A Short History of Our Fellowship

The founding of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Ottawa begins in 1967 when the First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa moved from downtown Ottawa to the west end and agreed among themselves that eventually they would support the establishment of a Fellowship in the east end of the city.  In 1994, Rev. Brian Kopke, Minister of First Congregation put a formal proposal to their Board proposing the establishment of a New Congregations Committee.  Rev. Fred Cappuccino was asked to lead the east end Committee.

Rev. Fred pulled together a group of people who met for the first time in January, 1995. This group and others who joined it met more or less bi-weekly in people’s homes. The group coalesced and more formal structures began to take shape. By December, 1995 a Planning Group had been formed and adopted a Consensus Vision of the way forward. Regular Sunday Services began on March 17, 1996 and by May 26, Charter Membership Sunday, 49 people had signed the Membership Book. A religious education program started with an enthusiastic RE Committee and 4 children registered. Rev. Fred’s leadership, enthusiasm, and expertise provided the necessary catalyst to move the UUFO into existence.

The Fellowship was officially incorporated as the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Ottawa on May 1, 1997. Committees which remain today in different forms were established: Membership, Fellowship, Social Responsibility, Sunday Services, and  Religious Education. The first Newsletter was published in March, 1996. Many of the social activities which have sustained the Fellowship began in these early years:  potlucks and games evenings;  gatherings at the Milne’s home in Wakefield 3 times a year;  monthly luncheons and summer picnics. Our Anniversary has always been a call for celebration on or near March 17 every year since. From the beginning, social responsibility has been an integral part of our congregation. Please see The History of Social Action elsewhere on this site.

In 1999 Rev. Cappuccino asked to be relieved of his ministerial responsibilities as he wished to give more time to Child Haven International.  He has remained our Minister Emeritus. A Search Committee was formed and in September, 2000 Bonnie Lee was installed as our half-time minister.  She had a doctorate in religion and psychology and was studying and working at University of Ottawa and St. Paul’s University locally. Our membership rose to 82 by the end of 2000 with a flourishing children’s RE program.

Deepening our spiritual core through Sunday Services and other adult programming as well as developing a strong children’s program were hallmarks of these years. Bonnie’s creativity and energy helped us grow and expand into new areas of thought and social action. The French language was recognized as an important element in our congregation and French articles were written for the Newsletter. In addition, various French translations were completed which can be accessed on our website at “Coin Français”.  In May, 2005, Bonnie left Ottawa to take a faculty position at the University of Lethbridge.

In order to help fill the ministerial gap, Leela Sinha who was an intern minister at First Congregation, Ottawa, was hired part-time as an “interim minister”  until another  half-time minister could be found. A Search Committee was formed and in August, 2006, Rev. Frances Leigh Deverell joined us on a one year half-time contract as a consulting minister. Following a congregational vote in January 2007, Rev. Frances was called as our settled minister and in September 2007 continured at 3/4 time.

In 2008 our membership peaked at 88. We achieved a “Welcoming Congregation” designation in 2008.  Participation in annual Pride Parades has always been important to us.  We held Sustainability Fairs and supported environmental issues through letter writing, demonstrations, Green Corner Newsletter articles, and presentations.  On-going adult education programs, children’s religious exploration, social action programs and social activities prospered. Our first Lay Chaplain was chosen in December, 2007. Elaine Hartman remained in this position until  she moved to Toronto two years later. In the fall of 2009,  Rev. Frances announced her intention to retire on January 1, 2010.

In the winter of 2010 we faced a year of transition to a lay-led congregation. A Caring Committee was established and Ellen Bell was appointed our Pastoral Care Visitor. Four congregational “Discovery and Action” dialogue sessions were held in members’ homes to determine our way forward. Within the framework of  “Energy, Inspiration and Community,” a number of recommendations were forthcoming and acted on over the next few years.

In 2011, we welcomed our first student intern shared with First Unitarian Congregation. We have had  four interns over five years and each has added to the depth of worship and programming as well as offering expertise in other areas of congregational life. Our first intern was instrumental in helping us develop our Mission Statement to frame who we are as UUFO. It was adopted at the AGM in May, 2012.

