The UU Network was formed ln 1986 as a lay organization to promote communication between member societies, to strengthen the commitment to Unitarian Universalism in the Greater Houston Area, and to promote, coordinate activities which can be better accomplished by mutual effort. The Network was the successor to the All Church Council, formed before 1975 by Andrew Ladner of First Unitarian Church of Houston and Leonora Montgomery of Emerson Unitarian Church.
UNION SERVICES The Network has sponsored three Union Services beginning in 1995 when Reverend John Buehrens, President of Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) gave a sermon, “Salted with Fire”. This was followed in 1996 by a Union Service by Reverend Terry Sweetser, “Exaltation Takes Practice”. In 2002 Reverend Bill Sinkford, President of UUA spoke at the Union Service with five participating area UU ministers. This service included a church banner parade and banner display. The collection was donated to the Chalice Lighters Program.
BEFRIENDERS PROGRAM The Network sponsored Susan Madison to present an initial workshop on the Befrienders Program in 1995. In 1996 the UU Network sponsored a training course for the program, 30+ UU’s from three churches were trained to be Befrienders.
WORKSHOPS The Network has sponsored and/or helped coordinate twenty-two workshops since 1995. Over half of the workshops have been President’s or Leadership luncheons designed to have ministerial and lay church leaders meet and discuss best practices and concerns. Post-workshop comments strongly favored continuing these workshops. Other workshops featured keynote speakers: Susan Madison for Befrienders; Dr. Richard Lewis, a sociologist; Rev. Terry Sweetser; Rev. Marjorie Montgomery; Rev. Bob Hill, District Director; Rev. Weldon Gaddy; Rev. Jonalu Johnstone; Rev. Fred Campbell; Rev. Michael Durrell; Rev. Dr. Thandeka; Gini Courter, UUA Moderator; and Rev. Don Southworth, Director of UUMA. The 2012 President’s Luncheon focused on area UU congregations Social Justice activities and was the genesis of the Unitarian Universalist Voice For Justice. The 2013 President’s Luncheon was a roll out of the Unitarian Voice For Justice Program.
DWIGHT BROWN LEADERSHIP EXPERIENCE In 1996 the UU Network initiated scholarships for the Dwight Brown Leadership Experience Training. Four scholarships of $150 each were given to area UUs. Subsequently, the number of scholarships was increased to eight, at $200 each. They are available to all area UU congregations. The UU Network has also provided scholarships for area UUs to attend the UUA General Assembly.
PRIDE PARADE Beginning in 1999 the UU Network has paid the entrance fee for the UU float in Pride Parade. In some years the UU Network has paid for more than one float. Since 2013 the UU Network has purchased Rainbow “Welcoming Congregation” UU Wristbands for distribution at the parade.
UU SPRING MusicFest The music festival began in 2003, it is organized and produced by Mark Holt of Emerson UU Church. It is a Spring event held on the grounds of the Unitarian Fellowship of Houston. UUs enjoy an afternoon and evening of music in two venues: inside their Sanctuary and outside on a raised platform partially donated by the UU Network. Musicians, choirs, and bands from the area UU churches participate indoors and outdoors in this family friendly event. UUs listen to fellow UU’s play classical, country and rock & roll. It’s a picnic with UUs on lawn chairs and blankets rubbing elbows with fellow UUs. Vendors sell everything from tie dye and jewelry to vegan wine. Drinks and food are available with the donations benefiting area UU Network congregation’s college scholarship programs. The Spring Music Festival is the largest annual gathering of UUs in the Houston area.
UU COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIPS Valerie Tolman of First Unitarian Universalist Church, Thoreau Campus started a college scholarship program for high school graduates. School counselors recommended the scholarship recipients who meet the criteria of being the first one in their family to attend college. This program was subsequently adopted by Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church (Groppe Scholarships) and the Unitarian Fellowship of Houston. The UU Network of Houston has helped raise money for these scholarships by collecting donations at the annual UU Music Fest.
PUBLICITY – INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL Beginning in 1998 the UU Network periodically, compiled and distributed a Directory of the UU Network congregation’s Officers, Board Members, and Committee Chairs to facilitate communication and interaction. This information in now available at UU Network website via links to all congregations websites. UU Network assisted David May of Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church in collecting money for “UU Radio Drive Time Ads” on the Public Broadcasting Station, KUHF. For several years the UU Network coordinated “UU Sunday on KUHF” during their fund raising drive by assisting with their phone bank. In 2000 the UU Network worked with the area UU ministers on a newspaper article on the “100th anniversary of UUism in Houston”. The UU Network coordinated a UU Youth “Cancer Relay for Life”. During the 2004-2005 Media campaign, the UU Network worked with Tracy Robinson-Harris and Valerie Holton of the Unitarian Universalist Association to help plan the campaign. With their assistance media tracking data were collected and distributed to area UU Congregations. The UU Network helped coordinate the media campaign kickoff with Rev. Bill Sinkford, president of the UUA, in January of 2005. The UU Network purchased 700 bumper stickers for distribution to UU congregations. In 2009 the UU Network ran twelve weeks of ads in the “Belief Section” of the Houston Chronicle. In August 2013 the UU Network ran two weeks of UU ads during the AM and PM drive time, on KUHF Radio. Out of the 2013 UU Network Luncheon, the desire to form a network of UUs committed to public witness for justice in the Greater Houston Area had its genesis. The Unitarian Universalist Voice For Justice (UUV4J) was formed in 2014 as a “RESPONSE NETWORK”. It is a “CALLED TO ACTION” when an incident occurs in the Houston area calling for a loving religious witness.
UUHOUSTON.ORG The network website (www.uuhouston.org) was established in the mid-1990s to give internet visitors information about the Houston area UU congregations. The present website was revamped by Andy Savidge and Lori Reeder in December of 2016. This allowed the UU Network to track the number of monthly visitors to the website. Initially, the website had 106 unique monthly visitors. Currently, the website averages about 1200 unique visitors a month with some seasonal variability. Uuhouston.org website is the host for the UU Voice For Justice (UUV4J) response network.