UUCGT History

The Beginning of UUCGT

MaryAnn Force & Davis;  Janice Park

In 1964 two Unitarian women, Mary Ann Force and Janice Park discovered each other up north through the Church of the Larger Fellowship.  Other like-thinkers soon joined in the planning for a church school and lay-led services.  In 1967, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Grand Traverse, and its 26 adults and 30 children first met in NMC’s Administration Building, then, over the following years, met in various classrooms and finally the lecture hall in the Science Building.  In the 1980s services were moved to the Women’s Literary Club at the corner of Rose and Washington Streets in Traverse City.  For a while the congregation shared Rev. David Armstrong with other congregations in Big Rapids and Midland for 5 days a month, but eventually decided a full-time minister was needed.  In 1989 Rev. Emmy Lou Belcher became the first settled minister.  The congregation then moved to the Friends Church on 5th and Oak in Traverse City.  A larger space was needed to accommodate the growing congregation.  Outreach included supporting a community lunch program and supplying food for the Episcopal Church food pantry.

In the early 1990s Pita and Bob Williams, long-time members, gave the congregation the land on Center Road for a building.  By 1993 the building was completed and dedicated.  Rev. Belcher was joined by a part time RE director, and a part time Music Director, Kevin Tarsa.  In 1994 the Fellowship celebrated 30 years. Over the years many additions were made to the church programs, such as; an endowment fund, a memorial garden, a library, Wednesday Night Suppers, partnerships with other congregations, strengthening of the Vocal Ensemble and on it grew.  In 2004 Rev. Belcher resigned to pursue other experiences. An Interim Minister, Rev. Don Vaughn Foerster, joined the congregation for 2004 and 2005 to guide the search for a new settled minister.  After a successful Capital Campaign, the building was expanded by adding a program wing.

In 2006, Rev. Chip Rousch became the Settled Minister.  Rev. Rousch stayed until 2010.  Rev. Leisa Huyck then joined the congregation as Interim Minister in 2011, followed by Rev. Cassandra Howe in 2013, in the same roll.  Rabbi Chava Bahle was hired as Settled Spiritual Leader in 2014, and left for health reasons in 2019. The UUCGT Board engaged Reverend Beth Marshall, a UU Minister, to serve us as a half time Minister starting in March and running through July, 2019. Rev. Cathy Harrington joined as Interim Minister in July 2019.  Rev Alex Jensen joined in 2021 and leads the congregation now.

Rev. Emmy Lou Belcher

Rev. Kevin Tarsa

Rev. Dr. Cathy Harrington

Rabbi Chava Bahle

Rev. Alex Jensen



In the early 1990s Pita and Bob Williams, long-time members, gave the congregation the land on Center Road for a building.  We were able to sell part of the land to the condo association next door, which gave us money to build our building.

Jennie Waterman Arnold Library

Our library is dedicated to Jennie Waterman Arnold who was an early, long-time member.  Books were her passion and she owned Arnold’s Bookstore.  Through her donation of books, the UUCGT library was born.  It originally was in the alcove across from its current location.



UUCGT Timeline from 1964 to 2019

Prepared by Jan Zerbal.   Click on the title to open the pdf document.

The History of 350.org

  The beginnings of 350.org in our area began with three people at the Michigan Land Use Institute, now called Groundwork Center, including Maureen Voss, a past member here.  They organized the Bill McKibben presentation at Lars Hockstad on September 5, 2008.  He told the audience that the 387 then-current CO2 level needed to be reduced to at least 350 ppm as soon as possible.

The 350.0rg continued to be active in promoting renewable energy and working to stop the construction of the XL Pipeline.

Our own Peacemakers Quilt groups made this quilt with our suggestions to fight climate change.

Many of us traveled to Washington, D.C. for the 350.org Forward on Climate march on February 17, 2013.  We hoped to push President Obama to shut down the XL Pipeline.  More than 40, 000 people attended that rally.

