Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Celebrates Installation of Settled Minister


March 3, 2018

Contact: Chela Sloper, Congregational Life Facilitator, 541-385-3908, lifefacilitator@uufco.org                         

The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Central Oregon welcomes the greater community to celebrate the installation of the Fellowship’s settled minister, the Rev. Scott Rudolph. The installation, a sacred service in which a congregation and its minister pledge deep commitments to each other, will be at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 10, in the Sanctuary of UUFCO.

Rudolph has served as the Fellowship’s minister since August 2017. A Chicago native who grew up in Bowling Green, Kentucky, Rudolph graduated from Hanover College and earned his Master of Divinity from Meadville Lombard Theological School in 2011. He worked as a chaplain at Christ Medical Hospital in Chicago before interning at the East Shore Unitarian Church in Washington state. From 2011 to 2017, Rudolph served as settled minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church of North Hills in metropolitan Pittsburgh.

UUFCO called Rudolph to its pulpit after conducting an exhaustive search and selection process. The Fellowship has warmly welcomed Rudolph; his wife, Rebecca Rudolph, an occupational therapist; and the couple’s children, Simon Oak and Tessa Jane.

Max Merrill, president of the UUFCO Board of Trustees, said the installation is a pivotal moment in the life of the Fellowship. “This is truly a new day for UUFCO,” Merrill said. “We could not have asked for a more dynamic minister to lead us into our future of love and service to each other and our communities.” Merrill said the installation represents the Fellowship’s heartfelt embrace of Rudolph, its first settled minister in six years. “Scott brings such an air of excitement to whatever he does, whether from the pulpit, in group meetings, or in one-on-one conversation,” Merrill said. “He leaves no room for doubt that we can accomplish whatever we set our minds to, and will eagerly support our efforts.”

Rudolph said he cherishes this ministry and feels deeply grateful to the Fellowship for choosing and empowering him.

“This is our installation service,” he said. “It’s not just about me. Our congregation has the power to call the minister. There’s no external body. These people, through the democratic process, through trust and love and aspiration, have decided to install a minister. That’s why it’s a big deal: It’s the congregation’s choice.”

Founded in 1958, UUFCO met in rented quarters before moving into its permanent home, a striking, versatile 18,000-square-foot building at Skyliners Road and Skyline Ranch Road on Bend’s west side, in 2015. Designed in accord with the Seventh Principle of Unitarian Universalism, “respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part,” the building is the first church structure to earn Platinum Earth Advantage Commercial certification, the highest certification awarded for sustainable, environmentally friendly architecture.

The Fellowship planned its new home in the hope that it would facilitate congregational growth and community outreach. It has done both, beyond the Fellowship’s expectations. Membership has nearly doubled in six years, growing from 130 in 2012 to 247 in 2018. Public use of the building for weddings, banquets, receptions, community meetings, and fundraising events has introduced thousands of Central Oregonians to this awe-inspiring space, arousing curiosity about Unitarian Universalism and spawning countless opportunities for partnership and solidarity.

Rudolph invites the curious to chat with him and drop in at Sunday worship services, which consist of music, storytelling, readings, a talk or sermon, and rituals that appeal to good-hearted people of a wide range of belief and unbelief.

“Unitarian Universalism is a gathering of people of diverse theologies and spiritual paths who share common values of what we hope for the world,” Rudolph said. “Our Fellowship offers an engagement with justice issues — a way to put one’s values into action in the world alongside an internal spiritual discernment and journey in community. It’s those three things that we stand for — we’re trying to do good in the world, we’re trying to grow as people, and we’re doing that in the challenge and joy of community. Those are the things that make us us.”

Now grounded in its new home, UUFCO can flourish as never before, Rudolph said.

“We built this big, beautiful building, we moved into it, people came, our numbers are growing,” he said. “It really is this ‘Now what?’ moment. There is no lack of creativity around, ‘What can we do?’ and ‘Who can we partner with to really make a difference in the world?’ — all the while understanding that this is an internal, spiritual journey for all of us.”

Rudolph said he and UUFCO members — newcomers and old-timers alike — are feeling an electric sense of enthusiasm for what the Fellowship can become.

“It was so clear to me throughout the entire search process that this is a congregation that is ready for — and passionate about — going forward,” he said. “I am so excited for this congregation to begin moving into its future — excited about what we are doing with our attention to justice, with wanting to be a force for good, for service to the marginalized people of Bend.

“I really think we can do some significant work in Central Oregon that changes lives, that does the work of love and really making a difference,” he continued. “And having fun all the while — understanding that joy and deep work go hand in hand, and that is as it should be.”

Rudolph encourages new members to step up and help shape the Fellowship’s future.

“We are informed by — and changed by — all of the people who come to be a part of the Fellowship,” he said. “There is no one creed. We create that thing. We are grounded in our vision of what we hope for the world as well as being spiritual seekers who are interested in that process of spiritual growth. You put those things together and something magical happens. The community that gathers around that is alive and vibrant and leaning into possibilities.”

Noreen Halberstadt, who served on the search committee that recommended Rudolph to the Fellowship, said Rudolph’s first season has confirmed her powerful intuition that he is exactly the minister UUFCO needs at this moment.

“We were looking for someone to take us from a small congregation meeting in rented quarters to a big, rooted congregation that aims to make a real difference in Central Oregon,” she said. “Scott is just what we were looking for: He brings the vision and warmth and wisdom that we need right now. We were looking for someone who wanted to put down roots in Central Oregon, and Scott does, wholeheartedly.”

Halberstadt said the committee chose Rudolph in part for his proven ability to tell thought-inspiring stories. Watching him exercise that gift week after week, telling stories that engage and challenge all ages, has been especially touching, she said.

“He brings a real depth,” she said. “Up close and personal, the way he can be spontaneous and unscripted, warms the hearts of this Fellowship.”

Halberstadt said the search committee was taken with Rudolph’s lighthearted side.

“His sense of fun brings balance to the role that he plays in our congregation,” she said. “A lot of what a minister does is very serious, and Scott’s wonderful sense of humor rounds him out.”

The installation represents the Fellowship’s full welcome of Rudolph as well as his explicit commitment to serve the Fellowship and the larger community, Halberstadt said.

“It seals the deal,” she said. “It’s been a long time coming. So it’s a big celebration.”

Fellowship musicians and guest artists are rehearsing for the big event. One musical highlight will be “The Fire of Commitment,” a song beloved by UU congregations for its driving rhythm and celebratory tone as well as its stirring lyrics. The installation committee chose it to honor the Fellowship’s success in building a new home and selecting a new minister.

Participating clergy will include the Rev. Pam Rumancik, minister of the Unitarian Church of Hinsdale, Illinois; the Rev. Peter J. Luton of Bellingham, Washington, a retired UU minister with whom Rudolph served an internship; and two former UUFCO ministers, the Rev. Heather Rion Starr, now co-minister (with her wife, the Rev. Cathy Rion Starr) of the Unitarian Society of Hartford, Connecticut, and the Rev. Alex Holt, a professional interim minister who now serves the Westside UU Church in Fort Worth, Texas.

The service will be followed by toasts and refreshments in the Pete Seeger Gathering Hall and the adjacent Linus Pauling Hall.