Our Congregation

UU History

Unitarian Universalism was formed from the consolidation of two religions: Unitarianism and Universalism. In America, the Universalist Church of America was founded in 1793, and the American Unitarian Association was formed in 1825. After consolidating in 1961, these faiths became the new religion of Unitarian Universalism through the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA).

Both religions have long histories and have contributed important theological concepts that remain central to Unitarian Universalism. To learn more about the history of Unitarian Universalism, please see the pamphlet, “Unitarian Universalist Origins: Our Historic Faith.

Origins of Unitarian Universalism from Within Traditional Religions

A Brief History of Our Church

The sustaining reason for our church existence stated in 1977:

“Providing a place where every person can feel free to discuss their religious beliefs and ethical concerns: to add to their insight: to grow in their own way knowing we are all in the developing-searching-growing process and respect each other’s uniqueness.”


Robert (Bob) and Jean Staff, residents of DeLand, felt the need for a liberal-thinking group in town. They, along with Ed and Ruby Douglass and Majorie Schwarze, joined the Church of the Larger Fellowship, a branch of the UUA in Boston, and invited other liberal thinkers of the area to join them.   In May 1976, meetings were first held at the Chamber of Commerce building.  With the addition of other like-minded people, they moved to the Women’s Club on Michigan Avenue.  On November 7, 1976, the growing group voted to become a full-fledged UU church.  Speakers were brought in from Stetson and other interesting offerings were presented.  Thus, began a path to our present-day Church.


​ On January 11, 1977, Bob Staff, the first President of our church sent a letter to the Unitarian Universalist Association announcing the beginning of liberal religion in DeLand.  It was to be called the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of DeLand. 


Our beloved community grew and purchased its first true home, 140 North Spring Garden Avenue, on October 3, 1982.   During these years of growth, the experiences and talents of the membership, residents of the community, especially Stetson University faculty members and visits from ministers were the backbone of Sunday services.  Musicians and poets added to the many excellent programs.


 A growing congregation began to look for a larger building and found an A-frame house on North Frankfort Avenue, a small, side street in Deland in 1985.  The unofficial slogan being, “If you can find us, you belong here!”  The new building allowed for the growth of a Religious Education program for children.  Members Elsie Lauterbach and Claire Levy attended a Religious Education Workshop at the Orlando UU Church.   Melissa Gifford-Borghorst and Sallie Bowen (first teacher) became involved spearheading the creation of classroom space and a playground for children.  Advertised in 1987 as “A Liberal Education Experience for Children of All Faiths,” it was open for ages 3 to 12-year-old youth.


The congregation officially changed our name to The First Unitarian Church of West Volusia to be more inclusive of the area than just the city of DeLand.  Members come to us from Debary, Deltona, Orange City, Daytona and even from New Smyrna Beach!


Over the years, we have changed when changing is for the betterment of our purpose:

All are welcome to grow and learn together to make ourselves and the world a better place!


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The First Unitarian Universalist Church of West Volusia

🧭116 S. Clara Avenue, Deland, Florida 32720

📬 P.O. Box 592, Deland, Florida 32721

✉️ Email: firstuuofwestvolusiadeland@gmail.com

☎︎ Phone: (386) 232-8433

A Welcoming Church