Northwoods’ History


The congregation was organized in 1975, and formerly accepted into the Unitarian Universalist Association as a member church in June, 1978.  The congregation size was fairly stable at 30-40 members under the leadership of founding members and (quarter time) minister, Reverend Dr. Van Vanstrom between 1978 and 1983.  Beginning in 1983, the congregation experienced a substantial growth in membership.  This made it possible to increase professional ministerial leadership to half time; first Reverend Al Judd (1982-1985), and then Reverend Byron Miller (1985-1988).

The growth that the church experienced in 1984 was phenomenal, and there was reason to believe the membership would continue to grow driven by the ongoing oil boom in Houston.  The congregation eventually believed they were in a position to purchase land and build a church in The Woodlands in 1985.  The congregation Called its first Settled Minister Reverend Don Vaughn-Foerster in 1988.  The Houston economy began to expand again in the mid-1990’s; and along with that came new growth in the congregation and an optimism not seen in over a decade.

In 1992 Northwoods founded the Millbend Coffeehouse as an outreach service to the larger community.   The Millbend Coffeehouse was created as a smoke-free, non-profit live music venue at the Northwoods Unitarian Universalist Church.  The Millbend Coffeehouse opening night was held on December 5th, 1992, with a show by The Banded Geckos.

In early 2001 Reverend Don Vaughn-Foerster resigned as Northwoods minister after 12 years.  He then entered the Interim Ministry program and continued to serve Unitarian Universalist churches around the country.  The Board of Trustees approved the Call of Reverend Dr. Paula Gable to the position of Interim Minister, and she served Northwoods from February, 2002 until July, 2003.

The church continued to prosper and grow, and by January 2003 the congregation had established two services to make room for all of the new people.  The congregation Called Revered Danita Noland in 2003 as the second Settled Minister, and celebrated its 25th Anniversary as a congregation.  Continued growth resulted in the addition of numerous program enhancements, such as the Welcoming Congregation, efforts to financially support organizations outside the church, and financial success.

Reverend Noland resigned in 2006 and church leadership approved the Call of Reverend Benjamin Maucere to serve as the minister from January 2007 to August 2008.  Membership continued to grow, and with growth came an increase in annual budgets which supported additional programing for the congregation.

The membership celebrated the 30th Anniversary of the congregation in June 2008.  The next phase in the life of the congregation began in 2008 with the Calling of Reverend Ellen Cooper-Davis as the third Settled Minister.  The congregation continued to add additional programs to support membership growth, and by the end of 2008 the church building was bulging at the seams.

A considerable amount of effort was spent at this time on developing Core Values, and Mission and Vision statements.  The leadership created a new organizational structure oriented toward a large program church model which was needed to support the growing membership.

The Grand Opening for the new Avant Garden Gallery was held in August 2012.  The founding members of the Avant Garden Gallery, envisioned a space that inspired and showcased the many creative people that were part of the Northwoods congregation.  They wanted a place that brought people together and challenged thought and added beauty.  The gallery was designed to offer ongoing and changing artwork featuring painters, collage artists, ceramic artists, jewelry designers, and textile artists.

Beginning around 2010 the Northwoods congregation started reaching out to the larger community by funding charitable works through the Millbend Coffeehouse, Arts in Action, Avant Garden Gallery, Share the Plate, GLBQT Prom, and the Northwoods Rummage Sale.  Many of these programs continue today and represent a very successful community outreach program by the Church.

Reverend Cooper resigned as minister in January 2015 and church leadership decided the congregation needed an Interim Minister to begin a process of renewal and rebuilding.  Reverend Donna Renfro was Called as an Interim Minister by church leadership in the fall of 2015.  Reverend Renfro served Northwoods from September 2018 until August 2018.  A new Covenant of Right Relations was put in place in early 2016.  The congregational approved a new Mission Statement in of May 2017.  In the spring of 2018 the congregation adopted a set of Core Values and a new Vision Statement.

The Northwoods’ Board of Trustees voted in early 2018 to approve the Call of  Sarah Prickett to be our next minister.  Sarah Prickett came to us from Little Rock, Arkansas, where she lived for three years while finishing her Master of Divinity from Meadville Lombard Theological School. Reverend Prickett began her service to Northwoods in August 2018.

Northwoods held a 40th Anniversary celebration on June 10 2018.