The History of Wildflower Church
Carol Knight, a member of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin, wrote a letter to the Board of Trustees and the Long Range Planning Committee suggesting that First UU sponsor a new church in south Austin, an area underserved by existing UU churches. Greta Fryxell, a member of the Board, and Paul Fryxell, a member of the Long Range Planning Committee, responded positively. Carol started discussing the idea with several people, including the Fryxells, Martin Bryant and Mary K. Isaacs, and others.
In April, Carol met with the Board of Trustees and asked for their blessing to explore the idea of forming a UU church in south Austin. The Board responded by unanimously approving the formation of a Planning and Feasibility Task Force to explore the idea, with Carol serving as Chair. She recruited Greta Fryxell, Toby Heidel, Drew Bridges, and Gayle Hudgins to serve on the Task Force.
In October, the Task Force presented its final report to the Board. The report concluded that a UU church in south Austin was feasible and recommended six actions, all of which were unanimously approved by the Board. The
recommendations included budgeting $9,500 to fund a project, UUs of South Austin, to determine the level of interest in forming a UU church in south Austin, and to take steps toward forming one if indicated.
In December, the congregation of First UU approved $9,500 for the UUs of South Austin project.
In February, a Steering Committee formed to direct the UUs of South Austin project. Jenny Benedict served as Chair, with Kim Flannery, Gerry King, Carol Knight, Kelly Ramsey, Dawn Spinale, Larry Strassner, and Lisa Sutton serving as members. The Rev. Bob Hill, District Executive of the SWUUC and the Rev. Jonalu Johnstone, Growth Consultant for the SWUUC were involved, along with the Rev. Clyde Grubbs and the Rev. Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley, Interim Co-ministers at First Church.
The Steering Committee sponsored organizing meetings, workshops, and social events, and published a periodic newsletter edited first by Paul Fryxell, then by Jenny Benedict. Based on recommendations from the District Executive, the Steering Committee attempted to establish a new church by forming covenant groups and sponsoring monthly rallies instead of holding weekly worship services.
In July, the Committee submitted an application to the SWUUC for a Chalice Lighter Grant to help compensate a half-time mentoring minister for the UUs of South Austin for a period of one year. The SWUUC Board approved the application.
By late August, life events and increasing frustration with trying to start a church by forming covenant groups instead of offering weekly worship services contributed to several resignations from the Steering Committee.
In November, the UUs of South Austin received a $9,800+ Chalice Lighter Grant to hire a minister. The remaining three members of the Steering Committee— Gerry King, Kelly Ramsey, and Carol Knight—sponsored a dinner to recruit members for an Organizing Committee, with the goal of forming a church in south Austin. Soon after the dinner, eighteen people joined the Committee: Carol Knight, acting president, John Beeler, Karen Beeler, Charles Bisantz, Mark Briody, Susan Briody, Martin Bryant, Barbara Dickens, Carol Fisher, Paul Fryxell, Harold Gilbert, Gerry King, Peter Knight, Gloria Obregon, Gay Patterson, Pat Pore, Kelly Ramsey, and Kellis Richter.
On 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.
In April, Pat Pore and Carol Knight attended the five-day UUA New Congregation Development Training in Boston, Massachusetts
Throughout the year, the congregation met for weekly services in the gymnasium at Sunset Valley Elementary School, where basketball hoops and climbing ropes decorated the sanctuary. The Religious Education classes meet in hallways because the congregation was not allowed to use the school’s classrooms. The church incorporated, received non-profit status, and approved bylaws, all under the leadership of Karen Beeler. Despite the fact that the church was not yet chartered and had no official members, the congregation elected its first slate of officers: Carol Knight, President; Kellis Richter, Vice-President; Charles Bisantz, Treasurer; and Pat Pore, Secretary.
The congregation had fun choosing the name, Wildflower Church, using a multi-stage process developed by Paul and Greta Fryxell. Jim Patterson designed a logo for the church incorporating three wildflowers chosen by Paul Fryxell, a botanist. The flowers are St. John’s Wort, native to eastern Europe where modern Unitarianism began; an aster, native to Massachusetts where UU “landed” in the U.S., and a Mexican Hat, native to south Austin, where the UUs of South Austin were taking root.
