minister to be dispatched to Boise was Carlton
Brown, the Unitarian minister of Helena, Montana. Brown’s visit sparked
interest in Unitarianism and was the beginning of a string of ministers
who came to Boise to foster Unitarian thought. Stephen Peebles was sent
to Boise to serve as minister in 1906. Peebles was a gentle, self
taught, retired farmer who had discovered Unitarianism on his own.
Peebles was followed by John Mitchell, an easterner educated in the
Unitarian colleges and an experienced minister. Mitchell is known for
being outspoken about the murder case of Former Idaho Governor Frank
Steunenberg. Mitchell befriended city leaders and newspaper editors and
arranged for Clarence Darrow of the ACLU to speak at a fundraiser for
the Unitarian Church. Darrow was in Idaho to defend William D. "Big
Bill" Haywood, who was accused of committing the Governor’s murder.
Mitchell’s fundraising was successful – and according to The Christian
Register, the “first building erected in the State of Idaho for liberal
religious service” was completed at Franklin & 6th Streets in downtown
Boise in 1908. This building housed meetings and services until 1920
when it was sold, due to dissension in the church.
1950 – 1980
In 1955, the Boise Unitarian Fellowship was organized. Six years later,
the Fellowship incorporated in the State of Idaho (on the very same day
the Unitarian Universalist Association was officially formed), and that
same year the congregation joined the UUA.
The congregation officially changed its name in 1968 to the Boise
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. Members met in peoples’ homes and at
the YWCA, before purchasing its first home, on Pierce Park in 1971. The
group operated both with and without a minister for many years. BUUF
created a home for liberal religion and became a refuge for free
thinkers, humanists and theists, and for searchers and people looking
for a spiritual home. BUUF also provided a place where married couples
with different faith backgrounds could find a place to worship together.
Jim Tompkins was a well-loved member of the BUUF community in the 1960s
and 1970s and served BUUF as a lay minister from 1979 to 1981. He had
been ordained as a minister in another denomination. He preached a few
times a month. He was exacting and liked to analyze words. He married
and buried folks as needs arose. Jim’s surviving spouse, Charlotte
remains a current and active member of BUUF.
1981 – Present
BUUF called its first settled minister in 1981. Armida Alexander served
for approximately six years and resigned from her position. David Keyes
served as our Interim Minister from 1987-1988. Elizabeth
Greene was called as a settled minister in 1988, and served the
congregation for 25 years.
In 1993, BUUF began its participation in the Partner Church program and
has been paired with the congregation of a beautiful, historic Unitarian
church in the village of Mészkő in the Transylvanian region
of Romania since then. Please see our
Partner Church page for additional
history and information about this meaningful partnership.
In 1998, the congregation moved to our current home, a brand new
building in the Boise suburb of Garden City. In 2003, we broke ground
to build the RE wings of the building. Construction was completed and
the wings were dedicated in the fall of 2004.
BUUF became a Welcoming Congregation in 2006, received accreditation for
the UUA Green Sanctuary program in 2009, and signed the Charter for
Compassion in 2013.
In early 2010, after much planning and hard work from the Thursday
Chalice Circle and the Everyday Spirituality and Meaningful Ritual
Chalice, we erected and dedicated BUUF’s Peace Pole. Peace Poles,
generally, are a project of the World Peace Prayer Society, and
symbolize the oneness of humanity and our common wish for a world at
peace; remind us to think, speak and act in the spirit of peace and
harmony; and stand as a silent visual for peace to prevail on earth.
In May of 2013, the Quest Steering Committee accepted applications for
the first Quest program at BUUF.
In May of 2013, eighteen applicants applied and were accepted into
Quest, and the Quest Steering Committee formally changed its name to the
Quest Ministry Team. Please see “What We Do” for additional information
about this valuable program.
In June of 2013, our beloved minister of 25 years, Reverend Elizabeth
Greene retired and that Fall, Dana Worsnop joined us as our Interim
Minister and guide through this time of transition. BUUF has implemented
recommended strategies for interim ministry under Dana’s guidance –
strategies that have helped us honor past successes, talk openly about
areas of challenge, and dream together about how to create our future.
Some favorite stories from BUUF’s past and
Fire in the Pulpit
When we met on Pierce Park Lane there was a helper candle inside the
pulpit shelf. Elizabeth had on a flimsy scarf, which brushed the flame
as she was preaching. Whoosh!! The flame consumed the scarf in an
instant. Jim Lyons rushed to the pulpit and helped toput out any
remaining embers. Elizabeth continued with the service!
No On One
Proposition One was a referendum in Idaho in 1994 to prevent homosexual
people from receiving minority status in the state. BUUF campaigned for
people to vote No On One, including wrapping the church with red
ribbons, which brought out the local news media.
Flamingo in the Pulpit
We had outgrown our facility on Pierce Park Lane and were looking for a
new home. To increase income we rented our facility to a daycare during
the week. Negotiations were going on to have the daycare purchase the
property when we moved out. The children’s items that the daycare was
using kept creeping into our worship space. The day Elizabeth had to
share the pulpit with a 5 foot pink flamingo was the day we decided to
move to better quarters while our new church was being built.
A Year in the Presbyterian Church
We had purchased the property for our new church and were preparing to
build on it when we decided to find temporary accommodations rather than
continue sharing our old building with the daycare. The First
Presbyterian Church in downtown Boise offered us office space in the
basement during the week and the use of their sanctuary and classrooms
on Sunday afternoons at 4:00. Living with the stained glass windows and
the huge cross at the front of the sanctuary were some of the many
adjustments that had to be made to create our Unitarian Universalist
worship services, but we made it work for a year.
We Buy Property While the Minister is Away
While Elizabeth Greene was away in Europe on sabbatical (year?) we
choose to purchase the property where our building now stands. Later
when she was on sabbatical again, we voted to purchase the one-acre plot
of land to the east our property.
Prayer Vigil on 9-11-2001
The congregation was invited to come to BUUF in the evening of 9-11 for
a prayer vigil. Having a spiritual home and place to be with others in
community on such a tragic day provided an opportunity for BUUF members
and friends to give and receive support from one another.
The Green Gopher Project
Summer 2007: BUUF had a gopher problem. Someone found a scientific study
that said that gophers are territorial and if another male-human or
gopher- marks his territory with urine, the gophers will move on – and
enlisted the help of male BUUFers. Cups and lids were placed in
bathrooms and men were asked to urinate into the cup and then put the
lid on it. Out on our grounds, each gopher hole was marked with a flag.
Men were asked to pour their urine down a hole marked with a flag and
then remove the flag. Visualize all the men heading for the bathrooms
after the service; then lining up with their cups in hand, to go outside
to mark their territory! What a fun Sunday afternoon BUUF activity! The
effort was only partially successful.
John Harms Tie Day
John Harms was a longtime member of BUUF who passed away in 2008 at the
age of 87. At his memorial service, family and friends were asked to
choose as a memento one of the 100 neckties John had accumulated over
his lifetime. This simple act prompted Roy Montague to create "John
Harms Tie Day". Once a year, members and friends are asked to wear one
of John's ties (or one their own) in memory of a man who rarely missed a
Sunday service. John always wore a suit and tie to church. He wanted to
offer something of the familiar to visitors who may have left a more
traditional faith tradition.