Shortly after returning from D.C., we learned about the dangerous pipeline in our own Straits of Mackinaw, Line 5.  Groups blooming out of 350.org were Oil and Water Don’t Mix and Citizens Climate Lobby.  Maura Brennen a UU, began CCL right here in our social hall!  All of those groups helped plan the rally at the Bridge in Mackinaw City in July of 2013.  Bill McKibben spoke, there, once again.

In 2014, Misty Sheehan headed up the committee to have UUCGT become a Green Sanctuary.  We worked long hours to describe our dreams for the very green future of this congregation.  There was an exciting outing on the Inland Seas Schoolship sponsored by Green Sanctuary that year.

In December of 2015, 42 solar panels went up on Traverse Heights School on Rose Street.  A large group of UU’s got trained and then helped students build their own solar panels.

In the spring of 2016, Green Sanctuary, Groundwork Center, and Citizen’s Climate Lobby collaborated on a concert here at UUCGT and a silent auction to raise funds to send more than a dozen high school students to Washington for the Citizen’s Climate Lobby conference and lobbying representatives and senators.  Several of those students have pursued careers in renewable energy.

Much of this history happened a whole decade or more ago.  The level of CO2 in our atmosphere is continuing to increase.  We are now at 416.53 ppm.  I hope that when you see this quilt next time, you will recommit to action on climate.  If this history has taught us anything, it is the need to do better.


Past Presidents

1964-65         Jim Allen

1965-66        James Gamble

1966-67        James Gamble

1967-68        Allen Galloway

1968-69        Allen Galloway

1969-70        Paul Kauffman

1970-71        Francis Sanborn

1971-72        Francis Sanborn

1972-73        Ario Moss

1973-74        Judy Gamble

1974-75        Judy Gamble

1975-76        Dolly Moss

1976-77        David Halsted

1977-78        David Halsted

1978-79        Paul Kauffman

1979-80        Gordon Hayward

1980-81        Judith Lindenau

1981-82        Judith Lindenau

1982-83        John Zachman

1983-84        John Zachman

The Ruth & Jim Gamble Service Award

In honor of outstanding time spent in volunteer service to this Congregation.

Selection Process: The current Gamble Award winner(s) is/are selected by the previous three (3) year winners. They nominate, discuss and vote on the winner(s).

The winners are awarded a pin in the shape of a key.

