Fifth Anniversary of Building Celebrates Many Years of Hard Work
By Gil Osgood
One of the most important and moving congregational meetings in the history of our church took place on November 1st, 2009. The sole topic for consideration was whether to buy the building which we now occupy. The quorum for most meetings is 20 percent of the membership, but for buying or selling property 40 percent of the membership must be present. I was anxious because we had sometimes barely met the 20 percent threshold for regular meetings and also because an undertaking of this magnitude needed overwhelming support and not just the simple majority required by our bylaws.
I need not have worried. As the time for the meeting approached the sanctuary at the 40th and Donald church filled, and then the social hall until finally it didn’t seem possible to crowd anyone else in. A total of 237 people attended, around twice the number required. The property had been found that summer so there had been ample time for members to visit the building and for informational meetings at which the pros and cons of buying had been discussed, so this meeting was the culmination of a long process. The cases for and against were made once again with everyone listening respectfully and then the vote was taken. The motion to buy passed with 190 votes in favor, 38 opposed and 9 abstentions.
I was overwhelmed. It had been 12 years since we had had to start having two services each Sunday and eight years since the first concrete steps had been taken to decide what to do about our swelling congregation. It had taken many people working hundreds of hours to guide us through the decision-making process and then the implementation of the decision. Our democratic process had worked. Now we had the daunting task of raising the money to pay for the new building and for all the remodeling that was necessary.
This was the third time in its 100 year history that our church had made a leap of faith to build a church. In February and March of 1910, 42 people, 12 of them children, had become the first members of the new church and had elected a nine person board. Just two months later in May that board bought a vacant lot at 11th and Ferry for $2650, $66,000 in today’s money. The board members themselves put forward the first $1100, $27,000 today, out of their own money and took out a loan for the rest. The church was built and the first meeting held there in June of 1912.
By the 1950s we had outgrown this first building and in another leap of faith the congregation sold it in 1960 and then met for more than two years at Francis Willard School while money was being raised and a new church was being built at 40th and Donald. The first service was held there in May of 1963.
The creation of our third church building turned out to be as much of a challenge as the first two had been. The project we had hoped would take 15 months lasted for two years and the costs kept growing. However, the capital campaign brought in twice as much money as the UUA consultant had estimated we could raise and thousands of hours of volunteer labor helped to reduce the costs. There were still things needing to be finished when the first service was held in May of 2012, almost exactly 100 years after the first service in our first church building.
As we celebrate our 5th anniversary I invite you to look up at the “clouds” that cover the ceiling of the social hall and sanctuary. These fabric covered rectangles were created to improve the acoustics in our church. Each one was crafted by hand, mostly by volunteers, who worked on this phase of the project for over a month. If you look closely you will notice a small flaw in one of these panels. When I look up I am reminded of what we can accomplish working together even though we are not perfect.