History of UUGSBFounded in 1957
In 1957, a group of friends started an informal Wednesday evening discussion group. Many of these individuals were scientists from the Brookhaven National Lab in Upton, Long Island. At first the group met in individual’s homes. As interest in the group increased, members started advertising their existence in local newspapers and began using the YMCA building in Patchogue Village for meetings. The members began to see a need for some kind of religious education for their children and on doing some research themselves, decided that Unitarianism fit in well with their humanist bent. The name “Unitarian Fellowship of Brookhaven” was adopted.
By 1960, the Unitarian Fellowship of Brookhaven began to investigate establishing its own meeting space. Funds were raised and they got an offer to buy the house and property on Browns Lane in Bellport Village. By January 1961, with the transaction complete and the advent of the merger of Unitarians and Universalists, the membership voted to change the name from the Unitarian Fellowship of Brookhaven to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Bellport (“UUFB”), which was kept for 41 years until 2012.
The Fellowship has a strong humanist history, due largely to fact that so many of its founding members worked at either the State University at Stony Brook or the Brookhaven National Lab. Sunday “programs” were largely informational in nature and lay led. Religious Education was important and vibrant with enrollment topping out at 30+ children and youth. During the Vietnam war years, the Fellowship was a strong liberal voice for the opposition and its members participated in many anti-war protests. Throughout its history, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Bellport’s members have been very involved in many varied social action projects and have been at the forefront of the drive for affordable fair housing for the people of the Bellport area.
UUF Bellport has a long history of being proudly lay led. While it has been reported that there was a minister on staff for a short time, records of this have not been located. Interviews with long time members report that this one attempt was short lived due to the “do it yourself” attitude and strong belief in congregational polity. From the beginning, UUFB has had a very independent, can-do spirit.
The late 1980’s saw some decline in membership as the founding members and their children got older but the early 1990’s saw some increase. With the influx of newer, younger members to the Fellowship, there has been an increase in interest in a more “spiritual” intentional Sunday service, a moving away from the intellectual discussions toward thoughtfulness about our identity as humans and as Unitarian Universalists.
On May 28, 2010, the UUFB sold its long-time home of 51 Browns Lane in search of a more suitable and sustainable home for its current and future Congregation.
Since May 28, 2010, while we had been aggressively searching for a new permanent home, we have been holding our Services in temporary locations — for a few months at the Bellport Community Center, and then at the Fellowship Hall of the Sayville Congregational Church in Sayville.
As of March 2012, we were in contract to purchase the former Sayville Public Library. For the next five months, the UUFB Board practiced due diligence to ensure the building’s change of use and compliance with town codes.
On August 27, 2012, the Unitarian Fellowship of Bellport had finalized the purchase, and taken possession of, the former Sayville Public Library at 11 Collins Ave., Sayville.
On December 9, 2012, the Membership of the Unitarian Fellowship of Bellport gathered to vote on a new name since we are no longer in Bellport, and aspire to reach out to the surrounding South Shore of Long Island community. The members voted to change our name to “The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Great South Bay” (or UUGSB).
We still have some work to do before we “officially” receive our Certificate of Occupancy. A few pieces of standard “red tape” still remain, including fulfilling requirements by the Town of Islip to our property and building. In addition, we will be working on cleaning, setting up, and decorating the insides enough for initial use. Further renovations will invariably ensue over the new few years.
In the meanwhile, we are holding Sunday Services in our building. We will hold more expansive programs, events and guest speakers once we have secured our Certificate of Occupancy. We hope to break ground to update our new septic system, parking lot, and ADA-compliant bathrooms in Spring-Summer 2017.