The congregation advertised Wildflower Church by placing an ongoing weekly notice in the Oak Hill Gazette, arranged by Martin Bryant, and by participating in an ongoing weekly notice in the Saturday edition of the Austin Statesman newspaper publicizing all Austin area UU societies. First UU sponsored Wildflower’s participation during the first year the notice ran in the paper. The church continued its advertising efforts through a web site, constructed and maintained by Peter Knight, a member of the church, who also purchased the domain name wildflowerchurch.org. The church started publishing a monthly newsletter edited first by Gay Patterson, then by Carol Knight.
On September 9, Wildflower Church called a part-time minister, the Rev. Peter Morrison, who lived in Houston. Difficulties with the long-distance ministry and the minister’s role in the church led to Rev. Morrison’s resignation. After this experience, the congregation was reluctant to call another minister for about two years.
The church formed several committees to better serve its members and the larger community: Worship, Finance, Religious Education, Communications, Facilities, Caring, Canvass, Membership, Childcare, and Social Action. The Social Action Committee provided leadership for church involvement in several projects, including Hands on Housing, the Capital Area Food Bank, and the Adopt-a-Highway Program.
The church inaugurated a Children’s Religious Education program in September, under the leadership of Kathy Wells. The church formed three Covenant Groups: Music, facilitated by Greta Fryxell, Elders, facilitated by Richard Pruitt, and Spiritual Pilgrims, facilitated by Mike Wilkes. The Music Covenant Group formed a 12-person church choir under the leadership of Greta Fryxell.
Alex Nelson and Laurie Willis, Wildflower congregants, were the first members to marry. Their ceremony was held in September at First UU Church.
The church held its first canvass in September, resulting in 54 pledges totaling $53,000. Karen Beeler and Charles Bisantz co-chaired the canvass, which kicked off with a catered barbeque dinner held at the Shady Hollow Community Center.
In December, Sunset Valley School notified the congregation that it could no longer meet at the school for Sunday services. During the church’s third Congregational Meeting, the Organizing Committee presented, and the congregation approved, the church’s first bylaws, a 2002 budget of $71,016, and a slate of candidates for the Nominating Committee whose charge was to recruit a slate of nominees for the first official Board of Trustees.
Throughout the year, the number of people attending services grew steadily from 25 to over 50 with an average of 44 people attending Sunday morning services.
During 2002, Wildflower Church held Sunday worship services in three locations. On January 1, the congregation cleaned and moved into an old medical clinic, located at 425 Woodward Street, which was being used as a volleyball storage facility. Later in the year, the facility flooded and the congregation met for Sunday services in the Maloney Room, located on the third floor of the Main Building at St. Edward’s University. Soon thereafter the room was closed for remodeling. At Harold Gilbert’s suggestion, the church rented the South Austin Senior Activity Center for Sunday morning worship services and children’s religious education programs.
A Committee Council was formed in January to enhance communication and coordination among committees. Karen Beeler, vice-president of the Board, chaired the Council. A program for youth, The Talk A-Lots, started under the leadership of Dana McBride and Alex Nelson.
Kellis Richter, president of the Board, and Karen Beeler, vice-president, purchased a Membership Book for the church, complete with a wood cover incised with the church’s logo.
On April 28th, Wildflower Church held its first Membership Signing Ceremony, coordinated by Pat Pore, chair of Membership. Sixty-four people were eligible for membership, including eleven founding members, most of whom were present to sign the membership book. On that day Wildflower became an official congregation with official members. By the end of the year, 73 people had joined the church.
The church contracted with a UUA consultant, Dave Rickard, to help the congregation plan its annual canvass, develop Vision and Mission Statements, and develop a Five Year Long Range Plan. Pat Pore, chair of the Long Range Planning Team, led the entire effort.
By May, several more covenant groups were meeting, including Spiritual Pilgrims, Soul Salon, and the Elders. The church convened an Adult Education Programming Committee, under the leadership of Carol Knight. The committee developed a curriculum and recruited teachers for programs offered during five terms: Winter, spring, summer, fall, and holiday.
In September-October, the church held its second three-week, all-member canvass, resulting in 54 pledges totaling $59,270.
At the December Semi-Annual Meeting, the congregation adopted its first 5-Year Strategic Plan, which called for hiring a part-time organizing minister in the Fall of 2003, hiring a part-time Director of Religious Education in 2004, and moving to our own location in 2004.
Kenneth Richardson died on December 21, the first member of the church to pass away.
