West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church proudly kicked off its 75th anniversary celebration on Sunday, September 19, 2021. Look for banners soon to be displayed on lamp posts in front of Rocky River Church, announcing that West Shore is “celebrating its birthday.” 75 years!
The Diamond Jubilee celebration is an event that lasts all year round. On November 14 at 2:00 p.m., West Shore will be hosting an Organ Rededication Gala Concert for our precious Holtkamp organ. Guest organist Christa Rakich will be the distinguished performer. Christa is an internationally renowned concert organist and is currently a guest organ professor at the Oberlin Conservatory.
Founded in 1946, West Shore is the largest “UU” church in Northeast Ohio, with over 500 members. Our mission is “to help people lead lives of meaning and purpose” through a tradition of liberal faith based on the principle that we don’t need to think the same way to love the same. manner. We are a welcoming Congregation, open to all without distinction of religious origin, race, ethnicity, age, ability, gender identity or sexual orientation.
In 1945, nationally renowned Unitarian pastor, Rev. Everett Moore Baker, envisioned a liberal religious presence on the West Side of Cleveland and initiated organizational efforts. He believed that “more people will recognize the direct link between our type of religious freedom and individual freedom in a democracy.” Barely a year later, West Shore held its first service on September 15, 1946, at the Lakewood Masonic Auditorium. Over 200 people attended this service with 75 children enrolled in the Sunday School program.
In 1949, already recognizing the need for space 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, took place in 1952. Today, West Shore has become known for its community outreach, advocacy and justice work in Greater Cleveland. Our exceptional worship, music and religious education programs are at the heart of our beloved community.
The very first sermon, delivered by West Shore Premier Reverend Wayne Shuttee, focused on “Today’s Need and Our Response.” Since then, seven ministers have succeeded. Currently, Reverend Anthony D. Makar is the senior minister of the church. He joined West Shore in the fall of 2019 after serving for 12 years as senior minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta, one of the largest Unitarian Universalist congregations in the United States.
Looking to the future, Rev. Makar said, “75 years ago the very first sermon preached at West Shore was titled ‘Today’s Need and Our Response.’ This response was about the need for more love in the world, more understanding, more compassion, and more fairness. This continues to be the answer we provide to the world now and into the future. Unitarian universalism is a deep and meaningful spiritual path. Come join us !”
Rocky River residents Gaile and Joe Schafer have been named honorary co-chairs of the year-long celebration, which includes special events for adults and families to be held during the religious year ending in June 2022.
Joe and Gaile have taken on many leadership roles at the church, inspiring worshipers of all ages since joining the West Shore in February 1977. This fall, Joe begins his 34th year as choir director junior from West Shore. He most recently served as Chairman of the Board from 2019-2020. Gaile was a Church Historian for 15 years and is a member of the Religious Education Committee.
According to Joe and Gaile, “In our more than four decades as members of the West Shore, we have experienced life-changing learning, personal growth, joy, challenges and comfort in this loving community. religious liberals. We hope our West Shore community will continue to grow in its ability to change lives in positive and meaningful ways, both within our walls and beyond. “
Strongsville resident Karen Kircher and Westlake resident Suzanne Rusnak co-chair the 75th Jubilee Celebration Committee made up of volunteers and staff.
For more information on the early days of West Shore history, please see the attached article, “The 1940s and the West Shore,” by Gaile Schafer.
Due to Covid-19 church security protocols, reservations are currently required to attend worship in person by calling the church office at 440-333-2255. In-person worship begins at 10:05 am and ends around 11:15 am. The worship service can also be viewed live on https://www.facebook.com/WestShoreUU from 10:05 am every Sunday morning. ALL are welcome here.