The History of RVUUF

Exterior view, front of Rogue Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship

Photo by Michal Schaffer

Serving as a beacon of liberal faith in Southern Oregon since 1953, Rogue Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (RVUUF) enjoys a long history of supporting social justice, encouraging diversity and transforming lives.

RVUUF was formally organized on Nov. 15, 1953. It is an autonomous congregation and governs itself using bylaws that were created when the fellowship became a member of the Unitarian Universalist Association of congregations.

RVUUF was started by a Southern Oregon College professor, Arthur Kreisman, and his wife Evelyn Kreisman. The Kreismans placed ads explaining Unitarianism in the Ashland Daily Tidings, attracting members from as far away as Grants Pass and Klamath Falls. The group became the “Unitarian Fellowship of Ashland.” When in 1962 the Unitarians and Universalists in North America merged, the congregation expanded to today’s name.

At first the Fellowship met in private homes and later rented space in various facilities throughout Rogue Valley. Then in June 1990 the Fellowship purchased the Nazarene Church, located at 87 Fourth St. in Ashland. The Congregation celebrated the move to their new home with a grand procession through the middle of downtown Ashland. The parade strung out from the old pink church, all the way to their new church home. It was a grand and festive celebration. The whole congregation marched, carrying before them the symbol of our UU faith — the flaming Chalice.

When the first black student entered Southern Oregon College in 1955, a cross was burned on the lawn. When a black family’s car broke down, the police told them they could not stay in town overnight. These two events compelled two RVUUFians, Evelyn Kreisman and Louise Hamilton, to attend a meeting of the United Church Women to persuade the religious community to address racial discrimination and create the Ashland Human Rights Council. Social justice has always been one of RVUUF’s core values.

Today the Fellowship has an active Social Justice and Action Committee that emphasizes human rights for all citizens, including the homeless, immigrants, voters and the LGBT community. Monthly the congregation provides financial support to the Ashland Food Bank and other non-profits in the Valley.

Children’s programs represent another focus of the Fellowship. RVUUF offers quality programs to nurture and care for all of our children, from infancy to teens.

Head and shoulders view of Rev. Nan L. White

Rev. Nan L. White

After being lay-led for many years, the congregation called its first minister in 1986 and since then various ministers have served. Rev. Nan L. White, an inspirational speaker and accomplished Unitarian Universalist minister, most recently served this Beloved Community as its Developmental Minister from 2014 to 2017.

Music has always been important to the Fellowship. In its early days, the Fellowship only had recorded classical music during their services. Mamie Kreisman recalls how she and Eileen Adee found an old hymnal and “forced” music on the group. After the congregation moved to a rental space in 1986, Dave Marston was hired to lead the choir. Subsequently several different Music Directors have served.

Head and upper-torso view of a woman with short brown hair, holding a music book and singing into a microphone

Shauneen Garner

Currently Shauneen Garner, a superbly qualified musician with degrees in both church music and choral direction, leads the choir, as well as plays the piano and organ. Shauneen and our pianist, Jane Manning, weekly transport our congregation to inspirational heights.

RVUUF’s adult programs help vitalize our UU principles and values; today they include small group ministries, Men’s Groups, Women’s Groups, and three Affinity Groups — Humanists, a Buddhist Meditation Group and a Christian UU Group.

Having come far from its beginnings, the congregation is proud of its heritage and ongoing actions to become a strong community that sends a beacon of liberal faith out to the larger community.