In 2002, the average attendance at Sunday worship services was 67 people.
In January, Lynn Jocelyn and Chuck Bisantz were the first Wildflower members to have a baby, Josephine.
The Wildflower Peace Train Band formed under the leadership of Martin Bryant and Patterson Barrett and periodically performed during worship services.
In April the church held its first Celebration Dinner, a formal affair, complete with candles, flowers, and a catered entrée, in the main room at the South Austin Senior Activity Center. Pat Pore coordinated the event. The Membership Committee, under the leadership of Pat Pore, initiated Connections Classes to give newcomers an opportunity to meet one another, tell their stories, and learn abut the church.
In September the church held its third three-week canvass, chaired by Carol Knight, which raised more than $68,000. On successive Sundays during the canvass, Gary Lichtenstein and the church’s children wore hard hats and “built” a church made of large decorated cardboard boxes to demonstrate the theme, “Building Blocks for Our Future.”
In October the church celebrated its successful canvass with an outdoor “Block Party.
The Social Action Team, with George Neff serving as chair, provided leadership for the church’s participation in several ongoing social action projects: Capital Area Food Bank, the Austin Area Homeless Project, Project Transitions, Inside Books, UNICEF, and Adopt-a-Family.
A Ministerial Search Team, chaired by Betty McCreary, convened to write a job description for a part-time organizing minister and to search for a candidate with experience in growing churches.
In October, the church held its first annual weekend Women’s Retreat, chaired by Dianne Purcell. Twenty-four women spent a wonderful weekend at Cedar Lodge on Lake Buchanan.
The church grew to 89 members, then lost four (three due to divorce and one because the church wasn’t meeting the needs of young, single adults). An average of 70 adults and 14 children attended Sunday morning services.
On January 1, the Board of Trustees hired the Rev. Douglas M. Strong for a period of one year to serve as a part-time organizing minister.
On April 3 Rev. Strong presided over the church’s second Celebration Dinner, held in the auditorium at El Buen Samaritano. Several members of the church, all gourmet cooks, provided a delicious, candle-lit, Mediterranean meal. The tables were decorated with elaborate and sometimes bizarre center pieces created by church members.
Adult Programming included Articulating Your UU Faith, UU 101: Who and What Are We? Evensong, Estate and Retirement Planning, and Cooking X3.
On May 1, the church held its first all day spiritual retreat, facilitated by Rev. Strong.
On May 4, the church received word that Rev. Strong had been incarcerated and subsequently received a sentence to serve a term of six months for indecent exposure. After much discussion, the Board provided Rev. Strong with a two-month severance package. The entire experience was deeply troubling for the congregation, and in response, Sara Barker and Eileen Baker coordinated a Saturday morning Healing Circle, led by two professional facilitators from Seton Cove. The Circle was held in the Maloney Room at St. Edwards with approximately 30 people attending.
Social Action projects included Food Packets for the Homeless, coordinated by leadership of Bill Walker with help from the Youth Group, the Capital Area Food Bank coordinated by George Neff, chair of Social Action, Second Offering, held once a month to support a non-profit organization, and Adopt-a-Family for Christmas.
In August, the 100th person joined Wildflower Church!
Fun and Fellowship events included a family picnic at Dick Nichols Park, Pizza/Video Nights in members’ homes on the second Saturday of the month, Moveable Feast potluck dinners held in members’ homes on the third Saturday of the month, and 7@7 potluck dinners held in members’ home.Kelly Ramsey coordinated the first “New Member Get-Together.”
The church’s fourth three-week canvass, chaired by Betty McCreary, raised $78,000. The second annual Women’s Retreat, again chaired by Dianne Purcell, was held at Cedar Lodge at Lake Buchanan, with approximately 24 women attending. The church held its first very successful Christmas Bazaar on November 7th under the leadership of Kathy Davidson. A new sound system, provided and operated by church member, Alex Nelson, greatly improved amplification of the Sunday service.
By the end of the year, the church had a fund balance of $87,024.32 in various accounts.
As of January 31 the church had accumulated a fund balance of $101,183.36 in various accounts. The average attendance at worship services was 101 adults and children.
In March, six covenant groups were meeting regularly: Living with Spirit, Hibiscus and Bluebonnet (two Elder Covenant Groups), Men’s Covenant Group, Spiritual Pilgrims, and a Facilitators Covenant Group. The Elder Covenant Groups celebrated their fifth anniversary. Fun and Fellowship events included Heritage Club, a monthly book discussion group, monthly Video and Dessert Nights, and End-of-the-Month parties.