Also in 2012, we re-configured our committees into “clusters” with the hope that this more fluid arrangement would increase lay-leadership and involvement. Theme based ministry was adopted by the Sunday Services/Worship Cluster and set-up teams were organized to help with Sunday mornings.  This organization continues today.

“A Home of Our Own” was a goal of the congregation from the beginning. Over the years the Property Task Force encouraged contributions and held fund-raising drives for our Building Fund.  We also searched  for possible sites. With endorsement from the congregation, a UUFO Capital Campaign was launched in 2010. The Campaign Committee canvassed members individually to ascertain their financial commitment to a building.

Knowing that there was strong financial support from our congregation, the Board decided to ask First Unitarian Congregation to  revisit their promise to support the “eastern congregation” acquire a home.  A joint team of UUFO and First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa members created the “Realizing a Dream” Capital Campaign at First Congregation. By June 2012, these  two outstanding Capital Campaigns resulted in a UUFO Building Fund of $543,466!

This gave the Board the financial backing to enter into negotiations with Heartwood House (a non-profit, charitable organization providing affordable rents to 18 community agencies) to purchase a building together.  A congregational vote was taken in August, 2012 which overwhelmingly supported this purchase.  In September 2012 we signed a legal Partnership Agreement giving UUFO 12 1/2% and Heartwood House 87 1/2 % ownership of  our property.  The building was formerly a Giant Tiger Store  with attached apartments and stores.  Extensive renovations were necessary to the total property which delayed our moving in until September 2013. Our Inaugural Service was held on September 29 with Rev. Fred Cappuccino leading the day!

After five moves in 17 years, our own building has given us stability and a presence in the community as a congregation. Our membership has grown again to 70 after a decline to 55 in 2013. We have kept our core programs and are developing new ones as we grow.  In the winter of 2015, we hired a part-time Office Administrator and a part-time Religious Educator for our children’s program.  The monthly evening, ‘Rassemblement UU Français’ is moving in January, 2016 to a monthly Sunday morning Service following the English Service.  Meditation sessions occur every second Saturday morning. We are reaching out to our external community and  we have an active social action program.

In September 2014 the Board decided it was time to consider professional leadership once again. The congregation was engaged in discussions and workshops and by March, 2015 had decided on pursuing developmental ministry.  Four goals for this ministry were discerned from our discussions. A Search Committee was appointed by the Board in September, 2015.

Presidents and Ministers

(AGM and election of officers is at the end of May each year)

1996 -98

  • Don McDiarmid, President
  • Rev. Fred Cappuccino, Minister

1998- 2000

  • Marilynn Kuhn, President
  • Rev. Fred Cappuccino, Minister


  • Audrey O’Callaghan, President
  • Bonnie Lee, PhD, Minister


  • Ken Lund, President
  • Bonnie Lee, PhD, Minister

2004- 2005

  • Elizabeth Churcher, President
  • Bonnie Lee, PhD Minister


  • Martha Nabatian, President
  • Bonnie Lee PhD
  • Leela Sinha, ministerial intern- “interim”


  • Martha Nabatian, President
  • Leela Sinha, ministerial intern -“interim”
  • Rev. Frances Leigh Deverell


  • Dale Falkenhagen, President
  • Rev. Frances Leigh Deverell

2009 – 2010

  • Marilynn Kuhn. President
  • Rev. Frances Leigh Deverell until Jan. 1, 2010


  • Marilynn Kuhn, President


  • Elinor Mueller, President
  • Jennifer Channin, ministerial intern, 2011-2012
  • Kye Flannery, ministerial intern, 2012-2013


  • Pat Lucey, President
  • Jenn Gray, ministerial intern, 2013-2014


  • Laura Evans, President
  • A.J. Galazen, ministerial intern 2015-2016
  • Rev. Rod Solano-Quesnel, developmental minister 2016-2018


  • Martha Nabatian, President


  • Brandon Milk, President
  • E.N. Hill, ministerial intern 2020-2021


  • Nick LePan, President