UUFC has traveled a distinctive and influential path since nine Unitarians first met in 1949 in private homes. Formally organized in 1953, the Unitarian Fellowship of Chico met above a downtown restaurant, and later in an old house, before member Gail Burfield Paulson, Head of the Department of Home Economics at Chico State College, purchased the current property in 1955. Our first minister, Rev. Richard ‘Dick’ Boeke, came in 1959 and served both Chico and Reno churches.

Around 1960, members Bert and Delilah Holopeter founded the Butte County chapter of the NAACP. In 1961, we called Rev. Lewis McGee, making history as the first African American minister to be called as settled minister in the Unitarian Universalist faith. After the Universalist Church of America (founded in 1793) and the American Unitarian Association (founded in 1825) consolidated in 1961, we changed our name to Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Chico.

Throughout the 1960s, buildings were added, trees planted, and other ministers served our Fellowship. Rev. Arthur Wilmot involved the Fellowship in the Civil Rights Movement locally and nationally, marching at Selma, AL, and advocating for peace during the Viet Nam War. Around 1965, Chico’s Council of Churches denied Rev. Wilmot participation when he refused to affirm Trinitarian beliefs; this contributed to the formation of the Chico Area Interfaith Council still active today.

In the 1970s and 80s, seminary interns and lay leaders served the Fellowship. Dr. George Williams, a CSUC Religious Studies professor, and his wife, Dr. Judith ‘Zizi’ Gellard, helped establish the first UU Partner Church program to aid Unitarians in Transylvania (part of Romania) who were suffering hunger and hardship behind the Iron Curtain. This was the forerunner of the Unitarian Universalist Partner Church Council which, since 1993, has encouraged and supported almost 200 congregational partnerships around the world.

As the 1990s progressed and UUFC grew into the 21st century, we expanded our facilities and aspired to call a professional minister once again. By 2006, membership had grown to fill the Sanctuary (current Social Hall). In 2009, retiring Revs. Dennis Daniel and Sydney Wilde began serving the Fellowship half-time. They led UUFC through a major capital campaign and subsequent construction of the current Sanctuary building, opened in 2012. Rev. Bryan Plude was called in 2015, installed and ordained in 2016, and served this vibrant Fellowship until his retirement in June, 2023.

To read more about the history of Unitarian Universalism, please visit the UUA history page.

© Kelsey Sachs 2020