New construction a sign of vitality
If new construction is any barometer of vitality, then Unitarian Universalism is thriving. The following congregations have completed major renovations or new construction projects:
The First Parish of Watertown, Mass., has completed a $380,000 renovation of its building, an expanded 1889 parish hall. The building had severe structural problems because of age and required the installation of structural steel supports, said the Rev. Mark Harris. The renovation also included a new ceiling, sound system, lighting, and roof; repair of stained glass; and construction of a new chancel area at the front of the sanctuary, which seats 135. The building was rededicated January 11. The congregation, which has 102 members, was organized in 1630.
The Unitarian Universalist Church in Fargo, N. Dak., celebrated completion of a $300,000 addition to the church’s chapel in May. The new structure provides space for an office, RE classroom, bathrooms, a greeting area, and an elevator. The elevator will now allow disabled congregants and visitors access to the entire building. The 100-member lay-led congregation raised the money for the renovation by a five-year capital campaign.
The 200-member Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham, Ala., completed construction of a brand-new $2.5 million, 300-seat building in November 2003. The new building, set on a 12-acre lot, has a sanctuary, 10 RE classrooms, a kitchenette, and office space, and is universally accessible. The congregation used the proceeds from the sale of the previous building along with $600,000 raised in a capital campaign to fund construction.
The Unitarian Universalist Society of Mill Creek in Newark, Del., dedicated its new building in March with a program featuring the Rev. John Buehrens, former UUA president. The 147-member congregation raised $1.3 million for the six-acre lot and new building, which includes six RE classrooms, a library, kitchenette, and office suite. The building is designed to use passive solar technology to reduce heating and cooling costs.
In April the 400-member Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Chandler, Ariz., held dedication ceremonies for its new building. The congregation purchased a former Catholic church that suddenly came on the market in December 2003. “The congregation had to take a real leap of faith,” says the Rev. Lone Jensen. A $2.6 million capital campaign is still in progress, supplemented by proceeds from the sale of the previous building. The new five-acre campus has a sanctuary seating 500, 10 RE classrooms, and 10 offices and meeting rooms. Previously, the church had to hold two services to accommodate the growing congregation, which added almost 100 new members in 2003.
The 300-member Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Frederick, Md., dedicated a new church facility in September 2003 to accommodate its rapidly growing membership. Set on a seven-acre lot next to a busy highway, the church has a sanctuary seating 200, eight program rooms, a chapel seating 60, and office space. Construction cost $1.8 million with $600,000 coming from the congregation and $1.2 million financed through a mortgage. About 35 percent of the facility’s wall space consists of clear glass and the complex is universally accessible.
The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta celebrated its 50th anniversary January 20. Initially founded in 1879, it disbanded after a 1940s controversy over the admission of an African American. Reconvened in 1954 with a strong integrationist mandate, it was a leader in the civil rights movement. Speakers in that era included the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. An niversary speakers were the Rev. Dr. Eugene Pickett, UUCA minister from 1962 to 1974 before being elected UUA president, and Kay Montgomery, executive vice president of the UUA and former UUCA administrator.
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Roanoke, Va., marked its 50th in May with a birthday party sponsored by the religious education department. Other events included a dance and Sunday morning service with Qiyamah Rahman, district executive of the Thomas Jefferson District. Lunch on Sunday featured a 50-foot-long submarine sandwich. Longtime member Bill Hackworth wrote a history, The Unitarian Uni versalist Church of Roanoke 1954-2004: Fifty Years of Service to the Larger Community. A time capsule, to be opened in 25 years, was also created. The church has 232 members.
UUA President William G. Sinkford gave the Sunday morning address at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Spartanburg, S.C., as it celebrated its 50th anniversary February 8. The congregation, be gun as a fellowship in 1954, has 130 members and is planning to expand to accommodate growth.
President Sinkford was also on hand to mark the 375th anniversary of the First Church in Salem, Mass., on August 8. Sinkford’s appearance kicked off a year of events for the congregation, including a rotating exhibit of some of the church’s historical documents, including a record book chronicling church activities starting in 1629.