In the fall of 1983, Ronn Smith wrote a letter to the Editor of the Sheridan Press (click to read the letter) about spiritual inquiry and religious liberalism. He received responses from a number of independent thinkers in the region. Soon after, he and Linda opened their home for a meeting of like-minded individuals and the two of them provided the program, music and snacks. Eventually, Lani Smith and Ginny Bohart appeared on the scene to lend their talents and others followed their example. After several years, the group began moving the meeting from house to house to share the labors.
In the fall of 1991, a few members began a “Monday School” to provide some religious education (RE) for their kids. We met at each other’s homes and drew, told stories, talked and laughed. By that time the Sunday UU meetings were held in the First Christian Church on Sunday evenings. We felt we needed to pay rent, so a collection basket appeared, we opened a checking account, and paid $15/meeting. Occasionally we had a special separate activity for the children, but often they sat with the adults. We became members of the Church of the Larger Fellowship, providing us access to the UUA library and program materials. We subscribed to the “Church in a Box” to help with program ideas and received copies of their magazine, Quest.
Eventually we decided Sunday mornings were a better time to meet, and we spent several years using the Montana Dakota Utilities hospitality room at their old location on Val Vista. We survived MDU’s first major flood and still have some old mildewed hymnals to show for it. Kids were really scarce during those years. The first Sunday RE program was held in the basement hallway at MDU, thanks mainly to the sustained effort of Michelle LaGory. We planned to meet with the kids once a month but they quickly convinced us that they deserved to meet twice monthly just as the adults did. Our Religious Education program is our crowning achievement. We have children from age two to young adulthood, and pride ourselves on our curricula emphasizing compassion, respect, tolerance, and environmental stewardship.
It was our need to expand RE that took us next to Sheridan College, where we enjoyed the Mohns Center for the adult meetings and spread out next door in the Science building with our RE classes. During those years we worked to grow and organize; we developed a Board of Directors, a set of By-Laws, and a budget. We had surfaced as a “hot spot” in the state for UU activities. By 1999, we had grown to 30 members, enough to affiliate with the national Unitarian Universalist Association and the regional Mountain Desert District. We owe much to Victor Ashear for his years of leadership and his vision of formal affiliation.
Changes in Sheridan College’s plans for the Mohns Center put us back on the move at the end of 2002, when we found a home at the Masonic Lodge. At about that same time, the visionaries of our group launched a building fund drive that netted $40,000. Chuck Graves took the lead with this project. Our Long Range Planning committee provided leadership in purchasing and remodeling our current home on East Brundage Lane.
We are still a small group of about 36 members as well as many friends. Visitors of all ages will find us friendly and welcoming. We believe you will be pleasantly surprised at the quality and variety of programs that are provided by our program committee. We are indebted to a number of remarkable individuals who have invested themselves in keeping our small fellowship active and vibrant. We are a diverse group of believers and skeptics, activists, rebels and dreamers. You will find that we are active in many venues in the life of Sheridan County. We come from a variety of religious traditions. What stitches us together is our need to belong somewhere that feels comfortable, accepting, respectful, and joyful. We are committed to maintaining a liberal religious presence in this community and welcome like-minded individuals seeking company and support on their journey of faith and self-discovery.