How can a community demonstrate its deep appreciation for the woman who modeled compassion and care of her fellow human beings, who held an undying commitment to education, devoted her resources to racial equality, and left a legacy of generosity in her community that has endured for nearly a 150 years?
To hold a community-wide gala celebration and benefit event, that’s how!
And so it happened last May 2008—in Beaufort, SC—that the life and deeds of Laura Towne were celebrated. Laura Towne, an amazing woman who acted upon her Unitarian faith and values to change the circumstances of dozens of newly freed slaves for the better.
The members of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Beaufort, South Carolina (UUFB) have contributed significant energy and resources in honor of Laura Towne and to continue the work she began so many years ago. Laura Towne was a Unitarian community leader originally from Philadelphia, PA, who worked to establish the Penn School, the first Beaufort area school for African American children.
The school was later known as the Penn Center, the place where Martin Luther King Jr. came write his I Have a Dream speech. The Reverend Nan White, UUFB minister, established her office at the Penn Center in 2003, a clear reflection of the strong relationship that exists between the Fellowship and the Center.
The May 2008 Laura Towne celebration included a Friday-night concert that raised approx $400 for March View Farms, a Saturday-afternoon workshop on White Privilege, and a Saturday-night gala to benefit the Penn Center. The twenty-four Unitarian Universalists (UUs) in attendance raised $2400, and funds raised by the UUFB provided $2,500 for the dedication of the restored bell. Over $5000 was raised by the UU Fellowship of Beaufort in support of the Penn Center and the St. Helena community—all in one weekend.
Larry Meisner is the current president of the UUFB and former member of the UU Fellowship of Raleigh, NC, a much larger congregation. “There has been significant growth in [UUFB] membership over the course of the two years that my wife Jeri and have been involved,” reports Larry. “For a small fellowship of 75 members, we are proud to be able to fund our three-quarter-time minister. We currently hold our services in the nearby Port Royal YMCA and hope to buy land to build our own building in the near future.”
The Fellowship’s long-range plan specifies the goal of increasing budgeted support of Social Action initiatives to level of 10% of its income. They exceeded their goal in 2008, three years ahead of schedule.
Commitment to leadership development runs strong in the Fellowship; each year, the UUFB sponsors two members to attend the Mountain School of Congregational Leadership in Highlands, NC. In addition, the UUFB provides financial assistance to those attending General Assembly and sponsored several members to participate in the 2009 civil rights tour through the south from Selma. The UUFB is active in the antiracism programs of the Thomas Jefferson District, and former president and founding member of the UU Fellowship of Beaufort, Jim Key, now serves as the president of the Thomas Jefferson District.
The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Beaufort, South Carolina has been a Fair Share contributor to both our Unitarian Universalist Association’s Annual Program Fund and the Thomas Jefferson District since it became a member congregation in 1999. This commitment is affirmed as a matter of principle and a demonstration of the Fellowship’s support of Unitarian Universalism and its entire Association.
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Last updated on Thursday, September 8, 2011.
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