The History of Wildflower Church

1999 | 2001 | 2003 | 2007 | Eliza Galaher

 

1999 – 2000

  • April 1999, Carol Knight asked the First UU Church’s Board of Trustees for their blessing to start a UU church in south Austin. The Board approved a Task Force, chaired by Knight, to explore forming a UU church in South Austin. In December, First Church’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

  • February 4, 2001, the UUs of South Austin sponsored the first Sunday morning worship service in the gymnasium at Sunset Valley Elementary School. Difficulties arose and the Steering Committee dissolved but Knight chaired a new group, the Organizing Committee, which kept the project alive.
  • The church incorporated and the congregation approved Bylaws and chose the church’s name, Wildflower Church. Jim Patterson designed the church’s logo with botanical help from Paul Fryxell.
  • The first covenant groups formed: Elders, Spiritual Pilgrims, and Music, which sponsored the church’s first 12-person choir.
  • Kathy Wells chaired the first Religious Education Committee, which started classes for children.
  • They met on the floor in a hallway at Sunset Valley Elementary.
  • The church began publishing a monthly newsletter and participated in a weekly ad in the Austin Statesman. Peter Knight constructed the first website.
  • 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.
  • The congregation approved its first Vision and Mission statements and a Five-Year Strategic Plan.
  • In the fall of 2002, the church offered its first adult religious education classes.

2003-2004

  • The Wildflower Peace Train Band formed.
  • The third annual Stewardship Campaign raised $68,000 to support the church.
  • Dianne Purcell chaired the first Women’s Retreat, held at Lake Buchanan, and 24 women attended.
  • 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 when he was sentenced to six months in prison.
  • In August 2004, the 100th person joined Wildflower Church.
  • The congregation continued its participation in social action projects, including Food Packets for the Homeless, the Capital Area Food Bank, Second Offerings, and Adopt-a-Family for Christmas. The church also started participating in the annual Hands-on-Housing program, which it continued to do.
  • 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.
  • More covenant groups formed: Living with Spirit, Hibiscus and Bluebonnet (two Elder Covenant Groups); Men’s Friendship Group, and Parents. Fun and Fellowship events included the Heritage Club, Video & Dessert Nights, and End-of-the-Month parties.
  • The Church hired its first part-time Director of Religious Education, Penny Burnette.
  • Wildflower 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.
  • A Ministerial Search Committee formed to search for a full-time called ministerial candidate for Wildflower.
  • 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.
  • The church rented classrooms in near-by Starbright Preschool because the Religious Education Program outgrew the space at SASAC.

2007-2008

  • May 2007, Dagmar Grieder and Gay Phillips co-chaired the annual SWAP, which raised more than $9,000 for the Building Fund.
  • The congregation continued its social action projects including Food Packets for the Homeless project, picking up litter along its adopted section of Manchaca, planting trees, participating in Hands on Housing, and marching in parades for peace and gay pride.
  • May 11, 2007, the congregation called its first full-time minister, the Rev. Eliza Galaher, who began her ministry on August 1.
  • In November 2007, the congregation responded to Rev. Galaher’s Thanksgiving Challenge to donate food to the Capital Area Food Bank and brought 1½ tons of food to church on the Sunday of the “Great Weigh In.” The congregation continued to meet that challenge in the following years.
  • On March 2, 2008, the Rev. Galaher’s Installation Ceremony was held at the First UU Church of Austin.
  • In May 2008, Mary Gleason, 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 September 2008, ninety congregants attended a Saturday workshop to develop a new mission statement for the church. It was approved by the congregation.
  • The church continued supporting social action projects, including a week-long church mission trip to rebuild homes in New Orleans co-coordinated by Rev. Galaher. Several congregants participated.
  • The congregation approved a Statement of Conscience on Global Warming.
  • Renee Kingsland organized Wildflower’s first Family Campout and more than 60 people attended.
  • Congregants pledged more than $170,000 to the annual Stewardship Campaign to support the church’s new mission.
  • Fifty-seven women attended the church’s sixth annual Women’s Retreat at MoRanch.
  • The church continued to support social action projects, including a week-long trip led by Rev. Galaher, this time to Galveston for Hurricane Ike recovery work.
  • The congregation voted to proceed with searching for a home of our own. Dave Rickard, a UUA Consultant, was hired to help with the process. 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.
  • More than 45 people attended Wildflower’s second annual family campout even though heavy rain was projected to fall, which it did.
  • 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.
  • In September more than 60 people attended a day-long workshop to develop a Covenant of Right Relations, which was approved by the congregation.
  • By September 30, 2009 church membership increased to 184 people.
  • The Stewardship Committee set a goal of $210,000 for the annual Stewardship Campaign to support the church’s programs in 2010.
  • The church continued its work on social justice, including participating in a week-long mission trip to New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina recovery work and a mission trip to Ecuador sponsored by the United Church of Christ. For the second year, Danna Luther organized the church’s participation in the NAMI walk (National Alliance of Mental Illness). The Wildflower Team raised more than $2,850 in donations to the organization.
  • The church hired a part-time office administrator, Dotti Switzer, and a part-time bookkeeper.
  • A reorganized Building Committee surveyed the congregation and sponsored a building-related workshop, attended by more than 65 congregants.
  • In September 2010 the church hired its first part-time Youth Director, Rose Schwab.
  • October 22-24, 2010. On this weekend several men from Wildflower participated in a Men’s Retreat at U-Bar-U and forty-seven wildflower women attended the church’s eighth annual Women’s Retreat in Port Aransas.

2011

  • In January 2011, the church certified 166 voting members to the UUA.
  • On February 6, 2011 the church celebrated its tenth anniversary.
  • 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.
  • In July, Rev. Galaher and a group of six Wildflowers traveled to Oklahoma for the fourth annual Amy Young Memorial Service Trip.
  • 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.
  • In January 2012, Rev. Galaher announces her resignation effective May 31, 2012 to concentrate her ministry more on social justice and the church begins the search process for an interim minister.
  • In August 2012, Rev. Kate Rohde begins a two-year term as interim minister.
  • In December 2012, the UUA notifies Rev. Rohde and the Wildflower Board that Rev. Eliza Galaher has resigned her status as a minister because of a UUA investigation of her for conduct unbecoming a minister. Galaher admits that she sexualized her relationship with a married member of Wildflower.
  • In January 2013, the Board holds two congregational forums to process the emotional impact of Ms. Galaher’s behavior on the congregation. In September, Dr. Debra Pope Lance, a consultant, leads another forum. Some members, disappointed with the dissonance between Ms. Galaher’s words and actions, leave the church.

2014-2015

  • In July 2014, Rev. Rohde’s interim contract ends and the congregation returns to a lay-led status.
  • After Rev. Rodhe departs, the congregation explores it values, modifies its covenant of right relations, drafts a new mission statement, and begins 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 Renewal Team. After the dark days processing the betrayal of Ms. Eliza Galaher, Wildflower centers itself and sets itself to beginning to flourish again.
  • In 2015, Wildflower looks at possibilities for the future and plans to hire a developmental minister in late summer.