Our History

Over a half century ago a group of families in this area came together to share their liberal religious beliefs. The nearest Unitarian churches were in Oakland and Berkeley. They wanted a congregation of their own. In 1951 the group officially became a Fellowship, with Dr. Glen Kent as President. When they outgrew meeting in homes, they rented a little house on Pine Street that is no longer in existence.

In 1959, the Fellowship became the Mt. Diablo Unitarian Church and called its first minister, Aron Gilmartin, from the University Unitarian Church in Seattle. They rented the basement of the Highland Building, for the minister’s office and space for church school classes. Services were held at the Walnut Creek Women’s Center, and as membership increased they met at the Red Cross Building, with two Sunday morning services.

Members dreamed of all being together. The Building Committee worked for a year to find a site. When they saw the hillside on which our church now stands they agreed, “this is the place.”

The property, almost 14 acres, was purchased and the congregation raised money to develop the site. In 1965 they engaged architect Frank Ehrenthal to build five buildings, a sanctuary on the hill and four for classrooms. Unable to obtain financing, members borrowed money from themselves to erect the first two buildings – for the office, minister’s study, and sanctuary; the other for religious education rooms. The others were a dream for the future.

For almost 25 years Beverly Scaff served the church, retiring as Church Administrator in October of 1990. The office building constructed by church members in 1986 is named in her honor.

In 2008, Revs. Leslie and David Takahashi Morris were called as co-ministers of the congregation, bringing with them a commitment to building on the strong base of community which marked the congregation. The congregation deepened its work in the area of pastoral care, racial justice, and as a hub for the work on BGLT marriage equality in Contra Costa County. The Devil Mountain Coffeehouse was revived as a scene for talented acoustic musicians.

The Beverly and David Bortin Hall was opened early in 2009, providing an accessible and hospitable community space that opened up many possibilities for new gatherings and ventures. The congregation began to host Winter Nights, a rotating homeless shelter program hosted by the Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County and involved over 150 people in its first offering and the Devil Mountain Coffeehouse reopened in the Bortin Hall where dramatic presentations were also offered.

In 2010, the congregation sent a delegation of more than 50 people to the Justice General Assembly in Phoenix, Arizona. The congregation grew and welcomed many new adults, children and youth who were integrated into activities and programs.

In 2014, Rev. David Morris made the decision to leave the congregation and a transition discernment began which led to Rev. Leslie Takahashi being installed as Lead Minister in 2016. In 2017, the congregation will be adopting the “Make It So” strategic priorities focused on affirming our commitment to providing inspirational worship and restorative spiritual practices, living our values through our life together and in the community, being exuberantly multicultural, attentive to the current needs of families, committed to active communication and dynamic stewardship.

So Great a Vision: A History of the Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church, 1951–1984  pdf file 6mb