West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church Celebrates 75 Years!

West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church Celebrates 75 Years!

West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church proudly launched its 75th Jubilee Year Celebration on Sunday, September 19, 2021.  Look for banners to be posted soon on the streetlight poles in front of the Rocky River church announcing that West Shore is “Celebrating 75 Years!”

The Diamond Jubilee Celebration is a year-long event.  On November 14 at 2:00 p.m., West Shore will hold a celebratory Gala Organ Rededication Concert for our prized Holtkamp organ. Guest organist Christa Rakich will be the distinguished performer. Christa is an internationally renowned concert organist and is currently the Visiting Professor of Organ at the Oberlin Conservatory.

Founded in 1946, West Shore is Northeast Ohio’s largest “UU” church, with over 500 members. Our mission is to “help people lead lives of meaning and purpose” through a liberal faith tradition focused on the principle that we need not think alike to love alike. We are a Welcoming Congregation, open to all regardless of religious background, race, ethnicity, age, ability, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

In 1945, nationally renowned Unitarian minister Rev. Everett Moore Baker envisioned a liberal faith presence on Cleveland’s West Side and initiated organizing efforts.  He believed that “more people will recognize the direct connection between our kind of religious freedom and individual freedom in democracy.”  Barely a year later, West Shore held its first service on September 15, 1946, at the Lakewood Masonic Auditorium. More than 200 people attended this service with 75 children enrolled in the Sunday school program.

In 1949, already recognizing the need for room for expansion, West Shore purchased land in the “wilderness” of Rocky River. The first services at our current location, 20401 Hilliard Boulevard in Rocky River, were held in 1952. Today, West Shore has become known for our community outreach, social action and Justice work throughout Greater Cleveland. Our outstanding worship, music and religious education programs are the heart of our Beloved Community.

The very first sermon, by West Shore’s original minister, Rev. Wayne Shuttee, focused on “Today’s Need and Our Answer.”   Since then, there have been seven succeeding ministers.  Currently, Rev. Anthony D. Makar serves as the Senior Minister of the church.  He joined West Shore in the Fall of 2019 after serving 12 years as the Senior Minister at The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta, one of the largest Unitarian Universalist congregations in the United States.

In looking to the future, Rev. Makar stated, "75 years ago, the very first sermon preached at West Shore was entitled ‘Today’s Need and Our Answer.’ That answer was about needing more love in the world, more understanding, more compassion, and more fairness. It continues to be the answer we offer the world now and into the future. Unitarian Universalism is a profound and meaningful spiritual path. Come join us!"

Rocky River residents Gaile and Joe Schafer have been named Honorary Co-Chairs of this year-long celebration, which includes special adult and family events to be held during the church year ending in June 2022. 

Joe and Gaile have assumed many leadership roles at the church, inspiring congregants of all ages since they first joined West Shore in February 1977.  This fall, Joe begins his 34th year as West Shore’s Junior Choir Director. Recently he served as Board President, from 2019-2020.  Gaile has served as Church Historian for 15 years and is a member of the Religious Education Committee.

According to Joe and Gaile, “During our more than four decades as members of West Shore, we have experienced life-changing learning, personal growth, joy, challenge and comfort in this loving community of religious liberals. We hope that our West Shore community will continue to grow in its ability to positively and meaningfully change lives, both within our walls and beyond.”

Strongsville resident, Karen Kircher, and Westlake resident, Suzanne Rusnak, Co-Chair the 75th Jubilee Celebration Committee of volunteers and staff.

For more information on West Shore’s early history, please see the attached article, “The 1940s & West Shore,” by Gaile Schafer.

Due to church Covid-19 safety protocols, reservations currently are required for attending in-person worship by calling the church office at 440-333-2255. In person worship begins at 10:05 a.m. and ends at approximately 11:15 a.m. The worship service can also be viewed via livestream at https://www.facebook.com/WestShoreUU beginning at 10:05 a.m. each Sunday morning. ALL are welcome here.

Dorothy Richards

www.wsuuc.org: Founded in 1946, West Shore Unitarian Universalist ("UU") Church is the largest UU church in Northeast Ohio, with over 500 members. We are a multigenerational community, welcoming all regardless of religious background, age, race, ethnicity, gender identity, ability, or sexual orientation. We strive to be an anti-racist, anti-oppression, multi-cultural community.  We are a spiritual home for all who are in sympathy with UU values and principles.  All Are Welcome Here! West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church, 20401 Hilliard Blvd., Rocky River, OH 44116; 440-333-2255. Rev. Anthony Makar, Senior Minister.

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Volume 17, Issue 19, Posted 5:16 PM, 10.06.2021