In the Spotlight: Meet Phil and Donnie Davis

26 March 2018

That’s 70 years ago when our family ties began with the First Unitarian Church in Salt Lake City.   It’s a story of two couples with a rather unique request.  You see, Bette Jean Harkness and Betty Jean Gillmer were best friends in California and both moved to Utah. They had met their respective ‘fellas’ about the same time with plans of marriage. They wanted to have a double wedding ceremony where both couples would be married in the same church at the same time.  But there were obstacles – one couple was Methodist, the other Mormon. Neither church would even consider holding a double ceremony with two different religious beliefs. It was such a good idea. The cat’s meow!  But when their faiths refused to perform the ceremony, they searched for, perhaps, a more liberal solution. Enter the First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City!  So, on April 1st, 1948, Reverend Edwin H. Wilson performed the double ceremony.

There’s more to the story….. one year later to the day, April 1st , 1949 – Donnie was born.  Now there was a lot of time that passed where the Unitarian Church played no role in her life journey as she was brought up in the Methodist Church.

As an adult, Donnie followed a family tradition in retail and opened her own dress shop called Donnetta’s. Phil having moved to Utah from LA, was busy doing music for commercials, movies, and KSL news promotions.  In 1981, Phil and Donnie met and married. Not long after, their daughter Jennica was born. (Don’t give up, we’re getting back to the Unitarians).  

Together, Donnie and Phil opened the Pinecrest Bed and Breakfast Inn in Emigration Canyon.  That’s when we first met Rev. Tom Goldsmith who performed wedding ceremonies at the Inn. 

Time passes and in the 9th grade, Jr. High, the public school Jennica attended decided to have ‘Missionary Day’ where a select group dressed in suits and ties, long dresses, and pretended to be assigned to a ‘calling’.  Jennica dressed differently and was teased on the bus for not participating.  It’s a tough age to realize that you don’t fit in with the majority.  For us, the parents, and with Jennica’s consent, she left that environment to enter Judge Memorial for her High School years.

We jumped out of Mormonism and landed in Catholicism, neither of which fit our spiritual needs.  On a quest to visit other churches, we found the First Unitarian Church. Inside, we    found beliefs and values that we felt matched ours.   We found a like-minded community.

Jennica joined the RE program and became more and more involved with the church.  She was an RE High School Youth Advisor, YRUU Coordinator, MDD Youth Ministry Consultant, and now holds the title of the Associate for the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries and works directly with the Church headquarters in Boston.  

As the years have moved along, Donnie and I have also become more and more involved with UU activities.  We have attended several General Assemblies from SLC to Quebec to New Orleans last summer.  We’ve also joined many church causes like the Social Justice and Environmental committees, we show up at protest marches, Jazz Vespers, the annual auction, fund raisers, the summer picnic, and now we volunteer in the Sanctuary project.  

The First Unitarian Church has provided us with a sense of community and the opportunity to contribute to a better world.  We’re proud to be Unitarians.