The First Unitarian Fellowship of Nanaimo was founded in the late 1950’s and received official status in 1960. We rented various premises and slowly grew our congregation. In late 2003 our members made the momentous decision to buy our present building at 595 Townsite Rd in Nanaimo, make needed renovations, and call it home.
In 2006, the Nanaimo Fellowship hired Marian Stewart, a ministerial intern shared with First Unitarian Church of Victoria, to provide ministerial services for a year, then extended it a second year. Marian helped us establish a sense of identity as a religious organization, instilling in us the confidence to set fellowship goals and work to achieve them.
Ministry proved to be so successful that several years later we engaged the Rev. Karen Fraser Gitlitz to be our half time minister. Rev. Karen honed our skills to create meaningful, well-organized services and was instrumental in establishing our Shelter for the homeless. Rev. Fraser Gitlitz left Nanaimo in 2012 for Saskatoon where she continues to grow in her ministerial role there.
Rev. Samaya Oakley was our half time developmental minister from 2013 through 2017. Among her many other contributions, Rev. Samaya was instrumental in her support of our Covenant of Rights and our attaining certification as a Welcoming congregation.
For the 2017-18 Fellowship year, Rev. Meg Roberts provided consulting ministry services to the fellowship. In addition to her creatively inspired services, Rev. Meg helped foster a sense of stability and provided a guiding hand as the fellowship reflected on its future and its search for a settled minister.
Since August 2019, Rev. Debra Thorne has been our two-thirds time minister. Rev. Debra brings a passion for social and environmental justice, thoughtful Sunday reflections and a compassionate and caring approach to interpersonal relations.
In 2009, in consultation with the city and community our fellowship opened the only low barrier extreme weather shelter for homeless people in Nanaimo. It continues to this day managed by our fellowship and located on our lower floor. In 2016 our Welcoming Congregation proudly marched in Nanaimo’s first ever Pride Parade! In 2019 the fellowship began a process to sponsor a Syrian refugee and is currently being supported in their resettlement to Canada by members of our fellowship.