Universalists were active in Durham from 1900 until the 1920s and a Unitarian fellowship had been a presence in the Durham/Chapel Hill area since 1949. We formally organized as the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Durham and Chapel Hill On in 1966.
Inspired by the memory of the Rev. James Reeb and led by Mimi Harrison, a group of people who had been active in Unitarian Universalist congregations in other areas of the country came together on April 17 of that year at the Durham Holiday Inn. Forty-two persons signed the membership book of fledgling Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship of Durham and Chapel Hill.
The congregation operated in rental space in the Allied Arts Building and then at the Friends School until 1976, then purchased a former Baptist church with two buildings on Sparger Road in north Durham near the Eno River. In 1978 the name of the congregation was changed to the Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. That year there were 134 members.
Move to Garrett Road
As a product of the Fellowship movement, ERUUF was lay led in the 1970s and almost all of the services were led by members of the congregation. The congregation called its first full time minister in 1983, the Rev. Arvid Straube, and we moved to our current Garrett Rd. location in 1986, a move that set off a period of vigorous growth. The purchase of the property was funded by loans from members of the congregation; before moving, a new building, now known as the Fellowship Hall, was constructed to serve as the sanctuary.
By the beginning of 1999 our membership had grown to 737 members and we completed a four year, two phase capital campaign that saw an expanded building for Religious Education and the construction of our main building and new sanctuary. The Memorial Garden was built and dedicated.
It was at this time that ERUUF received the O. Eugene Pickett Award from the Unitarian Universalist Association, a national award presented to a congregation for making an outstanding contribution to the growth of Unitarian Universalism. The presentation of the Pickett Award noted that "To visit this church, especially on Sunday, is to experience a religious quickening of activity that can be modestly described as outstanding excitement. It is this excitement, this enthusiasm, this almost uncontrolled energy force which is pushing the vanguard of liberal religious thought..."
Decade of changes
During the first decade of the 21st century, ERUUF felt some loss as its long-time minister moved on. In the changes that ensued, we changed our form of government and organizational structure to better fit a large congregation, adopted our current mission statement and ended up successively calling 2 ministers.
These changes set the stage for a new period of growth and activism. Since 2010, we have experienced tremendous growth in young families and our children’s RE program, undergone a successful capital campaign to reduce mortgage debt and make improvements to the ERUUF campus and seen an increase in the number of justice ministries that we are able to support. Our adult programming offers many ways to deepen each person’s spiritual journey, including a multicultural focus on being more inclusive. Our beloved community currently serves over 800 members and friends with all its activities and programs. See The Next Five Years.