top of page

Thanks to UUCFL Historian Larry Wilkner for gathering
some of UUCFL's articles and ads from the past. 
Just a few samples are show here. 
Enjoy the entire gallery by clicking below

article 57.jpg
article 0558.jpg
article 0562.jpg

History of Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fort Lauderdale (UUCFL)

Along with the UU Congregation of Miami, the UU Fellowship of Boca Raton and the First UU Congregation of the Palm Beaches, we are one of four UU congregations that have been in Southeast Florida for 40+ years.

In 1957, Philip Godfrey and Fred Stanton were chatting over coffee at the Second Presbyterian Church on Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale.

They observed that what this town needed was the liberal religious voice of a Unitarian Church. Words became actions and thus our co-founders held their first meeting on Dec. 19, 1957. In 1958, we officially joined the American Unitarian Association. The church called its first minister, the Rev. Walter Jolly, in 1959.

During those early years, we met at several sites, and in 1962, we purchased property from the Church of the Nazarene at 300 SE 6th Street in downtown Fort Lauderdale and at last had a permanent home.

In 1964, the Rev. Robert Weston succeeded Walter Jolly as the Minister. He stayed until 1968 when the Rev. Dave Scheyer was called. A time of controversy followed, from which the Unitarian Fellowship of South Florida was spun off. First they moved to West Broward, next to North Miami, and then on to their present location in Hollywood, Florida.

In 1972, the Rev. John I. (Jack) Daniel began his ministry with us. The congregation began healing and in 1974 Rel Davis joined us and offered to become an assistant to the minister. Programs increased and younger people joined us, but again there was turmoil and Rel moved on to the Fellowship.

In 1978, Jack was named Minister Emeritus and the Rev. Stephen Papa was called to join us. The Congregation grew and the average age of the membership fell. In 1982, Dr. Papa was followed by an Interim Minister, the Rev. Donald Marshall.

In March, 1983, our Endowment corporation was established and then closed its first year with $749 is assets.

During the summer and fall of 1983, the congregation decided to sell our property in downtown Fort Lauderdale and seek a larger space more suited to church growth. This quest was guided by the Facilities Planning Committee, chaired by Annette Van Howe, John Arbib, and Thelma Daniel.

Soon after the church voted to relocate, the Rev. Webster K. (Kit) Howell was called to be our Minister. In May, 1984, the congregation moved to temporary rented quarters at Temple Emanu-El, a reform Temple, where we stayed for three years until our present church building was completed at 3970 NW 2l Avenue in Oakland Park. Our first service in our new building was held on April 19, 1987.

The Rev. Howell stayed with us until July of 1990. He was followed by an Interim Minister, the Rev. George Briggs. In August 1991, we called the Rev. Elizabeth McMaster to be our Minister. Among the many events that followed, we declared ourselves a Welcoming Congregation.

On September 28, 1996, Vision Saturday was held at our Church. Next followed Deb Greene and Deb Wood began holding organizational meetings for a westward expansion. Christine Edelson and Gary Gonzales traveled to Boston to take the UUA's 5-day seminar on how to build a new River of Grass UU Congregation. They became "UU Evangelists." Incorporation papers were filed and in October, 1997, to begin a financial history for the application for tax-exempt status.

Meanwhile, Liz moved on. The Rev. Matthew McNaught joined us as Interim Minister in June. We in the East began to rethink our identity and plan for our future.

On March 22, 1998, they held a Public Meeting featuring Kathleen Montgomery, Executive Vice President of the UUA, at Tree Tops Park in West Broward. The Rev. Ken Beldon joined River of Grass as their settled Minister and on October 18, 1998, a tearful "Passing of the Chalice" celebration was held at the East Church commemorating the birth of the new congregation.

River of Grass Charter Sunday was held February 21, 1999, when members officially joined and Bylaws were adopted. The application to the I.R.S. was begun.

On September 1, 1999, River of Grass moved into their new facilities in the Broward Lakes Business Park on Shotgun Road and was officially affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association October 23, 1999.

The Rev. Gail Tapscott was called September 1999. She joined us from Flagstaff, Arizona, and shared her knowledge, experience, enthusiasm,
past work amid diversity.  Rev. Gail remained our minister until June of 2016 and was awarded the title Minster Emirita by our congregation and relocated to the place of her childhood in Mississippi.

The Rev. Susan M. Smith joined the church as Developmental Minister in August of 2016.  She and the congregation are assessing the future of UUCFL and the direction we will be taking.


It has been a long odyssey for our Congregation. There have been good times and trying times; but through it all we have survived and prospered through hard work and a commitment to each other and to what we can accomplish together. We are proud to be Unitarian Universalists. We are pleased with our church community and the positive impact we continue to have on the people around us. We are truly blessed.

At our historic congregational meeting in September of 2018, we voted to change the name of our organization to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fort Lauderdale to be more welcoming to people of all faith or non-faith backgrounds.

In 2021 after many town meetings with the congregation, we voted to sell and move from our long time location on NW 21 Avenue in Oakland Park, and we purchased our new property on Griffin Road in Ft Lauderdale(Dania Beach).  In 2022 we moved to our new location which we are using one half of currently while plans and building out of the other half to be our new sanctuary are under way.  In July of 2023, Rev. Susan M. Smith retired and in August of the same year, we were delighted to welcome our new minister Catherine Cullen to our pulpit. 


We hope that you will find your religious home with us and join with us on our religious and spiritual journeys.

article 86.jpg
article churches.jpg
bottom of page