A Brief History of Wildflower Church


1999 – 2000

  • In December 1999, First UU Church of Austin’s congregation approved $9,500 to support the UUs of South Austin, with the mission of starting a UU church in South Austin.  
  • In 2000, the UUs of South Austin Steering Committee formed and sponsored workshops, organizing meetings, social events and a periodic newsletter, and it received a Chalice Lighter Grant to help compensate a half-time minister. 


2001-2002

  • On February 4, 2001, the UUs of South Austin sponsored the first Sunday morning worship service in the gymnasium at Sunset Valley Elementary School. 
  • The church incorporated and the congregation approved Bylaws and chose the church’s name, Wildflower Church. 
  • Using funds from the Chalice Lighter grant, Wildflower called a part-time minister, Rev. Peter Morrison but, due to difficulties with the long-distance ministry, he resigned.
  • During 2002, Wildflower met in three locations: first, a volleyball storage facility; then, St. Edward’s University; finally, settling at the South Austin Senior Activity Center (SASAC). 
  • In April 2002, the church held its first Membership Signing ceremony; sixty-four people were eligible to sign the Membership Book, including the eleven founding members. 


2003-2004

  • We had our first Women’s Retreat, held at Lake Buchanan, and 24 women attended.  The retreat continued to be held almost every year through 2017. 
  • In January 2004, the Board of Trustees hired Rev. Douglas M. Strong to serve as a part-time organizing minister for one year, but his ministry ended in May after an incident of sexual misconduct away from and unrelated to the church. 
  • In August 2004, the 100th person joined Wildflower Church.  


2005 – 2006 

  • On March 6, 2005, Wildflower Church held its Charter Sunday, with 106 adult members eligible to sign the Charter. Wildflower affiliated with the UUA during the June 2005 UU General Assembly in Ft. Worth. 
  • The Church hired its first part-time Director of Religious Education, Penny Burnette.  
  • A Ministerial Search Committee formed to search for a full-time called ministerial candidate for Wildflower. 
  • The Church voted unanimously to publicly oppose a proposed state constitutional amendment prohibiting same sex marriage and civil unions. The congregation participated in marches and co-sponsored a half-page ad in the Austin American Statesman. 
  • The UUA designated Wildflower Church as a Welcoming Congregation in recognition of its commitment to inclusiveness and to welcoming bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgender persons.  


2007-2008

  • On May 11, 2007, the congregation called its first full-time minister, the Rev. Eliza Galaher, who began her ministry on August 1. 
  • In May 2008, a UUA Consultant conducted an Assessment Study as a first step in preparing for a capital campaign to raise funds for acquiring a building of our own.
  • In 2008 Wildflower voted to become a member organization of Austin Interfaith, a non-partisan coalition of 37 congregations, unions, schools, and associations working to promote democratic values and to create opportunities for its members to effectively address issues of common concern to low-income and working families.
  • The church had a week-long church mission trip to rebuild homes in New Orleans.  It also approved a Statement of Conscience on Global Warming. 


2009 – 2010

  • The congregation voted to proceed with searching for a home of our own. Many committees formed to plan and implement the journey toward a home of our own but, ultimately, the cost of the chosen property on Corral Lane was prohibitive.   
  • Donald and Mary Esther Young donated a chalice in memory of their daughter, Amy, a member of the congregation who died in 2008.  The Amy Young Memorial Service Trip became a tradition.
  • By September 30, 2009 church membership increased to 184 people. 
  • A reorganized Building Committee surveyed the congregation and sponsored a building-related workshop, attended by more than 65 congregants. 
  • The church continued its work on social justice, including mission trips to New Orleans and Ecuador.
  • In September 2010 the church hired its first part-time Youth Director, Rose Schwab.


2011

  • The Building Committee investigated several properties for a home of our own and chose one on Davis Lane, but additional inspections indicated the property was too expensive.   At this time, the congregation decided that we were not in a financial position to buy property and should seek other options for our growing membership.
  • In August 2011, the Board appointed Laura Miller to serve as acting Youth Director. She had served as the youth advisor for two years.
  • In July 2011, the congregation approved a space-sharing agreement with Faith Presbyterian Church on East Oltorf.  On August 28, 2011, after the last worship service at SASAC, the congregation moved to its new location at Faith Presbyterian Church.
  • We created a Climate Action Team to address ways our membership could fight climate change and explore environmental justice issues.