On March 6, Wildflower held its Charter Sunday, an event featuring seven members of the clergy who brought words of praise, encouragement, inspiration, and wisdom. Participating were: Rev. Peter Morales from a UU Church, in Golden, Colorado, Rev. Davidson Loehr from First UU Church, Rev Chuck Freeman from Live Oak UU Church, Rev. Timothy Tutt from United Christian Church, Rabbi Samuel Barth from Temple Agudas Achem, Rev. Rabia Clark from the Sufi society, Rev. Barbara Coeyman, a newly ordained UU minister, and Hannah Wells, a UU ministerial intern, along with Joe Sullivan, president of the SWUUC. One hundred and six (106) adult members were eligible to sign the charter. The congregation’s children signed a Children’s Charter.
The Social Action and Children’s Religious Education Committees co-sponsored a new program, The Children’s Collection, to provide needed items for non-profit organizations such as SafePlace and the City of Austin Animal Shelter. Social Action projects included the Children’s Collection on the second Sunday of the month, Second Offering on the third Sunday of the month, Food Packets for the Homeless, Battery Recycling, and Hands on Housing. With leadership from George Neff, chair of Social Action, and Judy Morgan, Wildflower Church joined Texas Impact and the Texas Freedom Network. After three years as chair of Social Action, George Neff handed over leadership to Judy Morgan and Bill Walker, the new co-chairs of Social Action.
In May Wildflower held its first annual SWAP, a silent auction and wine party, in the Maloney Room at St. Edward’s University. Under the leadership of Dianne Purcell, the SWAP netted about $4,000.
In June, Wildflower hired its first Director of Religious Education, Penny Burnette, a member of the church, who began her 15-hour a week job on June 1st. Under her leadership, the Religious Education Program provided the following curricula for children: Stories about God for grades 1-3 and God Images for grades 4-6. Youth in grades 7-12 grade watched and discussed Our American Roots, a ten-part video series on UU history, and participated in Evensong, a Spiritual Cinema Circle, and social action projects.
Wildflower Church was recognized as a newly affiliated UU congregation at the annual UU General Assembly, held in Ft. Worth, Texas on June 23-27. It was a very proud moment when Kellis Richter, past president of Wildflower Church, carried the Wildflower Church banner in the opening parade. Twenty-four Wildflower congregants attended GA.
In July, Pat Pore, Membership Team chair for two years, stepped down and Alice Sessions took over the Team as the new chair. As of July 31, the church had $120,702 in cash and securities, of which $92,942 was reserved for general operating expenses.
Wildflower’s third annual Women’s Retreat, chaired by Pat Laird and attended by 39 women, was held October 7-9 at the Port Royal Ocean Resort.
The three-week fall Canvass for 2006 raised $87,024.32, contributed by 118 pledge units.
The Wildflower Church congregation voted unanimously to publicly oppose a proposed state constitutional amendment that prohibited same sex marriage and civil unions. The congregation participated in marches and co-sponsored a half-page ad in the Austin Statesman.
The church leased a small office space at 4422 Packsaddle Pass in October.
During a special offering, Wildflower Church raised $2,700 for victims of Hurricane Katrina.
At the Winter Semi-Annual Meeting, the congregation elected a three-member Endowment Committee to manage the church’s Endowment Fund. Gary Lichtenstein, leader of the effort, served as chair with Dan McCreary and Paul Fryxell serving as members. When Paul moved to California, Nancy York was appointed to fill his term.
At the end of the year, the church had a fund balance of $118,818.72 in various accounts.
During the January New Member Signing Ceremony, eleven people joined the church, for a total of 124 members.
In February the average attendance at worship services was 122 adults and children. By February 28, the church had accumulated $128,075.71 in various funds, including $15,910.29 in the Endowment Fund.
A new covenant group, Parent Covenant Group, was formed under the leadership of Liz Hiles-Fisher. In March, seventeen Wildflower congregants marched in Austin’s “Stop the War” protest, part of a world-wide protest against the war in Iraq. Ten Wildflower congregants attended an Interfaith Care Alliance conference to train teams to assist people with AIDS or cancer. Mike Wilkes and Kathy Murphy led the effort.
