PUUF/UUCP Earliest Years

UNITARIAN ROOTS IN PENSACOLA

It all began fifty years ago. In January of 1958, Penny Barney, a local resident, placed an advertisement in The Pensacola Journal, asking persons holding liberal religious beliefs to attend a meeting. Five individuals responded to her ad. Penny became the founder of what became Pensacola Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (affectionately called PUUF), and decades later, the congregation renamed itself Unitarian Universalist Church of Pensacola.

As Penny was taking this local initiative in 1958, the national Unitarian denomination sensed a budding interest in the South and sent a man by the name of Monroe Husbands to aid in organizing groups to become Unitarian fellowships. Mr. Husbands came to Pensacola. His talk, announced in The Pensacola Journal, brought a number of people together. Some came out of curiosity about the unfamiliar word “Unitarian,” others came to satisfy a real need to communicate with people holding values similar to their own.

On July 16, 1958 the American Unitarian Association admitted the Pensacola group into fellowship.

Finding a place to meet proved difficult. The group met in private homes, the Armory, Temple Beth El, a day nursery, the YWCA, even in a closed bar. Cramped facilities and protesting babies in a nearby room at times made serious thought difficult.

During one period, the Pensacola Unitarian Fellowship met on Sunday mornings at the American Legion Hall. Church school was then held in the bar of the hall, says Penny’s original song about PUUF, “where the spirits of the night before lingered to mingle with that of the classroom.

The facilities problem was solved in September of 1965 with the purchase of the Jehovah Witnesses meeting house at 904 East Scott Street. Cost was $5,200.  Pensacola Home and Savings held the mortgage for $3,500 and an interest free loan was obtained from the United Unitarian Association for $1,700 which was to be paid back at a rate of $10.00 per month. The payment on the mortgage amounted to $39 per month or $468 per year.             –Barbara Goggins