2012-2013

  • In January 2012, Rev. Galaher announced her resignation effective May 31, 2012 to concentrate her ministry more on social justice and the church began the search process for an interim minister.
  • In August 2012, Rev. Kate Rohde began a two-year term as interim minister.
  • During the summer of 2013, Rev. Rohde and a congregant went on a mission trip to Mexico and were arrested and briefly jailed by the Mexican police. They were suspected of “political interference” and were escorted to the border after their release.
  • From 2012 to 2014, Chris Jimmerson was our ministerial intern. He was ordained in 2015.
  • In December 2012, the UUA notified Rev. Rohde and the Wildflower Board that Rev. Galaher had resigned her status as a minister because of a UUA investigation of her for conduct unbecoming a minister.  Galaher admitted that she sexualized her relationship with a married member of Wildflower.
  • In January 2013, the Board held two congregational forums to process the emotional impact of Ms. Galaher’s behavior on the congregation.  In September, Dr. Deborah Pope-Lance, a consultant, led another forum. Some members, disappointed with the dissonance between Ms. Galaher’s words and actions, left the church.
  • The Interim Ministry Team became the Healing and Renewal Team and began examining our congregation’s vulnerability to boundary violations by ministers. This was the first step toward congregational health. This work was supported by The First UU Church of Nashville.


2014-2015

  • In July 2014, Rev. Rohde’s interim contract ended and the congregation returned to a lay-led status.
  • After Rev. Rohde departed, the congregation explored its values, modified its covenant of right relations, drafted a new mission statement, and began an ongoing consideration of its vision and goals in a series of workshops open to all and led by SmartChurch and the UUA Southern Region staff, as well as our own Healing and Renewal Team.  After the dark days processing the betrayal of Ms. Galaher, Wildflower centered itself and set itself to beginning to flourish again.
  • In September 2015, the Rev. Brian Ferguson began as developmental minister for a three-year term.  He also brought ministerial intern Erin Walter with him.  
  • From May, 2014, to August, 2015, the church hosted a First-Friday Film Series which aired a social-justice themed film, free to the community, the first Friday of every month.  Since then, films have continued to be aired on occasional first Fridays.
  • In April, 2015, we began a monthly Serenity Service on the third Friday of each month.  The service continued for four years.
  • In December 2015, the church began periodically hosting and sending congregants (35 to date) to Undoing Racism trainings facilitated by The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond.  


2016-2019

  • In January 2016, the church began to coordinate its programs to achieve year 2020 church goals based on the mission, vision, and values discerned in 2015.
  • In Fall of 2016 and Spring of 2017, the church hosted Beloved Conversations, a UU curriculum for exploring the role of race and ethnicity in individual and congregational lives. Approximately 40 people participated.
  • In 2016 the church received a Building the Beloved Community grant from the UU Fund for Social Responsibility to support our training and outreach.  Through this grant we began our work with nearby tenants seeking affordable housing; nearby immigrant communities seeking information and assistance; the Our House after-school program for Travis High students; and BASTA,which organizes Austin renters for healthy and affordable homes.
  • In 2017, the church voted to extend Rev. Ferguson’s term an additional two years, to 2020.
  • Erin Walter completed her internship and began work as Wildflower’s community minister in September, 2017.  She was ordained in October, 2017.  
  • In response to Hurricane Harvey in September, 2017, Wildflower partnered with Counter Balance: ATX and Faith Presbyterian in hosting a Restoration Center and donation drop-off point specifically for victims in the Port Arthur and Beaumont areas.
  • We made substantial revisions to our Community Room during this time, including painting the walls, posting the seven principles and our congregational values, installing ceiling fans and a slat wall for brochures, and adding a TV with scrolling announcements on Sundays.  We also created a banner for the sanctuary which we hang every Sunday.
  • In 2017 and 2018, we hosted a multicultural leadership development program.
  • We installed a permanent sign out in front so people could find us easier.
  • In early 2018, we signed a five-year lease with Faith Presbyterian, to expire in December, 2022.
  • In January, 2018, we began offering American Sign Language interpretation at every Sunday worship service.  The church also created the Deaf Liaison Team.
  • We sent 14 congregants to Beyond Diversity training in 2018 and 2019.
  • In May, 2018, Rev. Ferguson informed us that he would be leaving Wildflower when his contract expired in 2020.  The church began the process of forming a Ministerial Search Team.
  • In May 2018, our long-serving Director of Religious Education, Penny Burnette, resigned.  In June, we hired Piaf Azul as our Summer Children’s Program Director, and promoted her to Director of Religious Education in January, 2019.  In April, 2019, we hired Solveij Praxis as a Children’s Religious Education teacher.
  • In 2019, the church created TARAOM — the Team for Anti-Racism, Anti-Oppression, and Multiculturalism to advise and assist with developing strategies and best practices to better achieve our mission, vision, and goals in becoming anti-racist and anti-oppressive through the use of a multicultural lens.
  • In 2019, the Climate Action Team began working with Extinction Rebellion, including attempting to plant a tree near the petroleum engineering building at the University of Texas.
  • The church offered space for free to certain nonprofit organizations that share our values, including Mama Sana Vibrant Woman, a community organization that works to facilitate access to culturally appropriate and quality, prenatal and postnatal care for women of color; and BASTA, which organizes Austin renters for healthy and affordable homes.