West Hills Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (WHUUF) sits among tall fir trees at 8470 Southwest Oleson Road, home to a liberal religious congregation,welcoming everyone, no matter their beliefs. The sign by our driveway beckons to the community, like the spring daffodils that we planted when the Garden Home Crossing Committee lined Oleson Road with such flowers.
Our congregation, now of about 175 members, branched off in 1955 from the First Unitarian Church of Portland. At first, we rented space in various schools, granges, and halls. The sixty or so members then were generally humanists in philosophy. In 1959, one of our members discovered a wooded lot for sale on Oleson Road. Soon after, the old Methodist Church building on Garden Home Road was for sale; we bought the old church and an adjacent house for very little money. For a lot more money, we hired a firm to move the buildings down Oleson.
The interior of the main building has been remodeled twice, including arrangements for access for the handicapped. In spite of the remodeling, the integrity of the now nearly 100-year-old Methodist building still shows in the gracious proportions, its fir floor, its tall windows, and high ceiling. We added carved wood panels at the front of the sanctuary, sculpted by Portland artist Roy Setziol. Art exhibits by area artists monthly enliven the walls, and we call it the Doll Gardner Gallery. The gallery, unique in Garden Home, has displayed many important exhibits, through the Fine Arts Committee currently chaired by Karen Van Hoy. Garden Home residents may remember our splendid art fairs in the past. In 1967, we added a wing for religious education classes and offices. An area under tall firs behind the buildings is fitted with benches for outdoor services. Sculptures add beauty to the grounds. In a major effort in 1999 we paved the parking lot and built in drainage swales.
WHUUF prides itself on being a lay-led congregation, making decisions in a democratic process in congregational meetings. In recent years, planning groups have responded to what they perceive to be the congregation’s call to a more spiritual approach to life, because the appeal of humanism predominant in our group in the 1950s and 1960s now seems insufficient.
WHUUF now has a part-time minister, the Rev. Sarah Schurr, who speaks on Sundays occasionally and is available for ceremonies and counseling. Members and guests speakers provide other Sunday programs. Programs and activities are planned and directed by the elected board of trustees, assisted by numerous committees and a small staff. Our social justice committee takes an active role in community life, bringing in speakers, acting in protests on social causes, and providing a conscience to the congregation.
Our children are important to us. Our full-time director of religious education, Rebecca Gammons, supervises the teachers of all ages of children, from tots through teens, as well as an adult education program. We make our space available for schools and musicians to rent, an asset to the Garden Home community. In the past we have served Garden Home with a Headstart program; currently Suzuki violin teaching happens here and classes for children with special needs.
Our rental assistant, Mary Sherman, coordinates rentals. Many organizations and individuals rent our sanctuary or classrooms or reception spaces for meetings, classes, workshops, weddings, and other special events. A men’s group and a local AA group, not affiliated with WHUUF, have rented our spaces for years.
Our mission statement: Guided by UU principles, our loving community of all ages nurtures each other’s spiritual and personal growth and supports our individual and group efforts in the wider world.
Our website: www.whuuf.net
by Marge Columbus, 2012