To Stay or to Go: How We Got Here

Presented at the UUFP Town Hall Meeting December 8, 2019, by Sandy Burkes-Campbell, Chair, the UUFP Planning Committee

This is the first of many meetings both large and small that will take place to inform members about our recent and past strategic planning work. Since many of you joined UUFP in the past several years a little history lesson is in order to bring you up to date on our previous planning efforts.

We moved into our current location on Youngs Mill Lane (that was designed to accommodate 75-100 people) in 1980 with approximately 50 members. Newer members may not know that previous planning committees since 1995, have indicated the need for more space. The last time this building was expanded was nearly 30 years ago. In 1990 the Fellowship was expanded to enlarge the sanctuary and the Caum room was added for additional meeting space.

 

Five years later (1995) a Facility task force ranked its highest priorities as follows:

  • Build a new building with sufficient land to expand the with parking
  • Or, relocate to a larger, existing building
  • Double our RE space and enlarge the sanctuary

In 2001 the Policy Board took steps to seek out a new church building or arrange for the purchase of an existing building. There was a lack of RE space and no offices for staff. Fast forward to 2007 the board hired Frankie Price Stern a UUA capital campaign consultant. We reviewed our history to that point and growth projections were made. The congregation was poised for growth but once again hampered by a lack of space. We learned that a congregation of our size will typically not grow beyond our current size of 150-160--unless we increased our square footage. We also learned that any plan to proceed must recognize three main areas which needed to balance as we grow in membership:

  • Sanctuary size
  • Religious Education facilities
  • Social space.

We began to hold two services on Sunday to accommodate our growth and to create a welcoming, comfortable environment for visitors.

In 2010 the congregation called Reverend Andrew Millard to be our full time minister. Happily, the first phase of a 2007 long range plan was completed with our purchase of the administrative building next door. Yes we bought a building! This provided much needed office space for Joanne and Andrew, with a large conference room. It was exciting! So in a sense we felt our space crunch ease up a bit.

In 2013 the planning committee was revived with Mason Moseley as the chair.  A five year plan in 2015 once again indicated the need to renovate our current property or find an existing property on the peninsula.  When I became board president in 2015 I realized that we needed to update our former mission and vision to address the needs of the current congregation.  In February of 2017 leadership met with Kathy McGowan from the UUA southern region to discuss a process to:

  1. Define our “Core values”  (what we feel in our hearts,)
  2. Write a new mission statement (a call to action, a way to focus what we are about and who we want to be)
  3. Create our vision, the reason for the fellowship to exist in the future and live out our mission.

So, in 2017 our congregation met to define our essential core values Wonder, Love, Service and Generosity.  We agreed in June 2018 that our mission was to “Grow in Wonder, Connect in Love, Engage in service and Inspire Generosity.”  Since that time we have been living out our mission and have begun to prepare for the next steps by working on a new five year plan or process for our future.

On July 13 of this year, about a third of our congregation met for a workshop to create a new vision of what UUFP would look like in five years.  Many ideas and wishes were expressed about what the congregation will do in the future and Andrew summarized all of our ideas (in order of the most universally supported) as follows:

  1. We will have larger, flexible, inspirational spaces. (250+ capacity, more space for music, and more classrooms
  2. We will have green space
  3. We will have universal site design which is environmentally friendly and accessible.
  4. We will have a more diverse congregation
  5. We will practice social justice.
  6. We will be more visible.
  7. We will have plans and funds for development, more support staff and spiritual development groups.

Everyone present on July 13th was asked to write down what they liked best about UUFP.  By a large majority, “community” was the answer.  Reverend Andrew has suggested that perhaps “our purpose is Community, practicing it as deeply and thoroughly as we can within or beyond our walls."  Also, this year, the Planning Committee has been gathering five year goals from our committees and collated that data to see how it aligns with our vision.

Yes we have been busy!!  And I am grateful for all who have contributed their time to these efforts over the years. This work will bring us to understand our shared vision for the Fellowship’s future and we will begin to define a process to get there.

So after nearly 30 year, it is time for us to make a decision.  As many of you know, the policy board will be asking the congregation to make a decision in March.  Can our vision can be realized in our current location or in a new location?

Change is inevitable, invigorating and challenging.  I get excited when I envision us all worshiping together in one service and creating spaces for middle school and high school age kids to call their own.  I have no doubt that if we are guided by our vision of who we want to be in this community both inside and outside of our walls we will make the best decision for those of us already here and for those families who have yet to discover what we have to share.

In closing I would like to share the words of our former interim minister Rev. Don Vaughn Forrester from 2008:  “I would hope that whatever this congregation eventually does will strengthen the use of reason, ethical responsibility and religious development within itself and promote such virtues in the larger community. Whatever you pursue, I hope UUFP will grow to be even more an oasis of reason and acceptance….than it already is."

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