Live Oak Unitarian Universalist (UU) Congregation began as a “spinoff” congregation in 1985 with the help of Santa Barbara Society, the Pacific Southwest District, and the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). In September 1985, the new UU community began as a full service congregation at the Human Relations Institute with regular services and Religious Education with 3 children. In June 1986, the 22 members chose the name Live Oak UU Congregation and became affiliated with the UUA. Rev. Bets Wienecke was called as the new congregation organizer.
In January 1987, the congregation moved to the University Religious Center in Isla Vista. The congregation steadily grew and by 1990 the members called Rev. Bets Wienecke as its first settled minister. The Religious Education program and services then moved across the street to St Michael’s Episcopal Church where space was rented.
As the congregation continued to grow the need for more space became apparent and in 1992 Live Oak purchased land on N. Fairview Ave in Goleta. Construction of the new Fellowship Hall and remodeling of the existing farmhouse and garage began in April 1994 and services in the Fellowship Hall were held in November 1994.
The congregation grew to a membership over 120 members and space was very much needed. The members agreed to create a building committee to make plans for a new Sanctuary in 2000.
Live Oak UU Congregation became an official Welcoming Congregation by unanimous vote in 2000.
Live Oak became a teaching congregation when Rev. Carolyn Price served as intern minister in 2003-2004.
After 18 years of service the Rev. Bets Wienecke retired and was granted Emerita status. In September of 2004, Rev. Paul Beedle arrived as our interim minister for one year.
Rev. Erika Hewitt was called as our new settled minister in June 2005 and served until January 2012. In the meantime, construction of the new sanctuary progressed steadily and we began services in the new facilities in January 2009.
In 2010-11, the Fellowship Hall was renovated and the facilities were rented to the Friendship Center, an Alzheimer day-care center, during week days. This arrangement continues to this date and is beneficial for both the congregation and the Friendship Center.
From February -July 2012, Rev. David Owen-O’Quill served as transition minister. followed by Rev. Thomas Anastasi who served as the congregation’s interim minister from August 2012 until June 2014. During these interim years, the congregation re-evaluated it’s mission and priorities as it prepared to call a new settled minister.
On May 18th, 2014 with an overwhelming voting percentage of the members present, the Rev. Tamara Casanova Suzuki was called as our new settled minister, and in August of that year, an exciting new chapter in the life of Live Oak began.
Pat Johnson and Martha Golus, two of the founding members, served as co-directors of religious education until 1900 when Live Oak became a “Teaching Congregation”. Rev. Teena Grant began working as director of the religious education program as part of her training at Meadville Lombard Theological School and served for 2 years. Our religious exploration program was also enriched with R.E. Directors, Susan Belanger, Debra Rodgers and Rev. Kristen Rohm. Jan Ross retired as R.E. director in June 2011 after faithfully teaching our children for 8 years. There was a one-year interim R.E. Director with James Forrest until 2012 followed by Gloria Liggett, who served until mid-2013. Tracey Goforth served as DRE for three years. We are currently in search for a new Director of Religious Exploration.
Live Oak is a vibrant community that grew from an acorn into a strong oak and continues growing and thriving.