We arise from a Congregationalist background, which means that we, as a congregation, govern ourselves. We determine our own direction, but are asked by the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations to abide by, to the best of our abilities, the Seven Principles, acknowledged by all member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA).
We are responsible for funding ourselves and all of our chosen projects and ministries. We designed, built and maintain our beautiful meeting place and grounds. We call and pay the salary of our minister, and we rely on our own members to speak on those Sundays when our minister is away from our pulpit. This shared ministry model allows individuals the chance to present their beliefs and to grow in leadership abilities while providing the congregation with a greater diversity of subjects and ideas to ponder.
In other words, we are responsible for what this church was, is now, and what it will become in the future. And each person who enters our doors and participates…either as a member OR as a friend…changes the body, the dynamic, the future of this congregation.
We welcome you and the transformation that you bring!
On October 25, 1995, a small group of adventuresome people responded to an ad in the Herald-Zeitung inviting those interested in forming a liberal religious group to meet in the home of Thea Chessher, shown at right. Consensus was reached to form a Unitarian Universalist congregation in New Braunfels, which was christened Comal County Unitarian Universalist Society. We covenanted not to give up on this wild idea before two years had passed. We elected to meet on Wednesday nights in our members’ homes, and all program topics were chosen and presented by our individual members. However, it did not take long for us to widen our scope to include knowledgeable and interesting persons from the NB community and beyond.
In April of 1996, Faith United Church of Christ offered meeting space to us at a ridiculously low rent, for which we are eternally grateful. The fledging of our new congregation would have been much more difficult without Faith’s many kindnesses.
In 1997 we adopted bylaws (Fran Hodges, chair), elected our first officers (Thea Chessher, president) and hired a quarter-time minister, the Rev. Les Pugh. In January of 1999, the Unitarian Universalist Association accepted us into membership, making our transformation into a recognized religious body complete!
In 2002 we began Sunday services at the Senior Center and formed our Religious Education program for children. We also kept Wednesday nights at Faith Church for Forums and study groups. During this time we were forced to tote materials back and forth between the two venues. This era was laughingly known as the ‘Church of the Sacred Car Trunk’.
After a deliberate, two-year study and an unanimous vote by the congregation, we were officially recognized by the UUA as a Welcoming Congregation in 2003. This means that LBGTQ persons always participate fully at all levels of congregational membership and leadership.
In 2005, Board President Tricia Stevens signed the papers which made us the owners of this piece of land at 135 Alves Lane, the place where we would build our very own church home! For the next two years we wrestled with the design of our building, getting ideas and wish lists from everyone in the congregation. In the end we voted to pursue this beautiful modern design by one of our own, architect Dwight Micklethwait. From the beginning, we built as “green” as we could afford, with careful siting and window placement, and a roof pitched for future water catchment.
Our members and friends gave much sweat equity and made many gifts so that we could move into our new church home. We painted inside and out, varnished doors, and tiled the walls and baseboards. Paul McGaffic fashioned from scratch the built-in bookcases and cabinets. Hymnals were donated. And we knew that success was our destiny when Jackie Russell and Jane Miller gifted us with our wonderful Steinway baby grand!
On May 14 of 2008 Kelly Goulart led the first Wednesday Forum in our new church home! That Saturday, Judy Godinez facilitated our first community-wide event, a Pachamama environmental symposium “Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream”. The next day, May 18, we held our very first Sunday service in our new Gathering Room. We called it “Celebration Sunday” and celebrate we did! But we waited until October 25, exactly thirteen years to the day after that first small meeting in Thea Chessher’s living room, to dedicate the building which we now call home. We celebrated with an open house on Saturday and a very special Sunday service the next morning, followed by a delicious dinner prepared by Sandi Boyd, who not only was president of the congregation at the time, but chief cook and bottle washer as well.
On October 25, 2015, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of our founding and officially changed our name to Unitarian Universalists of New Braunfels. We were poised to grow yet again!
And in 2017 a big step in that direction was deciding to have a one-fourth-time minister. Bob Keyser chaired the committee to initiate and implement the search process and many hours were spent putting everything in place. The reward was hiring Rev. Addae Kraba, a retired UU minister with many years of experience at different churches. Her first Sunday sermon in October 2017 was “Betwixt and Between,” delivered to a packed Gathering Room.
The next big milestone came July 28, 2019, following the service delivered by Chaplain Kye Flannery when UUNB members and friends had a “controlled burn.” That month marked the last payment on our building,and we all watched our old mortgage go up in flames in a cauldron in the side yard. With the children’s religious education program outgrowing its space and a healthy congregation, talk began to turn to possible expansion. We were debt free with a bright future.
And then COVID-19 hit us and everyone else. With an aging congregation, safety was paramount, and we closed our doors in March 2020. Thanks to Ryan McPherson’s quick work, the following Sunday, members were able to meet informally via the new (to many of them) medium of Zoom. For almost two years it would be the delivery method for Sunday services. But first, there was a steep learning curve—how to use Zoom, what equipment to get, how to best use it, how to train others, how to troubleshoot…how to continue to offer Sunday services to our members during a dark and uncertain time.
Fortunately, there were many heroes who stepped up to keep UUNB services alive. Along with Ryan, Dianne Rahm and Bob Keyser stand out,as well as many others who volunteered to learn how to monitor computers and cameras to project the best services possible. And, in the early days of COVID, the pianists juggled playing from home and serving as worship associates.
Finally, in December 2021, UUNB opened its doors again…to people who were vaccinated, wore masks, and sat at a social distance. There was no singing, children weren’t allowed in the Gathering Room since no vaccinations were available for them yet, and coffee was eliminated after the services to reduce the risk of contagion. Some members were afraid to attend the first services due to health issues, while others cheered the return to human contact after many months of isolation. At last, we were back in “our building.”
The following year of 2022 was one of rebuilding as Covid restrictions were slowly eased and vaccines became readily available. During the closure, the children’s RE program had collapsed, committees had not met, and no new initiatives had been started, so there was work to do. Balancing safety, access, and revered traditions, singing and Coffee and Conversation gradually became part of the Sunday program again, and,with vaccines approved for children, youngsters re-entered the main room. Eleven new members were welcomed at an initiation ceremony. And, with a healthy balance in our reserve funds, members voted to pursue the possibility of increasing the minister’s position to half-time. We were on our way again.
Unexpectedly, Rev. Addae was offered a position at another UU church, and an emergency congregational meeting was called in February 2023,speeding up the timetable to consider the half-time position. Members believed the increase in hours was important to provide a more consistent presence at the pulpit by someone grounded in UU ministry and knowledge. Expanding the position could also bring more services to members as well as a greater presence in the community. A strong majority of the congregation voted to offer Rev. Addae a half-time minister’s position and she accepted. Her new position will begin in September 2023.