When the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax was founded, segregation was still the law of the land. Bill Perlik was one of the founding members that used to meet in the Oakton Elementary School.
During those first years, someone changed the terms of the agreement that allowed the congregation to use the building, Perlik said, mandating that all users of the building abide by all state laws.
The change was an attempt to force segregation upon the church and other users of the school. The congregation was opposed to segregation, and, although it had no African-American members at the time, bristled at the idea of being forced to abide by it.
Perlik and the other founders struck a compromise. "We got them to agree that we would abide by all the constitutional laws," he said. Both sides were happy with the arrangement, and the church’s members went on to fight for an end to segregation. "The church tended to see people who wanted to see an end of segregation," Perlik said. "There was a lot of unity in promoting racial equality."
Perlik was one of 28 people who started meeting in early 1955, and who signed the church’s membership book on April 17 of that year, establishing the church. He is still a member of the church, and was present on April 17, 2005, when the church celebrated its 50th anniversary.
He did not doubt that the church would remain and that its membership would also stay strong. "I certainly knew that there would be a good, liberal church in Fairfax County," Perlik said.
THE CHURCH initially had a piece of land at what is now the interchange of Chain Bridge Road and I-66, Perlik said. The state bought that land from them and the group purchased the site where they are still located, at 2709 Hunter Mill Road.
Current members have come to the church for a variety of reasons, but community tops the list of many. Nancy Rooney of Fairfax has been coming to the church for 18 years, she said. She grew up a Catholic, but had drifted away from that faith. She came to the Unitarians looking for a more progressive stance. "The thing that keeps me coming is just the community of people," she said.
Her feelings were echoed by Bruno Walker of Oakton. He had been without a church affiliation for a number of years, he said. Then, 13 years ago, his wife attended a service. "My wife had come the week before and said, ‘you’ve got to come here, the music is great,’" Walker said.
The first few times he came, he said, it was for the music, but then the congregation grew to be his community. Now, it is that sense of community which brings him back to the congregation. "These are the people I want to grow old with," he said.