Zach Carter volunteered to moderate Wildflower’s informal email list, set up by Peter Knight.
A Youth Group was re-formed with the intent of offering more programming for youth and recruiting youth advisors.
In April, Dagmar Grieder hosted an elegant brunch in her lovely home to raise funds for the Building Fund.
In May, the congregation adopted a Three-Five Year Strategic Plan with three goals: 1) call a minister by October 2007, 2) purchase a facility in 2008 or 2009, and 3) hire part-time office staff after the minister starts. The plan also called for transferring $25,000 from the operating fund to a ministerial fund and $50,000 from the operating fund to the building fund. The Long Range Planning Committee, cochaired by Jane Wilson and Carol Knight, led the effort. A Ministerial Search Committee was formed, chaired by Kathy Murphy, with Jan Austin, David Burnette, Tom Moran, and Alice Sessions serving as members. Tom Moran, Dagmar Grieder, and Bill Phillips were appointed to serve on the Negotiating Team.
The Membership Committee, chaired by Alice Sessions, sponsored a picnic for newcomers on July 2 at Garrison Park, and more than 20 people attended.
Hugh Nations volunteered to serve on the newsletter editor team, joining Holly Cooper and long-time editors Sheila Jennings and Peter Knight.
The UUA recognized Wildflower Church as a Welcoming Congregation, committed to being inclusive and expressive of the concerns of bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgender persons. Sara Barker, Bill Walker, and Barbara Carrington coordinated Wildflower’s journey to becoming a Welcoming Congregation.
Wildflower Church sponsored a booth at Austin’s Pridefest for the second year.
In July, Dagmar Grieder and Gay Phillips coordinated the second annual SWAP, held in Dagmar’s beautiful home, to raise funds for the Capital Fund. By July 31, the church had accumulated $145,726.48 in various accounts.
The Social Action Committee continued to sponsor ongoing social action projects and initiated new projects, including a monthly forum following the worship service on the third Sunday of the month and a quarterly street clean-up project. The Committee also coordinated Wildflower’s participation in the Austin Area Interreligious Ministries Voter Registration Project.
In August, attendance at worship services averaged 117 children and adults.
Penny Burnette, DRE, coordinated a summer curriculum for children’s religious education classes, UU World Travelers, during which Wildflower congregants introduced children to places they’d visited, focusing on cultural traditions, food, and craft projects. The RE program offered the following Bible based curricula: Super Heroes for K-2nd grade and Jesus and His Kingdom of Equals for grades 3-5 and grades 6-8. The Youth Group undertook a multi-media project that involved interviewing church elders. When the RE program outgrew the available space at SASAC the Board approved renting classrooms in near-by Starbright Preschool. Lynn Jocelyn led the effort.
The Fun and Fellowship Committee initiated quarterly after-church potlucks under the leadership of Ellen Atha, chair. Adult Programming included Unplugging the Christmas Machine, Playing with Your Digital Camera, UUA-UNO, Spiritual Practices, the Artist’s Way, and Evolutionary Spirituality.
The church’s sixth annual three-week canvass, chaired by Dianne Purcell with help from committee members Gay and Jim Patterson, Gary and Ginger Lichtenstein, and Jan Austin, tried a new approach gathering pledges with Neighborhood Dessert Parties, which raised approximately $88,000. The committee selected the theme, “Make a Joyful Noise,” and provided noisemakers so the entire congregation could make lots of joyful noise during the two Sunday services of the canvass.
The fourth annual Wildflower Women’s Retreat was held at Roddy Tree Ranch in Hunt, Texas on October 20-22, with 50 women registered to attend!
In May, 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.
On May 11, the congregation called its first full-time minister, the Rev. Eliza Galaher, who began her ministry on August 1.
In November, 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, the Rev. Galaher’s Installation Ceremony was held at the First UU Church of Austin.
In May, 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, 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.
Over the weekend of October 22-24, 2010, 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.
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, including a sexualized 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.
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 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.
In April, 2015, we began a monthly Serenity Service on the third Friday of each month. The service continued for four years.
In 2015, Wildflower looks at possibilities for the future and plans to hire a developmental minister in late summer.
In September 2015, the Rev. Brian M. Ferguson begins as developmental minister for a renewable two-year term. He also brings ministerial intern Erin J. Walter with him.
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.
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 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 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 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.