1984-85        Dolly Moss

1985-86        Dolly Moss

1986-87        Helen Sullivan

1987-88        Judith Halsted

1988-89        Norm Brokaw

1989-90        Ann Miller

1990-91        Jane Watts

1991-92        Gail Heath

1992-93        Price Watts

1993-94        Arline Howe

1994-95        Mark Gustafson

1995-96        Anne Magoun

1996-97        Edith Swiatek

1997-98        Marcia Bellinger

1998-99        Barbara Bloomer

1999-00        Linda Wikle

2000-01        Leslie Cook

2001-02        Holly Knibbs

2002-03        Paul Heaton

2003-04        Anne Hughes

2004-05        Bob Walton

2005-06        Penny Ort

2006-07        Joan Sheard

2007-08        Joan Sheard

2008-09       Joan Sheard

2009-10       Joe Cook

2010-11        John Hoffmann

2011-12        Max Old Bear

2012-13        Max Old Bear

2013-14        Richard Miller

2014-15        Marco Cabrera

2015-16        Karl Love, Interim

2016-17        Linda Fletcher

2017-18        Karl Love

2018-19        Mike McDonald

2019-20        Mike McDonald

2020-21        Mary Anne Rivers

2021-22        Pam Hendrick

2022-23       Christine Walter

1993    Ruth & Jim Gamble

1994    Marvin C Howe

1994    Peg Kauffman

1995    Mary Ann Force

1995    Richard Miller

1996    Helen Sullivan

1996    Judith Halsted

1997    Arline Howe

1997    Jane Watts

1998    Clarence Kroupa

1998    Price Watts

1999   Marcia Bellinger

1999    Paul Kauffman

2000    Paul Vancouver

2000    Mark Gustafson

2001    Barbara Bloomer

2001    Joe Fraser

2002    Solveig Gustafson

2003    Holly Knibbs

2003    Sylvia Mitchell

2004    Kathy Prentice

2004    R. Gary Deavel

2005    Paul Heaton

2006    Pinkie Hoffmann

2006    John Hoffmann

2007    Penny Ort

2007    Christie McGue

2008    Bill Mathias

2008    Jim Cook

2008    Bonnie Mathias

2009    Mary Kiner

2009    Joan Sheard

2010    Calvin Boulter

2010    Marge Rundell

2011    Joe Cook

2011    Leslie Cook

2012    Sarah Montgomery

2012    David Halsted

2013    Paul Ward

2013    Mary Grover

2014    Phyllis Jessup

2014    Karl Love

2015    Kay Sturgeon

2015    Paula Ward

2016    Anne Hughes

2016    Jane Watts

2017    Max Old Bear

2017    Donna Stein Harris

2018    Stan Cain

2018    Hal Gurian

2018    Amanda Mangiardi

2019    Chris Walter

2019    Rick Walter

2019    Joanie Jackson

2020    Mike McDonald

2020    Sandra McDonald

2020    Jan Zerbel

2021    Lauren Keinath

2021    Karl Keinath

2021    Mary Van Valin

2022   Richard Miller

2022  MaryAnne Rivers-Friese

2022   Christine Lautz

2023   Kim Gribi

2023  Dusty Culton

2023  Judy Myers

John J Ort Spirit of Welcome Award

Long time member John J Ort – March 8, 1929 – December 28, 2016

John and his wife Penelope joined UUCGT in 1993, having moved to the area from downstate.  They both contributed with care and passion, serving in many capacities over the years, and Penny still does, to the growth, resilience and nurturing of this community.

January 13, 2017 – Celebration of John’s Life at UUCGT, where Karl Love, President of the Board of Trustees at the time, spoke about establishing a Spirit of Welcome award in honor of John.

Beloved UUCGT member, the late John Ort set the gold standard at UUCGT with his warmth and authentic ability to make newcomers feel immediately welcome and at home.  His legacy of humor, commitment and love continues to inspire us at UUCGT.

In honor of John, the Spirit of Welcome Award will be given at the annual Thanksgiving Service to a UUCGT member or friend whose commitment to our UU faith inspires us all to share our love for UUCGT by making sure visitors feel welcome and affirmed.

December 15, 2019 – First recipient, Chris Walter, was honored during a Sunday Service by Board President Mike McDonald and presented with a certificate and a lovely small basket made by member Nancy Doughty.

Fall 2023 – Award Selection Team of Chris Walter, Rev. Alex Jensen, John Hoffman, and Rick Walter discussed and planned for the next recipient to be honored at the November 19, 2023 Harvest Gathering.

November 19, 2023 – Jane Watts was honored as this year’s John J. Ort Spirit of Welcome awardee; Presented with a Certificate, a Pineapple, symbol of Welcome and Hospitality, and the book Unitarian Universalist Pocket Guide, Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, Editor, Skinner House Books, 2019.

Emmy Lou Cholak Love Ambassador Award for Social Justice

The purpose of the Emmy Lou Cholak Love Ambassador for Social Justice Award is to honor the dedication and commitment of UUCGT Member Emmy Lou Cholak for her distinguished service to the causes of social justice and love and to our wider community.

The other purpose of the award is to invite individuals and organizations to share about their social justice work with the congregation and our local community.  The hope of this award is to celebrate and uplift our shared values as they are at work in the world.

We’ve established a selection team that will continue on with selecting each year’s award winners; rather than an inward-facing award like our other two awards, this award will be outward facing. An organization and/or a single individual will be selected each year whose work aligns with social justice, the values of UUCGT, and Unitarian Universalism at large.

We’ll also have an annual tradition of celebrating each year’s award winner at the MLK Sunday Service and invite them to come in to not just be recognized but to share with us about their work, knowing we have much to learn from our wider community.

2024 recipient is Emmy Lou Cholak

2024 recipient is Laurie Lijewski who is a 5th grade teacher at Blair Elementary School