Pacific Unitarian Church
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Pacific Unitarian Church is a Unitarian Universalist congregation located in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. It is a member of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, within the Pacific Southwest District. PUC was recognized as on of four "Breakthrough Congregations" in 2008, reflected in a $75,000 donation to Community Church UU of New Orleans.
Membership as of early 2010 is around 320 with weekly attendance averaging near 200 adults and children.
Pacific Unitarian Church was conceived in February, 1957, by a group from the Palos Verdes-South Bay area of greater Los Angeles, under the guidance of the Rev. Dr. Harry Andrew Shuder, a retired Unitarian minister. Dr. Shuder volunteered his services as part-time minister to the group. March 17, 1957, the Pacific Unitarian Church Society was born at 11 a.m. in Walteria Park Recreation Building in Torrance, California. With few exceptions, the church has held services weekly since that first St. Patrick's Day. The first session of church school was held on Easter Sunday, April 21, 1957. The word "Society" was soon dropped from the title, and PUC settled into ministering to Unitarians, Universalists, and other religious liberals in the South Bay area. Over its lifetime, PUC has met in four locations. Services moved from Walteria Park to the Torrance Seventh Day Adventist Church in May 1957 and continued at that location until 1961, with church school held on that premises and at nearby YWCA buildings. In 1961 PUC rented quarters at Miraleste School on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Property upon which to build was purchased in Torrance, but sold when a more desirable site in Rancho Palos Verdes became available, where the facilities PUC occupies today were completed in 1965. The first service at the current site was an impromptu memorial to President John F. Kennedy, held outdoors overlooking the canyon and the Beach cities. The mortgage was paid off in July, 1992.
In 1957 Dr. Shuder volunteered to serve for one year as our part-time charter minister.
When he left, the congregation decided to call a full-time minister, the Rev. Mr. Richard W. F. Seebode, who began his ministry to PUC in October 1958. He retired from the ministry in 1963 and pursued a second career in counseling.
PUC then elected the Rev. Mr. Alfred J. N. Henriksen to the pulpit in 1963 after a nationwide search. He served this church until 1987 (24 years) when, at age 65, he retired. His wife, Ruth, who through his years of service was an integral part of his ministerial success, died suddenly in 1987 shortly after they announced retirement plans. Her death was a great loss not only to Mr. Henriksen, but to the entire congregation. Mr. Henriksen was named Minister Emeritus after his retirement, and our main building was designated Henriksen Hall in honor of the long service of both him and his wife. Mr. Henriksen remains an active member of PUC.
PUC then called the Rev. Mr. David H. Cole as interim minister. Mr. Cole served the congregation for a year and a half.
The Rev. Mr. W. Donald Beaudreault began his ministry to the PUC in January 1989, and served until the summer of 1993, when he tendered his resignation.
The church operated without a minister until January, 1994, when the Rev. Dr. Victor Carpenter accepted the call as interim minister, serving through June 1994, when he was called as a settled minister in Boston.
The Rev. Ms. Frances Reece Day joined PUC on September 1, 1994 as interim minister and remained with PUC through July, 1996.
In August, 1996, the Rev. Ms. Jane Bechle and the Rev. Mr. Robert J. Klein were called to PUC as settled co-ministers, and served until August, 2004. During this time, although the number of church members remained essentially stable, the dollar amount of pledges grew from year to year. The ministers led many new programs, including Dream Groups, the History of UUism, journaling, book discussions, and Introduction to Unitarianism classes. During their tenure, PUC formed the Interweave Committee to educate the congregation and the larger community on gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender issues, and PUC became a "Welcoming Congregation." Members of PUC joined in the program "Journey Toward Wholeness," focusing on understanding and bridging cultural and racial differences. When hate crimes against some Los Angeles Jewish congregations seemed to threaten our area, Rev. Bechle spoke with the Rabbi of Temple Beth EI in San Pedro and, with his permission, organized PUC'ers to sit on guard outside the temple during the High Holy Days celebrations. From this came an ongoing close relationship with the congregation of Temple Beth EI, shared social occasions, and pulpit exchanges. In recognition of the Holocaust, a coalition of area churches was formed, with Rev. Bechle among the organizers. It became the Dawn Interfaith Group, which continues as a force the in local religious community. Rev. Bechle participated in the Dawn Seminar Series several times each year. After 9/11, Revs. Bechle and Klein contacted the Imam of the Islamic Cultural Center located in the nearby city of Lomita, offering any assistance they could give. PUC'ers joined with people from other area churches at several meetings with members of the Center, and both the Imam and his wife spoke at PUC, and young people from the Center met with PUC's YRUUs. Revs. Bechle and Klein received recognition outside PUC during their tenure. Rev. Klein was given the Achievement Award from deBenneville Pines, the UU camp located in the San Bernardino mountains (April 28, 2002), after serving on its Board as President, and as Junior High Camp Dean; and from the Pacific Southwest District (April 26, 2003) he was recognized for "Distinguished Service in the cause of Unitarian Universalism" for his "example as a minister dedicated to both his own congregation and to the larger movement, with particular emphasis on his vital work with our District Youth and Camp deBenneville Pines." Rev. Bechle received an award for service as a PSWD Trustee.
