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Unitarians set to repurpose former shop as new home

Church moving to location on Veterans Memorial Parkway

Unitarians set to repurpose former shop as new home

Unitarians set to repurpose former shop as new home

Members and guests of the Unitarian U...

Each Sunday morning, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Statesboro lights a lamp in a chalice as a symbol of shared hopes and values. Members and friends have been lighting their chalice at 609 East Grady Street since 1999, but recently a sign with a stylized flaming chalice has appeared on Veterans Memorial Parkway.
The Unitarian Universalists, or UU's as they call themselves, haven't moved yet, but have plans to do so as soon as a former auto shop on a corner at Cypress Lake Road and the parkway can be transformed into a new, more spacious church.
The fellowship’s pastor, the Rev. Jane Page, identifies two advantages.
“One is more room for our services, for other community activities we may want to hold in the building, and for our religious education activities for children,” Page said. “That’s the primary thing, more room so we can do more things not only for ourselves but for the community.”
The second advantage she sees in the parkway location is visibility.
“A lot of people don’t know we exist, and we’ll be in a very visible location that people can easily find and will let folks know that there is a liberal religious community in Statesboro,” Page said.
Unitarian Universalism is a noncreedal religion, with members holding various beliefs. However, they agree to support seven principles, such as recognizing the inherent worth and dignity of every person and the use of the democratic process.
In keeping with UU’s seventh principal of “respect for the interdependent web of all existence,” the congregation is being “green” in reusing an existing building and will seek to make it “a model of sustainability” Page said. A friend of the congregation who is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified builder, Matt Dowling, is donating his time as the general contractor.
The metal building, the lot it sits on and two adjacent lots were donated to the fellowship by one of its members.
Transforming the building into a church is projected to cost about $200,000. In addition to a Chalice Lighters grant and funds raised specifically for the project, the congregation intends to draw on its savings and use proceeds from the sale of its current building.
Chalice Lighters
The Statesboro fellowship applied for and recently received a $25,000 Chalice Lighters grant from the Southeast District of the Unitarian Universalist Association to assist with the project. UUA national Moderator Jim Key came to Statesboro on Easter Sunday and presented the check.
Chalice Lighters are individuals throughout the district who pledge to contribute for projects that establish or grow Unitarian Universalist congregations and outreach. When a project qualifies, a call goes out to Chalice Lighters in all 64 Southeast District congregations, and it is individuals who donate, Key explained.
“What is interesting is, once a congregation receives a Chalice Lighter gift, then there are more people who sign up to be Chalice Lighters and give back, but there’s no obligation to pay it back; it’s a gift,” he said.
Congregations’ shared support of one another’s independent goals reflects Unitarian Universalism’s historic roots as a covenantal religion, Key said. The Unitarian Universalist Association was formed in 1961 by the merger of two much older groups, the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America.
The Statesboro fellowship has been meeting regularly since 1985. It officially became part of the UUA in 1990, but continued to meet at temporary sites until the fellowship built the Grady Street church in 1999. A Chalice Lighter grant also helped with its construction.
More space
Now, with about 60 official members and many more people who participate at times but haven’t joined, the fellowship is feeling the effects of limited space, as noted in its grant application.
This is especially the case with special events, say Page and Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Statesboro board President Teresa Winn. Most recently, a May 10 memorial service for UUFS charter member Ron Lyall, who died April 30 at age 88, was held at Trinity Episcopal Church out of concerns that the current UUFS building would be crowded.
The Grady Street building measures about 1,900 square feet. Its sanctuary seats about 55 people, and the building has two classrooms, the smaller of which doubles as office space. Encompassing about 3,000 square feet, the parkway building will be renovated to include a 105-seat sanctuary, Winn said. The design calls for three classrooms, a separate office and a small kitchen and break room.
After almost 15 years on Grady Street, the planned move was a big decision for the congregation, said Winn.
“The church really spent some time thinking about how it would feel to move out of a space that we’ve claimed as our own for so many years and done so much work on and feel is so beautiful, but also decided we can do that again and we could make this new space ours and turn it into something beautiful that has more exposure and has more space,” she said.
Construction at the repurposed building has yet to begin. Church leaders say they hope it can be completed for a move to take place in early 2015. The church accepts tax deductible contributions marked “building fund” at UU Fellowship of Statesboro, P.O. Box 8083, Statesboro, GA 30461.

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