All About Us

All About Us

Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Emerald Coast

 

You Might
Belong Here

And Not Know It
Attend services here for the first time and you may experience a sense of discovery, comfort, curiosity, rejuvenation or validation. Our services may not be like any you have experienced before. Yet we probably share many of the same beliefs.

At UUFEC, we are primarily concerned with how we should live, individually and collectively, so that we might become better people, partners, parents and citizens.

Our services might present readings from theism, religious humanism or a variety of ancient or modern myths. At first, it may sound strange to hear language that expresses spirituality in such diverse ways. Beneath that different styles of expression, there is a much deeper and more relevant list of beliefs we all share.

A Place to Explore
Life’s Questions
With historical roots in the Judeo-Christian tradition, our liberal religion keeps an open mind to the spiritual questions people have asked for centuries. We are a “non-creedal” congregation, which means that we seek religious truth through personal experience, conscience and reason – not from any book or religious authority.
 
This doesn’t mean that whatever anyone believes is fine, since some beliefs are good for us and others are not as healthy. We regard the highest values to be integrity, caring, compassion, social justice, truth, personal peace and harmony. Advancing these values is a major purpose of our congregation.
A Religion for Both
Head and Heart
Whether it’s an issue of vital community interest or a seminar that explores your particular spiritual quest, you can find your place here. While each member would probably express his or her beliefs a bit differently, the following are just some of the things many of our members believe:

  • We believe that we’re a part of Life, and owe something back to the world for the gift of life.
  • We believe that almost all religions are saying that we are precious people who need to treat everybody else as though they are precious, too.
  • We believe that we are supposed to live in such a way that, when we look back on our lives, we can be proud, and can make those we care about proud.
  • We believe that truth, justice and compassion are requirements for living.
  • We believe that love is better than hatred, understanding is better than prejudice, and that if there is ever to be a better world, people of widely differing beliefs will have to help each other build it.
  • We believe that, down deep, all people of goodwill hold these same beliefs and that every individual should feel encouraged to develop a fulfilling philosophy of life.
About Our Minister,
Rev. Rod Debs

Rev. Rod Debs, is the fellowship’s first settled minister.  Rev. Debs holds graduate degrees in Philosophy and Theology.  His appreciation for diverse religious sentiments is rooted in his Quaker and Christian upbringing, studies of Theravada Buddhism in Thailand, studies of world religions with Harvard’s Diana Eck, and his recent trip to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza to visit Jews, Christians, and Muslims in the occupied territories.See highlights from Rev. Debs Installation Celebration!
A Place to Find
Who You Are Meant To Be
At UUFEC, you might just discover yourself … who you are and who you are meant to be. No matter what your previous worship experience, you will find authenticity here. There are no mandated beliefs. You will be free to seek your own spiritual path and express your personal religious views.

Our Fellowship offers a variety of opportunities for all ages, including Sunday worship services with intelligent, inspirational, witty, thought-provoking speakers and topics. You will also find:

Religious education programs for children, youths and adults, plus childcare during fellowship events.
A listening ministry and a variety of discussion groups.
Social activities to enjoy entertainment, sharing dinners, make new friends and reinforce old friendships.
Social action programs with in the fellowship and the community at large.

For information about various fellowship activities and committees contact the fellowship office.

The Principles
of the Unitarian Universalist Association
We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote:

  • The inherent dignity and worth of every person.
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations.
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning.
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all.
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Grateful for the religious pluralism which enriches and ennobles our faith, we are inspired to deepen our understanding and expand our vision.  As free congregations we enter into this covenant, promising to one another our mutual trust and support.

Our Fellowship History

How, when and where’s about our local fellowship.

Our fellowship was founded in March 1958 as the Unitarian Fellowship of Fort Walton Beach three years before the Unitarian and Universalist denominations merged.  Five persons constituted the new Fellowship including emeritus members Mac and Ann Piper who now reside in Gainesville, Florida.  The group benefited from the advice of the chairman of Panama City Fellowship, Dr. Ralph E. Wagner.  At the same time a group in Pensacola was forming a Fellowship.  A joint meeting of the two new groups was held with a representative from the American Unitarian Association in Boston.Until the Fort Walton Beach Fellowship had official recognition from Boston, they were permitted to hold Sunday afternoon services in the lounge of the Chaplain’s Center, Eglin AFB.  After official recognition was received, meetings were held in the library of Choctawhatchee H.S. in Shalimar, and also in the Women’s Club building on Beal Street.  The first meeting as a Unitarian Fellowship was held April 20, 1958.  Rev. Alfred W. Hobart, Minister of the Birmingham Unitarian Church, was the guest minister.  His sermon topic was “What is a Unitarian Church?” Twenty years later he returned for a service in the Florida Blanca Street building.

A children’s Religious Education program was formed and 12 children were in attendance.  In 1961, there were 17 children from 13 families.  In 1962, the children’s Religious Education meetings were held in the Community Center.

In 1970, the Fellowship was meeting in such places as the Seventh Day Adventist Hall, the Moose Lodge, and the Knights of Columbus building.  In 1972 the congregation purchased a small house on Florida Blanca Street, near Brooks Bridge, and converted it into a meeting place for adult programs and children’s Religious Education.

Following a period of growth in 1984, the congregation decided to try to obtain larger quarters in a building that would be easier for members and guests to find.  They purchased a house at 204G Carmel Street, Fort Walton Beach.  The Unitarian Universalist Association in Boston helped by lending the fellowship funds, and the members purchased $35,000 in bonds.  This building was sold in 1992 and the Fellowship moved to our current quarters, formerly a Mormon Church, in June of 1992.

Although Unitarian Universalist and ministers of many other faiths have addressed the congregation, the fellowship has been largely a lay-led organization.  In 1987 Rev. Michael Seider, a UU minister, started providing services on Sunday a month.  He was referred to as a ‘circuit rider’ since he also visited other congregations on a once a month basis.  Rev. Seider was with us for two years, and with his leadership the congregation grew in many ways.

The Rev. Harold Hawkins of Tallahassee, a former Baptist minister, and ordained in the Unitarian Universalist Church, served our fellowship twice a month from 1989 to 2000.  Interim minister Rev. Roy Phillips served our fellowship and the Pensacola fellowship from 2000 to 2001.  Interim minister Rev. Bob Eddy served our fellowship from 2001 to August of 2002.  A major $100,000 building renovation was completed in early 2002 and additional property was purchased for future expansion.  Interim minister Rev. Nels Oas served us through March of 2003.

A new chapter in the history of fellowship started on May 4th, 2003 with the calling of Rev. Rodney Debs as the fellowship’s first full-time settled minister.

 

Portions of this webpage were provided courtesy of our friends at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin, Davidson Loehr, Ph.D., Minister.