During the 1990s the face of Bend began to change. The word got out about Bend's sunny weather and incredible recreation opportunities. Bend became a rapidly growing destination and retirement community. Some of those arriving were retirees from larger cities with well-established Unitarian Universalist churches.
The newcomers brought new talents, vision and leadership. Our reconnection with the national Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and our regional UU Pacific Northwest District (PNWD) began in 2003 when we started discussions at Board meetings about hiring a minister. A part-time church administrator had been hired by then and a few years later a choir was formed. New and more worshipful elements were added to the Sunday service. UU ministers who visited us from some of the larger western Oregon cities played a larger role in our Sunday services.
By 2004 the Fellowship had grown to 63 members and a serious discussion began regarding the benefits of part-time ministry. Although finances were tight the Fellowship felt the time was right to hire our first consulting minister. Rev. Jeanne Pupke was hired 1/4 time in 2004 and she moved to 1/3 time in 2005. Her hiring had a dramatic effect on the Fellowship. She brought continuity in the pulpit, an emphasis on new members, and a high level of pastoral care. Membership grew 50% to 94 members during that two-year period. During that time the Fellowship relocated to a larger church building, hired a part time Religious Education director, increased the budget of the music program, and worked to strengthen the Fellowship's various committees and programs.