Fellowship History

1950’s  
•    1955- Nine Founders and a guest Minister met on a snowy November evening to found a new religious organization in the Valley. They called it “The Fox Valley Liberal Religious Fellowship” and included people from Unitarian, Universalist, Humanist, Ethical Culture Society and Quaker faith backgrounds.
•    Meetings were initially held in member homes, but then moved to a series of public facilities: the old Menasha Library, the Appleton YMCA and the Neenah YMCA.
•    1957- Joined the Unitarian Association with 19 members.

1960’s
•    1961- Joined new Unitarian Universalist Association after Unitarians and Universalists merged during this year.
•    Still a small lay-led congregation (20 to 40 members) not yet interested in sharing leadership with a minister.

1970’s  
•    Declining membership in early years compelled some members to lead a revitalization movement.
•    Membership committee, reconstituted and revitalized, brought in visiting ministers to enrich programming, increase publicity, and rejuvenate the Sunday School program.
•    Discussion started on need to acquire own facility when space in the Appleton Girl Scout Headquarters was no longer available.
•    Three anonymous matching grants led to initiation of a capital campaign to purchase a building.
•    Capital campaign far exceeded goals, allowing the Fellowship to finalize plans for the purchase of its first building as well as maintain a cash reserve.

1980’s  
•    1981- With around 40 members, The Fellowship purchased its first building at 800 North Superior Street in Appleton. Discussion soon began on hiring a full-time minister, while other ministers were invited to visit and were “borrowed” through a minister-on-loan program.
•    1985- Jacqueline Collins was welcomed as “extension minister,” meant to stay 3-5 years to help the congregation decide if it really wanted a full-time minister.
•    The Fellowship nearly doubled in size, board leadership was strengthened, and committees became more active.
•    More aggressive and successful fundraising of members for financial support helped to strengthen social and educational programs.
•    The Fellowship was changing from a small to a medium-sized congregation, leading to soulful discussions about goal setting and future direction, with members grappling with their desires for guiding their own destiny while still working under the leadership of a minister.
•    The growing congregation became more actively involved in district wide programs.
•    Making a commitment to growth, the Fellowship adopted a new model for governance and voted to proceed with a call for a “settled” minister.

1990’s  
•    1990- With 104 members, the Rev. Roger Bertschausen was welcomed as the first “settled” minister. Roger’s dedication and service have spurred continual growth and a greater presence and understanding of the Fellowship within and beyond the Fox Valley community.
•    Fellowship invested in additional staff personnel including Director of Religious Education and a part-time Music Director.
•    1998- Congregation purchased land and built new building at 2600 East Philip Lane, Appleton.
•    Growth continued. Larger space meant less crowding and created a more welcoming feeling for visitors.
•    Religion education programs were expanded.

2000 to Present  
•    2001- Full-time office administrator hired, which, among other things, relieved the minister and treasurer (a volunteer) of many administrative responsibilities.
•    2005- Part time Membership Coordinator added (to go to full time in 2006) as well as additional office help. Policy governance model adopted by Governing Board.
•    2006- Rev. Dottie Mathews added as second Minister. This position adds much needed staff support for Lay Ministry, youth programming and Social Action.
•    2007- Qualified for the Unitarian Universalist Association’s “official” Large Church designation (with verified adult membership exceeding 550) plus over 200 children registered in Religious Education. Continued growth has helped the Fellowship in recent years to increase programming even further, to learn from a continually more richly diverse population, and to do important work both inside and outside of the Fellowship. It has, however, also caused increased staffing and space needs. Plans for the future include significant additions and changes for the current building to accommodate current and future growth.
•     2009- The Fellowship has more than 600 members. Congregation votes for Rev. Dottie Mathews to be our Associate Minister.
•     2010- The Fellowship has more than 650 members. Congregation moves forward on Capital Campaign for building addition.
•    2011- After a successful Capital Campaign, the Fellowship’s design team starts working on designing our new addition. Rev. Dottie Mathews departs as our Associate Minister. The board hires Jason Seymour as Interim Assistant Minister for one year as a search committee is formed to find a new settled second minister.
•     2012- Rev. Jason Seymour successfully completes his one year interim ministry. Thanks to the work of the Search Committee, the Rev. Leah Hart-Landsberg is hired as our Assistant Minister. The Building Design team prepares to start design work on our building addition.
•     2013- Construction for our building addition starts in the spring. Rev. Roger Bertschausen starts a four month sabbatical in August. Service in our new sanctuary happens on Christmas Eve.
•     2014- Rev. Leah Hart-Landsberg is called as our Associate Minister. Rev. Roger Bertschausen announces his plans to leave in June of 2015.
•     2015- Rev. Roger Bertschausen ends his almost 25 years as Senior Minister. A Transitions Team is formed to create a plan for interim work until we go into search for a new Senior Minister. Revs. Kathleen Rolenz and Wayne Arnason are hired to be our Transitional Consulting Ministers.