The Early Years
In the fall of 1997, a small and dedicated group of people met to start a new congregation. This congregation grew from attendees of the Unitarian Universalists of Clearwater. The first meetings took place at various homes. After several weeks, we began meeting under the pavilions of Philippe Park in Safety Harbor for our initial lay-lead services and planning sessions. Our award-winning newsletter was started during this period and helped us share the information necessary to start a new church.
We moved several times before finding our present location in Odessa, Florida. From 1997-2000, we rented the Italian American Club in Clearwater, the Oldsmar Rec. Center, and the Oldsmar elementary school. In April of 2000 we found, funded and purchased our current property on Burrell Road. In June of 2000, we moved in and held our first service under the beautiful oaks in the back part of our property. Since then we have erected a Pavilion, renovated a barn into a cottage for classrooms, created a Butterfly Garden, a Memorial Garden, a labyrinth, a playground, a fire circle, our indoor Peace Chapel and have hosted numerous events from picnics, concerts and festivals to wine tastings.
First and foremost, Spirit of Life Unitarian Universalists was founded on the conscious affirmation of the seven principles of our Unitarian Universalist faith. We believe in:
- The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
- Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
- Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
- A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
- The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
- The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
- Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part
This is not a creed nor a dogma – these are cherished values and beliefs that we all hold true in common faith and practice, and which have guided our growth as a faith community since our founding.
In December 1997, two of our members attended the New Congregation training at the UUA in Boston. They developed an “impossibly ambitious” timeline for the creation of a new church and entry into the UUA. Early in 1998, we crafted our vision, mission and covenant. We selected the name Spirit of Life, for a beloved hymn. In the year 2000, we began the Welcoming Congregation program and voted unanimously to state that we indeed are a Welcoming Congregation.
Over the years, we have revisited our mission statement and goals to make sure we are in alignment with the principles of our faith and the moral compass of our shared community. In 2012, we refined our mission to its current simple and profound elegance:
The mission of Spirit of Life UU is to provide an oasis of spiritual growth, intellectual sharing and commitment to social action.
In August of 1999, Rev. Carole Yorke was installed as our first minister. In the spring of 2005, we said good-bye to Carole after several years of wonderful leadership, guidance, and service. Shortly thereafter we welcomed part-time consulting minister Alec Craig, who retired in 2012, after six years in his “temporary” position at Spirit of Life UU. Rev. Craig served us as our minister emeritus preaching once a month and providing pastoral services for another two years. Sadly, Rev. Craig passed away in 2014.
Currently, services are provided by a combination of visiting ministers and lay lead ministry.
Awards & Honors
- 1999 Excellence in RE award from the Florida district
- 2001 Our LifeLines newsletter won an award for quality from the Florida UUA district.
- 2002 Spirit of Life UU received a grant from the Liberal Religious Educators’ Association to help us maintain and expand our wonderful, all-volunteer RE program.
- 2004 Two of our members received awards from the Florida District UUA: the Unsung UU Hero Award and the Excellence in Religious Education Award.
- 2007 Our website received a West Central Cluster Award for Excellence
- 2010 Awarded Green Sanctuary recognition
- 2015 article in Tampa Bay Times – Unitarian Universalists offer a place for people of all faiths, backgrounds
Today, Spirit of Life remains a warm and loving voice for peace, justice, acceptance, interfaith understanding, and spiritual growth, welcoming all who come to our doors seeking a place to be who they are and a caring community in which to journey.