Live Oak History ~ Putting Down Roots

A PLACE OF OUR OWN: Fellowship Hall Groundbreaking in 1993 at 820 North Fairview Ave. in Goleta
A PLACE OF OUR OWN: Fellowship Hall Groundbreaking in 1993 at 820 North Fairview Ave. in Goleta

Live Oak UU Congregation began as a “spinoff” congregation with the help of the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara, the Pacific Southwest District, and the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA).

September 1985 Our new community began meeting at Goleta Valley Community Center.  Later moved to the Human Relations Institute at 5200 Hollister with regular services and a religious education (RE) program of three children. Pat Johnson and Martha Golus, two of the founding members, served as our first co-directors of RE.

June 1986  22 members chose the name Live Oak Unitarian Universalist Congregation and became affiliated with the UUA. Rev. Bets Wienecke was invited to serve as the new congregation organizer.

TIP: Click or tap an image for full-size slideshow.

1987: January - The congregation moved to the University Religious Center in Isla Vista

1990: March - Rev. Bets Wienecke was called as its first settled minister. The Live Oak Congregation continued to grow and moved across the street to St Michael’s Episcopal Church where the RE program and services were conducted.

1992: Live Oak purchased about 1 acre of land, including a farmhouse, garage and a tank house at 820 N. Fairview Ave in Goleta.

1994: April-November - Construction of the new Fellowship Hall and remodeling of the existing farmhouse. The garage transformed to a Cottage meeting place.

1994-2008: Services were held in the Fellowship Hall.

18 May Rev. Bets Sunday Service Fellowship Hall


2000: The congregation grew to a membership over 120 members and more space was very much needed. The members agreed to undertake a capital campaign and building program for a new sanctuary. At this time, Live Oak officially designated a Welcoming Congregation. Being welcoming means the welcome and inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people.

Carolyn Price

2002-2004: Live Oak became a teaching congregation when Rev. Carolyn Price served as a ministerial student intern.

33 2005 Rev. Erika Hewitt

June 2005-January 2012: Erika Hewitt was called as our new settled minister.

Our RE program was enriched through the years by RE directors: Teena Grant, Susan Belanger, Debra Rodgers, and Kristen Rohm.

2003-2011: Jan Ross served as Live Oak’s Director of Religious Exploration (DRE). A Peace Pole was put up in honor of her years of service as DRE.

2004: September - Rev. Bets Wienecke, after 18 years of service, retired and was granted Minister Emerita status. Rev. Paul Beedle arrived as our interim minister for one year.

2008: April to December - Construction of the new Sanctuary.

2008: December - We had our first service in the new sanctuary.


42 2009-01-17 LO buildings Fairview

2010: The Fellowship Hall was renovated and we began renting this space to the Friendship Center, an Alzheimer adult day-care center, during week days.

2012: February to July - James Forrest served as a one year interim DRE, followed by Gloria Liggett. Rev. David Owen-O’Quill served as transition minister.

Rev. Thomas Anastasi

August 2012 -July 2014: Rev. Thomas Anastasi served as the interim minister.

Tracey Goforth, Kyle Fisher & Aidan

September 2013 - October 2015: Tracey Goforth directed the RE program. Kyle Byrd-Fisher served as our Youth Coordinator.


August 2014-August 2022: Live Oak called the Rev. Tamara Casanova Suzuki to serve as our settled minister. Reverend Tamara served as our minister from August 2014 to August 2022.

Steven Lovelace

February 2017-June 2022: Steven began as Director of Religious Exploration, bringing his love of art, drama, and children together in a rich program for children and youth, including two Coming of Age cycles and the OWL program too.

December 2014: John Douglas started as Music Director, following John Sonquist who served as our pianist for several years. Currently, as of May 2023, Kevin Fox has assumed the post of Music Director.

55-2019-11-02-Clacey-Kahn (1)

March 2015-February 2021: Clacey Kahn worked as Live Oak’s Administrator.

Lora Barnett

September 2016- June 2017: Lora Barnett was our ministerial student intern, including serving as acting DRE for four months.

Steven & Melanie ~ Outgoing and Incoming Administrators

2022-2023: Steven Lovelace retired his position as Director of Religious Exploration and assumed the position of Administrator in a period of transition during the COVID pandemic. He moved from Santa Barbara to the desert in January, 2023, when member Melanie Jacobson transitioned into the role of Administrative Coordinator.

February 2019: Volunteers installed 25 solar panels on the roof of the sanctuary.

March 2021: The Live Oak campus temporarily closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic started conducting virtual Sunday Services off-site via Zoom.

Closing: "We Carry the Light of Our Chalice into the World."
Jonathan Young 2023

Winter of 2022: in-person services resumed at Live Oak. In June of the same year, Reverend Tamara Casanova Suzuki ended her tenure as minister with us. Live Oak UU Congregation engaged in an intentional process of listening and introspection about being in community with each other. Following the disruption of the COVID pandemic, many congregations lost their ministers or were unable to get their footing after isolation. Live Oak weathered the challenges and continues to adjust and adapt. Fortunately, our Worship Ministry continued to provide outstanding and inspirational services while the congregation continued its self-reflection.

September 1, 2023: After a year and a few months, our ministerial search team engaged Rev. Jonathan Young, a founding member or Live Oak, ordained Humanist celebrant, and renown psychologist, to serve as minister for up to three years, affording our congregation and ministerial search committee time to more leisurely study our needs and determine next steps.

Christina Boardman

December 1, 2023: Christina Boardman assumed the position of Religious Exploration Coordinator, and moved Live Oak toward "beyond Sunday morning" intergenerational programming emphasizing integration of young adults and young families.

Live Oak is a vibrant community that grew from an acorn into a strong oak and continues growing and thriving.