History of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto

1960s - 1980s: UUCPA and Social Unrest

U.S. involvement in the war in Southeast Asia was a burning issue in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In 1972, the congregation joined three other local churches to offer housing and subsistence to persons "acting according to dictates of their consciences in opposition to civil or military actions."

During this time, UUCPA played a key role in the development of organizations serving young and old. In 1965, the church sold a critical piece of land across-the-creek at below market price which made possible the construction of the first federally assisted low-income housing for senior citizens. Several church members were instrumental in making Stevenson House, now our next-door neighbor, a reality.

Through the efforts of church members the Ellen Thacher Child Care Center, named for a former Director of Religious Education, was established on the church campus in 1971. Though it now operates as a separate organization, church members still receive priority for enrollment, and UU Sunday school children benefit from the joint use of Thacher's classrooms and playground.

When Rev. Lion resigned in 1972 to become Associate Minister of the Community Church in New York, active membership stood at 620. Following Lion’s resignation, Rev. Sydney Peterman served as Interim Minister. Because the church wished to try a co-ministry experiment, in January 1974, Rev. William R. (Bill) Jacobsen was called to serve with Dr. Ronald Hargis, who had been ordained by the congregation in the fall of 1973. Hargis had served as Minister of Religious Education at the church since 1971, and he continued to serve until 1977. Jacobsen became sole minister in 1978, remaining for sixteen years until his resignation in 1990.

During the late 1970s and 1980s, church membership ranged from 375-400, and only one Sunday service was held. The number of children in the religious education program declined, largely due to the changing demographics of the time.

As the congregation celebrated the 25th anniversary of its physical plant in 1983, U.S. intervention in Central America became an issue of concern within the church. After much debate, UUCPA joined the South Bay Sanctuary, a coalition of local churches dedicated to providing protection, advocacy, and support for Salvadoran and Guatemalan refugees. In 1988, the congregation voted to participate in an effort by the Urban Ministry to house a number of homeless people in local churches on a rotating monthly basis. Named for a Palo Alto police chief of the 1930s, "Hotel de Zink" is a temporary shelter program that continues at UUCPA each September.

History of UUCPA, Index
The Early Years: Building a Church
1960s - 1980s: UUCPA and Social Unrest
The 90s: Expanding Leadership
Religious Education and Music: Centering the Community
The 21st Century: Building a Church Continued
New Parish Minister is Called

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