They say that success has many fathers. In the case of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of San Miguel de Allende, its success is due to many fathers, mothers, grandparents, aunts, cousins, kids and grandkids! From what started as a small group of like-minded individuals in 1987, meeting in homes and hotel lobbies, the UUFSMA is now a strong and growing service-oriented community that gathers in song, sermon and fellowship every Sunday at 10:30 a.m. in the Hotel La Aldea.
On Sunday, January 29, 2017, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship will hold a celebration of its 30 years in San Miguel. For the next few weeks, we will take readers through a look back and a look within this liberal religious fellowship as we lead up to our anniversary celebration. Where does San Miguel’s UU group come from? What do we believe, and how do we bring that to daily living for ourselves and for this beautiful community we also call home? Let’s let a former UUFSMA President and long-time San Miguel resident, Bob Hesdorfer, tell the early story—the way he told it for our 20th anniversary.
“In 1987 a handful of liberal San Miguelenses, bored with Sunday morning idleness, seeking fellowship as well as mental and spiritual stimulation, took their first tentative steps in the direction of regular organized meetings. Initially, a very small group met in private homes until growing numbers forced a venue change to friendly St. Paul’s Anglican Church and later to space in downtown Hotels Central and San Francisco, and Kligerman’s Art Gallery.”
Frederica and Steve Reisch, Bernie Weisman, Bea Minor, Ruth O’Neal, Doris Rogers, Sam Johnson, and Libby Fierich were among this early vanguard. Sadly, none of these founders lived long enough to celebrate our 30th, but we celebrate their vision and cohesion today! Hesdorfer picks up the story:
“From the beginning, the congregation was almost unanimously against hiring a paid minister, choosing instead to rely on local writers, artists, doctors, organization spokespeople, fellowship members and experts in various fields, with an occasional sermon – gratis, of course – by a visiting clergyman or our own beloved Rev. Farley W. Wheelwright, Ret., he of the illustrious UU background of many, many years. There’s no denying that our programs are varied, often controversial, occasionally deadly, but probably our strongest drawing card, sometimes attracting curious non-UU visitors.”
What was true then is true today. The UUFSMA still has no full-time minister, although we are proud to have retired ministers within our ranks, including the Rev. Wyman Rousseau and others. About half of our weekly sermons are delivered by visiting ministers and the other half are still thoughts and reflections shared by our own members, writers, artists, doctors and activists. San Miguel in 1987 drew an informed and intellectual crowd, and today that is still the case.
Hesdorfer remembered at the UU’s 20th anniversary that “in early in 1994, having reached the tipping point, the burgeoning UU assemblage found the attractive, spacious and light-filled meeting room … at the Posada de la Aldea, complete with plentiful parking, a nearby bus stop and a large, comfortable restaurant for socializing and critiquing sermons.” The UUFSMA has made its home at the Hotel La Aldea now for 23 happy years. The grounds of La Aldea are just as beautiful as they were then—more so even now that the trees have matured and offer fragrance and color all year long.
By Jennifer L. Butz