The Rev. Jim Grant served as interim minister to PUC, from Aug 2004 through 2005.
The Parish Minister is the Rev. T. John Morehouse.
PUC adopted the "Policy Governance" model for governing a dynamic, growing church, and is continuing to charter and develop a series of teams to lead key efforts and functions. Additionally, PUC chartered a Strategic Planning Team in 2009/2010 church year to develop the church vision and to update the strategic plan from 2006. The new strategic plan was adopted in 2011. This resulted in a project to implement the strategic plan, called the "Big Growth Plan", and this was approved by the congregation in 2012. A fundraising campaign is now underway to fund the 15 projects identified in the big growth plan.
Following is a brief summary of the many Social Activism PUC supported through its storied history:
o Southwood Housing tract-restrictive code (Jack Lytle)
John Birch Society invited to speak at PUC – Open to all ideas
Memorials: John & Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King Assassinations
Speakers against War in Vietnam – Jane Fonda, Tom Hayden
Resource for anti-draft counseling, how to file “conscience objector” status
United Farm Workers of America – Fiona Knox
Five members of our Congregation were arrested for demonstration against purchasing of table grapes & Gallo wine at Boys Supermarket, Carson. Accused of harassing customers. Four women were stripped-searched, held 24 hours. As a result, we sued L.A. County. Took seven years to go through courts. Had the backing of the minister and entire Congregation. As a result of this suit, State Supreme Court changed strip-search procedures in California.
Dow Chemical – demonstration against use of Napalm
Montrose Chemical Co. – letter writing, demonstration against dumping of tons of DDT off coast of Palos Verdes Peninsula. Plant defunct, efforts at clean-up
UUSC Peace Study on Central America – Taught by Fiona Knox
UUSC Trips to Central America – Barbara Karg, Fiona Knox, Dorian Tippet (Spoke at other UU churches about Latin. American conflict and CIA involvement)
Church voted to become a “Sanctuary Support” Church, raising money for those fleeing war-torn Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua
Nuclear Disarmament – Ed Hummel
Jack and Johanna Lytle brought Cambodian Family to U.S. with church support
OWL Program – Religious Education
Racial Justice Towards Wholeness – speakers, trainers, struggles with ministers
Following attack of Temple in Valley, Congregation made commitment to be in Solidarity with Jews. Made a human chain to protect P.V. Temple
AME Church – Food distribution, Ed Hummel, John Stanbery
Environmental Priorities Network, South Bay Interfaith Council – Lillian Light, Ed Hummel (and many others)
9/11 Memorial, Service of Support/Fellowship with Islamic Center
Anti-Iraq War demonstrations 2003–2007, visits to Congress, letter-writing, etc.
Film Documentary Series – Corporations, War, Environment – Carolyn Waters
Against closure of Central L.A. Community Garden, Bill Ungar, Rachel Bruhnke
Wilmington Community Gardens – Nancy Hofland
HealthCare For All Californians – Lori Geittman, Ray Waters
Support Same Sex Marriage – Prop 8 demonstration Long Beach Court House – Maurice Chevalier, Brad Shreve (many others)
AIDS Walks with kids
Peace-Making – Ed Hummel, Bill Ungar
Anti-Torture – Clay Bosler
Green Sanctuary Project
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- Pacific Unitarian Church
- Pacific Southwest District Unitarian Universalists
- Unitarian Universalist Association
- Beaumont, Victor (2011-09-08). "Breakthrough Congregation: Pacific Unitarian Church". UUA. Retrieved 2011-11-25.
- "Many thanks to all who continue this work!!!". Firstuuno.org. Retrieved 2011-11-25.
- "Welcome to Community Church UU". Communitychurchuu.org. Retrieved 2011-11-25.