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Mission of UUCLC

UUCLC is an inclusive non-creedal fellowship that works for a just community and fosters a lifelong search for personal spiritual fulfillment.

A Brief History of UUCLC

On April 3, 1994, sixty-one UU members and eleven friends signed a charter establishing the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of lake County Florida (UUCLC). This formalized what had started in the 1980s as an informal get together on the last Friday of each month at a Mount Dora inn called Captain Appleby’s. The folks who gathered there called themselves “The Far Outers” because some of them were making the trip to Orlando’s First Unitarian Church for Sunday service. But they were also “Far Outers” because they shared a Unitarian Universalist mindset that was far outside the norm of the evangelical and fundamentalist churches that surrounded them.

The Chalice Tapestry

In 1989, several families living in Lake County met to discuss the possibility of forming a fellowship. They had been meeting on Sundays at Capt. Appleby’s restaurant as the “Far Out Unitarians,” an offshoot of the Orlando UU Church. It took 5 years for the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Lake County to officially join with the Unitarian Universalist Association. In the years since, we have grown to over 100 members and friends. This is an exciting time for UUCLC.

In 1992, some of the original “Far Outers,” and a few others who were their theological allies, stumbled on a Sunday meeting place in the Woman’s Club of Eustis. They were joined by Madeline and Charles Barber, retired UU ministers who began to give them an identity as Unitarian Universalists. Along with the Barbers, the Woman’s Club congregation found other ministers, some UU, some not, to help guide services as they transformed from “The Far Outers” to the Woman’s Club Congregation. The minister of longest duration and, arguably, greatest influence was the Rev Roger Seidner, a retired United Church of Christ Minister who delivered thoughtful and sometimes provocative sermons once a month and provided pastoral services for free. Roger often spoke of the importance of this liberal congregation to the community around it. It was extremely important to him that he and his wife, Clarice, identify UUCLC as their final church home.

Ruth Gray

Another important shaper of this congregation was Ruth Gray. Ruth was a vocal exponent of the Unitarian Universalist joie de vivre. Although she wanted to live forever and did her best to do just that, when it became clear that this was not to be, she determined that she would do what she could to assure Unitarian Universalism had a home in Lake County. With that end in mind, she made a death bed decision to add a codicil to her will which in effect gave the bulk of her estate to the UUA in trust for the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Lake County. The money was to be released by the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), as UUCLC built its permanent home in Lake County.

The congregation accepted Ruth Gray’s gift and completed the construction of a church building in the spring of 2017. The new home of UUCLC was formally dedicated in January of 2018 by its first contracted Unitarian Universalist minister, Rev Tracie Barrett; by noted UU musician and theologian, Peter Mayer; and by the congregation of UUCLC.

Rev Tracie served as UUCLC’s minister for three years as the congregation did the hard work of establishing our identity in our new home and within the community. These were years of trial and error. Although many came and went, we were left with a gradually enlarging core committed to carrying out the mission of this congregation. It is that core that has gotten us through the months of absence from our building — put in religious terms, our months of wandering in the Covid wilderness.

When it became clear that we could not endanger our congregation by continuing to use our building, we turned to technology. Fortunately, Rev Tracie was able to guide us for a few months as we learned how to do Zoom. When she left us in June, we were on our own again.

And now may be the right time to say that while some of this history talks about ministers who have helped us develop as a church, it has always been the congregation that ultimately has held this church together and shaped our identity.

We trace our local roots back to “The Far Outers,” but we trace our historical roots in the United States back to those groups of religious rebels who arrived here in the 1630’s and put together a document that helps define us to this very day — “The Cambridge Platform.”

This document began as a series of meetings in settler’s cottages to discuss how to establish a church that they all, with a diversity of religious views, might support. The result was a radical departure from the ecclesiastical model that was the norm of those days — most notably in the Church of England and the Presbyterian Church. The Cambridge Platform of 1648 established, in the words of the UUA, something far different, “a radically lay-led church gathered by mutual consent rather than by mutual belief, founded in covenant rather than creed, and governed by the congregation itself.”

While UU Churches have ministers, the identity of any individual church is established by the congregation of that church just as the identity of the UUA is established by the Association of Congregations. Here, I have mentioned only Ruth Gray’s name as one of those shapers, but there are many others, including Bill and Gladys Becker whom we honor by the stained-glass windows that bring joy to our sanctuary.

There are many others, some still active in this congregation, that I could mention, but will not because I do not want to embarrass anyone and I do not want to hurt anyone’s feelings by omitting them.

Maybe, just maybe, we are nearing a return to our building and to our sanctuary where we will pick up the pieces that we have managed to preserve through Zoom meetings and telephone calls. Until then the Board of Trustees wants to extend our great love and appreciation to all who have continued to commit themselves to this religious community.

Russ Littlefield