Friday, November 02, 2012

A Bold Adventure

The church I serve is on a bold adventure.  Last week we held our first worship service in our brand new church home.  It was a building we purchased a year earlier and the culmination of a process our church had begun all the way back in early 2006.  As you can imagine, all of this happened through the extraordinary commitment, service, sacrifice, generosity, and innumerable hours of volunteer work on the part of the members of the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church.

Throughout this process, I’ve wanted to share this story with those beyond our congregation, especially with Unitarian Universalists across North America.  (If you are an active part of the Shawnee Mission UU Church community, you won’t find anything here that you don’t already know.)  This blog post and subsequent posts will share the story of our new church home and the opportunities it gives us for making an impact in our community and becoming a greater liberal religious presence in our community.

Last fall we purchased the Don Bonjour Elementary School, one of several schools closed by the local school district.  We hired el dorado inc. to redesign parts of the building for congregational use.

Before and After

Before the move our buildings and grounds consisted of:
  •  Approximately 12,000 square feet of usable space
  •   3.3 acres of land
  •  6 paved, 12 gravel, and 80 grass parking spaces in a field
  • Sanctuary seating for 150

The building and land we purchased gave us:
  • Approximately 48,000 square feet of usable space
  • 14.5 acres of land
  •  Approximately 200 paved parking spaces
  •  Sanctuary seating for 250+

Before the move our church struggled with inadequate space for worship, fellowship, food preparation, gathering space, adult classes and meetings, children’s programs, and staff offices.  Offices and some bathrooms and classrooms were not handicapped accessible.  Our entry way and hallway were congested.  Our fellowship area was not air-conditioned.  Our staff offices and adult meeting spaces were cooled by window AC units.

The building and land we purchased gave us ample space for worship and fellowship, a large and inviting gathering area, spacious offices, and all the space we need for programs for adults and children.  The building is almost entirely handicapped accessible.  In the future there is space for a large commercial kitchen.  And, there are an additional fifteen unoccupied rooms to accommodate future programming growth.

What’s to Come?

Our new building and grounds give us not only ample space for all our programs now, but they also allow us to add additional programs, services, and ministries in the future.  Some of our plans may take years to be realized.  Or, we may find ourselves inspired to move in a direction that we can’t even imagine right now.

Outside, our grounds master plan includes space for a community garden, a small orchard, a labyrinth, a meditation garden, and several acres of tall grass prairie restoration area with walking paths.

Inside, what will become of our available space?  Some of the dreams that have been shared include opening a food pantry, partnering with local non-profits, opening a preschool, offering ESL classes, opening a resource center and program for LGBTQ youth, and more than I can possibly name.

This Blog

In the future, I plan to create additional blog posts about this bold adventure in our new building.  Links to those posts will appear below.  If there is an aspect of this project that interests you or that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, leave a comment below or send me an email at minister [at] smuuchurch [dot] org.

Also, check out this link to the Building Design Presentation on the Shawnee Mission UU Church homepage for more information.


Diane Miller said...

What a thrilling move! Congratulations to the congregation.

Lucy Ijams said...

When I saw the chairs, I was reminded of the journey I was on with a previous congregation I served. The congregation sold a beloved, beautiful, old Universalist church building, we moved into temporary space while looking for and creating a new space that better fit the congregation's size and means. Although not as grand as your new space and ministry plans, the congregation chose the same blue chairs!!

Many congratulations to all who worked so hard, and to you, Thom, for shepherding your folks through the process.