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.
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.
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.
Peter Lee Scott was hired as our first minister, which paved the way for ministerial presence.
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.
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. After Jacqueline, Rod Brown was our interim whose musical influence helped get our annual Cabaret started.
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 – With 104 members, the Rev. Roger Bertschausen was welcomed as the first settled minister. Roger’s dedication and service 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 a 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.
2001 – Full-time office administrator hired, which, among other things, relieved the minister and volunteer treasurer 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.
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 – 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.
2016 – The Fellowship ordains the Rev. Jim Coakley, who started his ministerial journey as a lay minister at the Fellowship.
2017 – The Fellowship overwhelmingly votes to call the Rev. Christina Leone-Tracy as our settled Senior Minister and was formally installed in November.
2018 – The congregation confers upon Rev. Roger Bertschausen the status of Minister Emeritus.
2018 – Rev. Leah Hart-Landsberg starts a six month sabbatical that will end on Christmas Eve. Rev. Jim Coakley serves as our Interim Associate Minister.
2020 – The Fellowship responded immediately to the Covid-19 pandemic by offering virtual worship, classes, religious education, and social gatherings.
2020 – We welcome Ali Peters as the first Bertschausen Teaching Ministry Program Intern Minister.
2021 – Rev. Leah Ongiri announced she will be resigning in the fall to move closer to family and her partner’s new job.